Notice how the whole paragraph is structured as if accepting that "the threat from terrorism remains real," which no one ever doubted, means embracing Boot's very particular approach to counterterrorism. He writes as if his critics disagree with his proscriptions because they think terrorism is fake.
Of course, his critics know full well that terrorism is real. They just believe counterterrorism as Boot would conduct it is immoral and ineffective -- that drone strikes which kill hundreds of innocent people, holding prisoners without charges or trial for years on end (even after they've been cleared for release by U.S. officials), detainee abuse, and torture are likely to create more terrorists. (As far as I know, nearly everyone in America favors "interrogation and surveillance of suspects.")
Notice how Boot says the Tsarnaevs are evidence in favor of his worldview regardless of the facts that come out in the future. Also note that, contra Boot, the United States wasn't "complacent" about terrorism before the Boston bombing. Ask anyone who traveled there on an airplane. Look at how much is spent on counterterrorism in the U.S. budget. Interview any national-security official, or the chief of any big-city police department. Anyone can question the wisdom of our counterterrorism policies, as I often do. To charge that they're characterized by complacency?
The facts don't support that conclusion.
Every War on Terror hawk mentioned in this column has a long list of predictions they've made about foreign policy and geopolitics, only to see them proved definitely wrong by subsequent events. None of them is among the pundits who grappled with their past errors in any meaningful way. Their pronouncements today are as untempered by self doubt as they ever were. If past performance meant anything in the pundit's game, their past punditry (and Yoo's discredited Bush-era legal analysis) would've long since stripped them of "War on Terror expert" status.
They're nevertheless regarded as experts on the right, despite the fact that they treat disagreement with their ideas as if it proves that their interlocutor is unaware that terrorism is a threat. Their most frequent targets are pretend. They can't conceive of the fact that other people who take terrorism as seriously as they do reach dramatically different conclusions about the best way to respond to it.
As a point of contrast to their unearned self-assurance, it's worth looking at one more column from the aftermath of the Boston bombing. It ran alongside the Steyn and McCarthy pieces in National Review.
Daniel Foster is young enough that, insofar as I know, he wasn't around to get anything right or wrong during the early stages of the War on Terrorism. He nevertheless proceeds as if he's learned a lesson his colleagues haven't. "The desire to read one's political biases into acts of violence is
unfortunate and, unfortunately, bipartisan," he writes. "But if there is any little
thing to be thankful for about the case of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, it's
that it defies easy classification. Those who try to tell a simple story
about who they were or why they resorted to terrorism will end up like
the six blind men and the elephant: each partially in the right, and all
in the wrong."
In these pages, I've been a consistent critic of President Obama's approach to the War on Terror. Conservatives won't succeed in offering America anything better until the geopolitical thinkers who got so much wrong during the Bush years learn some humility -- or are no longer treated, within their movement, as "experts" who never got huge questions wrong.