“Terrorism and counterterrorism is really the new Darwinism,” Shanker said. “The U.S. has evolved and gotten better, but the terrorists have evolved and gotten better, too.”
Shanker and Schmitt are members of the Times' national security team. Since 9/11, Shanker has logged time in Afghanistan, Iraq and Djibouti. He accompanied some of the first troops to occupy Kandahar.
Being with the troops, he said, is challenging and rewarding.
“It's very inspiring to see the young men and women out at the pointy end of the spear doing what needs to be done, and it's not about politics or all of the rhetoric back home,” he said.
Shanker's journey — from John Marshall High graduate to counterterrorism expert — has been a long one.
After high school, he attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs before joining The Oklahoman staff in 1978-80. He covered the night police reporting beat.
“I learned everything I needed to know about how to cover stories during those three years,” he said.
When he left The Oklahoman, Shanker signed on with the Chicago Tribune. He spent 10 years overseas in Moscow, Berlin and Sarajevo.
“In Moscow,” he said, “I used to joke that my tax dollars were paying for nuclear missiles aimed at my apartment.”
At the Times, Shanker, who is married with two sons, was assigned to work from the Pentagon. His office was far from the area damaged by the plane crash.
After all these years, Shanker is sure of one thing:
“Sooner or later another attack is going to come, because the U.S. has to be lucky and good every day, and the bad guys only have to be lucky once,” he said. “The U.S. has to learn resilience. It's not about rebuilding buildings. It's about staying the course.”