One year after Mohammed Taheri-Azar’s attack on the Pit, it is sobering to think that Carolina’s only physical protection from a similar act of terror are the metallic three-foot poles known as bollards that guard the entrances to campus. These retractable rods – small in size, unassuming in appearance – that dot the roads and pathways from Davis Library to the Bell Tower and Memorial Hall are the last line of defense for the thousands of students, faculty, and workers who come to the University each day.
Thankfully, a first line of defense is thousands of miles away in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries in the Middle East. Each day, over 150,000 American soldiers put their lives at risk to defend American civilians at home by fighting in terror’s breading grounds abroad. These soldiers, whose mission is often criticized in the press and derided on television talk shows, are vital to America’s safety and continued freedom.
As Carolina learned on March 3, 2006, terrorism is difficult to prevent. When a terrorist boards a plane, constructs a bomb, or, in Taheri-Azar’s case, rents a car, it is essentially too late to avert the attack. Airborne U.S. Marshals, bomb-sniffing dogs, and bollards can only do so much to stop an enemy intent on killing. By seeking out the root of terror in the Middle East, however, the United States military can disrupt and destroy terrorist activity before it has the opportunity to reach American soil.
No doubt, taking the initiative against terror comes with a high price. American forces currently face chaos in Iraq, military expenditures have spiked, and some Middle Eastern governments have become increasingly reluctant to cooperate with the United States. Worse, the American military cannot prevent every terrorist from entering American soil. Taheri-Azar, for example, lived nearly his whole life in the United States before carrying out his attack.
Yet the War on Terror’s cost cannot compare with the consequences of withdrawing American soldiers from the Middle East. Terrorists want to destroy the United States not because American forces occupy the Middle East, but because the United States – its freedoms, its culture, its values – represents a ‘great Satan’ in radical Muslim thought.
Pulling back from the front lines will not curb terrorist activity, Leftist arguments to the contrary. Instead, America will expose itself to an energized enemy, eager to exploit our vulnerabilities at home. Without a presence in the Middle East, America’s margin for error will shrink from the streets of Baghdad to our shores, cities and hometowns. We will have invited the enemy to our gates.
And in Chapel Hill, at least, only bollards will stand in terror’s way.
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