It always strikes me that the United States could learn a lot from how India responds to terrorist attacks. From an outsider point of view, India seems to have a few clear priorities. They want robust economic growth. They want to maintain a clear military edge over Pakistan. They want to be able to deter a Chinese attack. And they want to be respected on the world stage as a great power. They understand that these are difficult but attainable goals. And they understand that neither Pakistan nor sundry irregular Islamist groups has it within their power to prevent India from meeting those goals. So when India’s citizens are killed by terrorists, it’s of course important to try to reduce vulnerability to future attacks, but most of all it’s important not to allow low-cost terrorist attacks to derail India’s national priorities.
US policy, by contrast, is dominated by hysteria, moralism, and a self-defeating quest for absolute security. It’s conventional wisdom that terrorism is a tool of the weak, but unwillingness to take a deep breath and realize that al-Qaeda is, in fact, weak. If we want to build a strong, prosperous, respected America then Osama bin Laden can’t stop us. He can only goad us into taking actions that undermine our strength, prosperity, and international standing.