A call for vigilance

The recent string of bombing attacks in Istanbul claimed innocent lives and spread fear. Two years after the bloodbath in New York, the West is beginning to realize that although America’s aggressive military campaigns hit the strategic bases of terrorist networks, they failed to eradicate terrorism completely. On the contrary, they seem to have fueled the indignation of the Muslim world, swelling the ranks of would-be suicide bombers. Almost the entire globe is in thrall to the vicious circle of violence and the fear that terror generates. Unlike life during the decades of the Cold War, the feeling of everyday security has diminished. Police measures have been intensified; security patrols armed with automatic weapons are becoming a common sight; freedom of movement – a fundamental accomplishment of Western democracies and an essential precondition for healthy economic activity – is under threat. The world has entered an era of uncertainty, an era in which citizens demand that their governments do more to safeguard their safety – a public good that we used to take for granted. Washington is putting strong pressure on other states to intensify their security measures and to back military campaigns in the Islamic world. Most European governments, on the other hand, reject such intervention as a wrong-headed political reaction, as a tragic mistake that increases asymmetrical risks. Greece, in particular, is feeling the heat in view of next year’s Olympic Games in Athens. The government is on the receiving end of outside pressure that can always invoke Olympic security. But the terrorist threat concerns the entire world. Apart from security, the decade of uncertainty will place added strain on virtually all aspects of life. Respect for individual freedoms could be injured by an abuse of state power; the economy, as well as travel and tourism are affected both by a sense of insecurity and heavy-handed authoritarianism. From a moral perspective, this decade will see whether the West is prepared to acknowledge the right of the Arab world to tread an independent path and whether it can contribute to the settlement of the Palestinian issue – the bloodiest legacy that the West has bequeathed to the region. We have entered a decade in which a constant state of alert is needed in both society and politics. If life is not to become stifled by the fear of terrorism, and if freedom is not to be compromised in the name of security, vigilance and attention are called for.