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Sept. 8, 2005
Column #1,254

Why Has America Had No Terror Since 9/11

The fourth anniversary of 9/11 this weekend raises two questions for me. First, why have there not been any terrorist incidents in the U.S. since 9/11/01?

Not one car bomb has gone off, though it is easy to do. Not one train has been blown up, as in Spain and London. 

Why? What has innoculated America from terrorists who struck England twice in two weeks this summer?

My second question is what can America do to reduce the likelihood of another 9/11?

The Bush Administration deserves some credit for keeping America safe. That's probably the single major reason George Bush was re-elected President. In a dangerous world, Bush made 53% of Americans feel safe enough to vote for him. He reorganized intelligence services, as called for by the 9/11 Commission. Cooperation between the FBI and the CIA has improved.

On the other hand, very few terrorist plots have been uncovered. By contrast, the British identified all four of the suicide bombers who planted bombs in London subways within weeks, thanks to surveillance cameras in railroad stations and tube platforms. After that incident, New York belatedly decided to add video cameras. Embarrassingly few FBI and CIA agents speak Arabic though Muslim-Christian clashes are growing around the world.

James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, believes America has been spared from terrorist attacks on U.S. soil for four years for one reason. Muslim immigrants to the U.S. feel that America is a land of opportunity for them in sharp contrast to the feeling of closed doors sensed by Muslim immigrants to Europe. 

America is a land of immigrants. Though we may be sixth generation Americans, we know that our ancestors came to this country in search of opportunity. So we are open to new immigrants -Muslim or Mexican - and willingly give anyone a chance to succeed.

In fact, I'd argue that racial discrimination almost no longer exists. As this column has reported before, a black husband and wife who both work earned $60,400 in 1999 while a similar white couple earned $61,800. That is virtual economic equality.

By contrast, Muslim immigrants to Europe sense that doors of opportunity are closed to them, even though many are entering the middle class, such as the London terrorists. Muslims perceive a European ceiling blocks them and are deeply angry and bitter. Fury fuels violence.

However, the terrorists of 9/11 were foreigners, mostly from Saudi Arabia. What can we do to lessen Muslim anger directed at Americans? I suggest two strategies:

1. Stop producing and exporting obscenity, which is deeply offensive to Muslim modesty. Hard core pornography is illegal according to Supreme Court decisions. But there has been virtually no enforcement of obscenity law. The good news is that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has demanded more rigorous enforcement.

2. Reduce our consumption of oil, which largely comes from Muslim lands.

In 1975 Jimmy Carter persuaded Congress to pass a law requiring Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) of the auto fleet jump from 14 mpg to 27.5 by 1985. Detroit screamed it was impossible, of course. Technically it was achieved on time.

But there were loopholes in the law. BIG ones. A minivan was called a "truck" and not counted as a passenger vehicle. Today's SUVs are in the same "light truck" category, which only have to get 21.6 mpg, not 27.5. These vehicles account for half of all passenger cars sold and should be identified as such in the CAFE standards.

Second, the EPA estimated mpg is inflated as any new car buyer will testify. "Consumer Reports" October issue reports that some models "fell short of claimed city mpg by 35 to 50 percent." The Honda Civic, a hybrid, gets only 26 mpg, not the advertised 48 mpg!

Consumer Reports argues that by 2010 fuel-economy standards can be raised 7 mpg to 34.5, saving 10 billion gallons of gasoline in that year alone. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy suggests the goal for 2015 be 40 mpg.

Technically, the goal is achievable by reducing horsepower (which soared 89 percent since 1981). Polls before the recent gasoline hikes report 80 percent of Americans want better mileage.

Detroit will scream again, but it might start selling more cars.

In any case, America must lessen its dependence for oil on Muslim countries. For that reason, I support drilling in the Alaska Arctic area, which could produce 1 to 2 million barrels a day, in addition to putting U.S. cars on a fuel diet.

America must discipline its appetites for pornography and fuel consumption.

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