Whatever the precise odds that the U.S. will be hit by a Madrid-style terror attack before the November elections, the possibility of such an attack hangs over our public life like a cloud. Our leaders tiptoe around the specifics of the issue. Indeed there probably isn’t much that the Administration can do, beyond what it is already doing, at least in its foreign policy.
But John Kerry can help to deter such an attack. A pre-election terror wave would likely be intended to get Kerry elected and therefore to shift U.S. policy toward accommodationism. That might not be what would actually happen after an attack, but it’s probably what the terrorists expect.
Kerry could lessen the odds of an attack by reducing its expected payoff. He could do this by stating, unambiguously and repeatedly, that he rejects appeasement and that, if he is elected, he will redouble President Bush’s efforts to eradicate Islamist terrorists and the regimes that support them. Of course, to state the issue in this way is to make clear that Kerry is unlikely to follow through. (See Dick Morris’s analysis of Kerry’s political dilemma.)
In this regard, the fact that Kerry has had his running mate state publicly that some of America’s more flaccid allies prefer Kerry to Bush is reckless. It encourages the terrorists to see a big payoff if, as they see it, they hit us hard enough to get Bush defeated. NATO is weak, Chirac is weak — our enemies see this even if some of us do not, and will correctly conclude that a country that chooses weak allies is itself weak. The kind of political posturing that Kerry and Edwards are doing is dangerous, and for this reason alone they are not qualified to be elected.