Conclusions: Security and Liberty in Balance--Countering Terrorism in the Democratic Context
David A. Charters
In his opening chapter, Grant Wardlaw identified the central problem for democracies engaged in countering terrorism: "constructing rational, appropriate, and consistent countermeasures that deal with the threat without fundamentally undermining or changing the democratic practices and traditions that the measures are designed to protect." 1 He went on to enunciate a number of general principles of democratic counter-terrorism "strategy": a definition of terrorism agreed on and understood by government and its polity that clearly delimits what is and is not terrorism (and thus determines which events require a counter-terrorism response), sophisticated analysis to distinguish between types and levels of terrorist threats, flexible policy, policy language that matches words to deeds in a consistent and credible manner, a realization (by government and the public) that there are no simple solutions or ideal outcomes, and well-trained and -prepared counter-terrorism machinery that functions without paralyzing government or deeply implicating the persons and prestige of high office in the outcome of decision-making and its consequences. These are by no means the only criteria for assessing the value of counter-terrorism policies in a democratic context. They are, however, important ones and will be examined further as this concluding assessment develops.
Writing in 1986, Walter Laqueur observed that, in the future, historians might legitimately conclude that the terrorist problem had been "oversold," perhaps deliberately. The historian would note that the rhetoric of political leaders vastly outstripped the scale of the problem and the resources applied in efforts to contain it. 2 Conventional wars have almost always been more deadly, and highway accidents in a single year in the United States have regularly killed more people