Rich Tucker

Panic would ensue. Merchants would refuse to accept cash, the government would have to withdraw all $20 bills from circulation, our economy would be paralyzed.

If you doubt our ability to over-react, just recall the havoc caused by two idiots with a rifle in 2002. John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo terrorized the nation’s capitol for weeks. It’s not difficult to imagine how much worse the panic would be if, instead of the threat coming from a “white van,” it was coming from the cash in our own pockets.

So how can we defeat such terrorist threats? First, through better intelligence.

The Atlantic airliner plot isn’t the only threat uncovered by British intelligence. London’s Daily Telegraph reports that in one month, April of this year, police were carrying on 70 antiterrorism investigations.

We need to be equally aggressive here and use tools such as the USA PATRIOT Act to determine what our enemies are up to before they have a chance to act. For example, after the FBI broke up a plot to bomb tunnels into Manhattan, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced, “It was never a concern that this would actually be executed. We were . . . all over this.” We need to be all over the terrorists in order to win.

At the same time, we need to win in Iraq.

The biggest threat today isn’t from Christian fundamentalists or Zionists or radical agnostics. It’s from Islamists with a perverted view of their faith. To defeat them, we need to convince the overwhelming majority of Muslims to take back their faith.

Iraq is a big part of that.

It cannot have gone unnoticed in the Islamic world that, for several years now, the story in Iraq has been Muslims killing Muslims, with Americans in the middle attempting to stop the killing entirely. Iraq is swiftly becoming a problem for Iraqis to solve, and that’s as it should be. As long as we leave Iraq with a functioning government, we’ll give moderate Muslims something to rally around.

Defeating terrorism doesn’t mean surrendering our civil rights -- this battle won’t be won by throwing out our rights any more than it will be won by throwing out our shampoo. But to win, we’ve got to be both aggressive and smart. In Iraq and here at home, failure cannot be an option.

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for