Conflict & Justice

How do we address terrorism in a way that makes people feel safer?

This story is a part of

Seeking Security

This story is a part of

Seeking Security


People pray after a vigil to remember the victims of the attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, at Potters Field Park, in central London, on June 5, 2017.


Marko Djurica/Reuters

In recent months, major cities in Europe and around the world have been rocked by terror attacks.

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Since Saturday's attacks on London Bridge and Borough Market, British officials have offered some clues as to how they plan to counter extremism and terrorism.

The “evil ideology of Islamist extremism ... will only be defeated when we turn people's minds away from this violence and make them understand that our values, pluralistic British values, as superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said.

But some are raising questions about whether such moves will be effective in addressing terrorism and making citizens in the UK and beyond feel safe.

“That's great as an election… campaign remark, but it doesn’t really make people safer,” said Christopher Dickey, world news editor for The Daily Beast. “The question is: How do you address extremism in the broadest context in a way that will actually make people feel safer when they go to a concert, or they're walking across a bridge, or they're in a street fair some place?”

Dickey addresses that question in his recent piece, “Can Attacks Like London Bridge Be Stopped?

“I think in the short term, we have to understand that the intelligence services — domestic and international — do have to conduct a lot of surveillance. They are going to have to look very closely at the communications of lots of people,” he said. “The second part of it is that we have to reorganize the defenses around what are likely targets.”

Dickey says Israel has effectively implemented some of these counterterrorism measures. But he says there are dangers that come with taking such steps.

“One of the dangers ... is that governments — once they get accustomed to this kind of power, this kind of invasiveness — are very reluctant to give it up," he said. "And so, we have to guard our freedoms, but we have to understand that for a certain time, we're going to have to compromise them, as well.”

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