Here’s US vice-president Joe Biden’s discovery of the week: Terrorism is meant to instil fear.
At a speech in Massachusetts, meant no doubt to be soulful and stirring, Mr Biden offered the conclusions of hours of pondering on why “terrorism is in the 21st century.”
I paraphrase, but he basically said, ‘you have to wonder why because they know they won’t overthrow us…so why? My conclusion is, terrorism is meant to instil fear.’
Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with a dictionary could have told him that. OED defines terrorism as “the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” And what is intimidation if it is not about instilling fear?
One can understand the political realities Mr Biden labours under and the fact that he is talking to a certain domestic audience that needs to hear this and which he must take along with him. That said, but platitudinous fulminations never really raise the standard of national debate.
At the memorial service for 26-year-old police officer Sean Collier, who the authorities believe was killed by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsanaev as they tried to evade capture, Mr Biden mused, “We have suffered. We’re grieving, but we are not bending. We will not yield to fear. We will not hunker down. We will not be intimidated.”
It was meant to be stirring, no doubt, and I’m sure it was. But, the question has to be asked: What would an intimidated America look like if not the way it was last week, when Boston was in lockdown, the US authorities had issued an alert to 190 countries and fear roamed the streets?
If, to quote Mr Biden’s discovery, “terrorism is meant to instil fear”, it appears to have succeeded last week.