On Defense Against Terrorism

One point I should make as I talk about Flight 327 and screening Arabs is that while I think that the Islamist jihadis are walking point, there are other anti-moderns who we will be dealing with in the near future as well. And they won’t be holding convenient-to-label foreign passports.

Kevin Drum posted this the other day:

WHO’S THE ANIMAL?….A British animal rights activist has called for the assassination of scientists working in biomedical research:
I don’t think you’d have to kill too many [researchers]. I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives.

Charming as always, those animal rights folks….

Take a look at the comment stream on this post; substitute a few words, and we’re talking about Islamist terror instead. Have the PETA folks been stocking up on ANFO? Not yet…but when you’re moved by irrational passion and absolute, clear-eyed moral conviction, it’s not too far a step, once someone’s shown you the way.

We need an anti-terror regime that is generalizable, flexible, and somehow not oppressive. Otherwise, ten years from now when some home-grown animal-rights jihadi has killed 10,000 by contaminating meat as it leaves a packing plant, the Congressional commission will be talking about the ‘failure of imagination’ that led to this tragedy.

19 thoughts on “On Defense Against Terrorism”

  1. Perhaps now we have a better idea as to why the world wide left has been showing such reluctance to act aaginst Terrorism… they share so many tactics, after all.

  2. I think you could generalize the problem to radical anti-globalizers.

    That would incorporate your ELF types, rightwing militia nativists, and Islamists.

  3. Dutch politician Pym Fortuyn was murdered by a radical animal rights activist, though he claimed to be motivated by Fortuyn’s criticisms of Islam.

  4. In my view, the same issue that may be driving terrorist acts (which I think Praktike is hinting at) is also what enables terrorists: the nature of our modern global society. The rest is just human nature, which I don’t think we’re going to change anytime soon on our own.

    In some ways, terrorism is merely a symptom of the way the world works. Relatively small passionate zealots who are otherwise powerless to change the system can have their “message” amplified across the world like no other time in history. These same people have always existed; what is different is their capacity to enforce their views disproportionately.

    Of course, modern weapon technology has also played an enabling role in this. But it can be argued, as it is by firearm proponents, that without the will they are just tools (you know, anthrax doesn’t kill, terrorists kill…).

    What’s the answer? Perhaps denying them the media soap box would be a start.

    (Just to head off the snark, I am not arguing that these are the only explanations, only that they should not be ignored.)

  5. I think the answer is that you drive the stake in deeper. Globalize all the way. These folks are last-gaspers. Finish them off.

  6. Lurker;

    Yes, airliners are a great example of the intersection of modern tech with fanaticism.

    But of course modern weapons are not necessary for the sufficiently zealous and committed. They just make the terrorist acts potentially bigger and more dangerous.

    Praktike;

    I don’t follow you.

  7. VT-

    The Middle East is one of the most isolated places on Earth; its level of trade and interaction with other cultures is at a historic low. Connectivity builds wealth and tolerance. These people need to be connected to the rest of the world, and quickly.

    The irony is that — as it stands now — globalization is what animates our enemies and is a means for them to hurt us. But over time, I’m confident that “democracy, whiskey, sexy” will be too powerful to resist. The thing is, Qutb and Khomenei and Mawdudi were able to put their fingers on the seductive danger of the Great Satan quite well. That which they feared and detested will be their own destruction.

  8. Praktike;

    I’m not averse to the general idea that promoting development of “connections” of 3rd world nations to the rest of the world, especially those that breed fanatical terrorists, can potentially be a positive force that might in the end attenuate the problem.

    However, whenever I make this argument, or something like it, I am usually set upon by those who point out that terrorists are largely middle class individuals who are not isolated or downtrodden. In other words, many are already globalized in a sense.

    But at any rate this approach would seem rather too selective to me if the goal is to get at the roots of Terrorism with a capital T, that is in all its forms. Not immediately to propose solutions, but first to understand.

    You have the root of what I see is the problem in your reply, that is that “globalization is what animates our enemies and is a means for them to hurt us”. My point is that there will always be enemies, and a steady increase in their means. Whether that means more destructive weapons or better knowledge of security holes I can’t say, but probably both.

    The extension of my argument that is difficult is that I am suggesting we can never overcome threats from all possible enemies. What worries me, if this is true (and it probably is), is that it quickly becomes apparent that we can never hope to eradicate all enemies or the conditions that generate them.

    In which case, as I’ve argued here before, defense should become the priority.

  9. “[…] when you’re moved by irrational passion and absolute, clear-eyed moral conviction, it’s not too far a step, once someone’s shown you the way.”

    Irrational passion is –pretty obviously– wrong.

    But your critique to “clear-eyed moral conviction” sounded to me like a defense of moral relativism, the real –and amoral– foundation of militant anti-globalism, environmentalism, “pettism” (animal-rightism), atheism… well, of all forms of Leftism.

  10. VT-

    I don’t see there being a clear trade-off between “defense” and “offense.” I think America has more than adequate resources to do both. And obviously, hunkering down and hoping for the best is a recipe for disaster. Nor, however, do we need to go around wiping Israel’s enemies out one by one.

    I think the fact that AQ is led by middle class Arabs who have had interaction with the world is interesting but presents no problem for the idea that connectivity is key. In part, I think, it’s the shock of moving from a closed society to an open, scandalous (and personally alienating) West that drives these folks. Islamism is kind of a psychological crutch. So the shock-inducing gap between worlds must be reduced.

  11. Praktike;

    You may not see a trade-off between “defense” and “offense” but obviously there is one. The resources you allude to are not unlimited, whether they be financial or human. Where do you think additional funding for another conflict on the Iraq scale would come from, given our current precarious economic situation? And where would the resources come from if we needed an amount of that magnitude to defend ourselves?

    I agree that “hunkering down and hoping for the best” is not the only solution, but I certainly don’t think its a recipe for disaster. It’s common sense to protect yourself as much as possible, its folly to leave yourself vulnerable especially if you are going on the offensive. Would you enter a battle zone without body armor and a helmet? Wouldn’t you want the best protection you could get?

    The issue we face now is whether enough resources have been devoted to defense, in light of the war in Iraq being offered as an example of the “offense”. The 9/11 commission has just issued its opinion on that, and it is a clear and unanimous “No”.

    And again I think you are formulating a solution based primarily if not entirely on Middle Eastern/Islamist terrorism which does not take into account the broader issue of terrrorism from any and all sources. Simply saying Arabs need more TVs is nothing new, and it is not at all clear that it will have the effect you predict. If it doesn’t, what’s your “Plan B”?

  12. VT, I’m sure the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz will be devastated by your argument there, but fortunately, I’m not.

    I’m a little more sanguine than you are about our economic situation, for starters. I really don’t see a problem with raising taxes to pay for things. Somehow public discourse on this topic has led people to believe that to raise taxes is to invite economic catastrophe. Cold War defense spending was exorbitant compared to what we’re putting in today, in terms of % of GDP. And taxes were much higher.

    And there are more than a few whiz-bang goodies that we don’t really need, the contractor situation is out of control … so I think we could well afford a few billion for port security, first responders, better border control and all that jazz if we put our minds to it. Even so, there’s no way to prevent all attacks.

  13. Praktike;

    Not trying to devastate anyone with my arguments, only attempting to simplify them.

    We are basically in agreement on this issue, I will point out. But I think it is harmful to attempt to dismiss all arguments for increased defensive spending with the wave of the “…there’s no way to prevent all attacks” magic wand. This is so self-evident as to be useless as an argument.

    “…if we put our minds to it.” : Isnt’ this the key issue here? Let’s presume you are right about the plentitude of additional resources, I’ll concede that one, to a point. Because any drawing down of additional resources will require a committment from our politicians and a consensus from Americans that I am not foreseeing, at the moment.

  14. Ah, now I see your point. After years of raling against taxes, there’s no political will to get the job done.

    That’s a problem.

  15. Suffice it to say that each and every group that commits terrorism has it’s own agenda. (IE ELF, AQ, KKK, Gangs, organized crime, PETA, etc..) The roots of the agenda can be philosophical, theological or material.

    Given the discussion and the turn it has taken I think people finally understand what was said in the “Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People”:http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.html

    bq. _’Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.’_

    I for one never took these statements to mean AQ or Islamic fanatics only. People are also becoming aware that extremism and terrorism can go hand in hand. Extremism however does not necessarily evoke terrorist acts. There are various forms of extremism depending on your point of view that co-exist in today’s society. Monks and Amish to name a few.

    My point being terrorism or terrorists are not defined by tangible means alone. They are defined by an extremism that is not necessarily life threatening. In a sense terrorism and terrorist are like pornography. You know what it is when you see it. You may even know the potential results of extremism but you can’t define which will or will not lead to terrorism and that is part the issue. This is a war of the _individual_ mind set not a war of materialism. To suggest connectivity is the answer is folly. Connectivity already exists in one form or another. To suggest defense over offense is folly because it must be fought on both fronts. To suggest financial ruin in attempting to do both is a defeatist attitude that will surely lead to more death, destruction and possibly the annihilation of a nation or society. With society being the ultimate goal. If and when this is achieved it will lead to other forms of terrorism. The proverbial dog chasing its’ tail. The question is what form of extremism do you want to live under? If you do not choose then you have chosen to lead the life you have been dealt and the consequences that go with it.

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