On this day of sad remembrance, let us also be thankful. If somebody had predicted the afternoon of September 11 that in the seven years to follow, there would not be a single successful terrorist attack in the U.S., nobody would have believed it. There have been challenges for sure – Katrina, the image of the U.S. as a welcoming society, programmatic delays, etc – but the results should make us proud. We have retrofitted a modern, internationally-connected society with impressive and layered defenses against attack. And we have done so with only minor, but often overblown, impacts on international trade, international mobility, privacy, and civil liberties.
The next President and his team will inherit some very difficult decisions regarding Iraq, Afghanistan, and our foreign policy more generally. However, the very tough lifting to make America secure is far along and President McCain or Obama will be able to build on a record of success. The mere fact that homeland security is barely an issue during this campaign speaks volumes to the comfort level of the American people that we have secured the borders, connected the intelligence dots, enhanced preparedness and resiliency, and much more.
Of all days, 9/11 should never be a time for complacence, but nor should it be a time to diminish the efforts of our government, companies, first responders and soldiers to deter, detect, and detain those who would do us harm.