Thursday, July 21, 2005

Terror is Nothing to Fear

“War is politics continued by other means!”

Von Clausewitz

“The purpose of terrorism is to terrify!”


They don’t get it. Our enemies have once again attacked the citizens of London in a replay of their previous bombing attacks two weeks ago. This time they were far less successful in causing mayhem, so far no casualties have been reported. Far less certain is the extent to which they have created fear and uncertainty throughout London and in Western society in general. While various pundits will predictably highlight our vulnerability, most of us will go about our lives. This is the response that most confounds our enemies, who despite a genius for planning covert operations that strike at the particular vulnerabilities of democracy, do not understand the strength that those vulnerabilities represent.
The goal of any campaign, whether conventional military or terrorist, is to achieve some political end. This end is most often a desired change in the behavior of an adversary, though at times the goal is the eradication of an entire culture. While our enemies in Radical Islam avow their desire for our destruction, their methodology seems most likely aimed at changing political behavior. While it is guaranteed to achieve the goal of changing political behavior, it is certain to fail in the details, the changes are likely to be contrary to our enemies goals, they are only stiffening our resolve.
The classic Leninist terror approach to terrorism was to generate enough of a threat against the state to cause harsh repression in the hopes of sparking a popular uprising. This tactic may have helped to overthrow various regimes like Tsarist Russia, though that’s certainely debatable. More recently this was the tactic of various homegrown European terror cells of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. They all failed because while democratic societies may be vulnerable to single acts of terrorism, they are remarkably immune to them in terms of effect.
Should anyone doubt our will, our ability to shrug off and live with the danger, they need only look as far as Britain and Israel. These countries both spent much of the second half of the twentieth century as targets of various nationalistic terror organizations. These cells had different aims than the Marxist-Leninist but used the same tactic of repeated bombings against civilians, along with other acts of carnage, in the hopes of wearing down the democratic will of Britain and Israel. The great misunderstanding, by the terrorist is that attacks on civilians are likely to succeed, by causing a policy change favorable to the terrorist. This has been consistently not the case in history. In fact it seems that while the European Marxist cells crumbled under the weight of law enforcement and there own failure, the IRA and the PLO eventually exhausted themselves in their struggle long before the British or Israeli governments or citizenry did. Yes there remain holdouts in those struggles, but their eventual defeat is apparent in the marginalization they now suffer in their own cultures.
In our current war on terror, every attack brings a parade of pundits in the medai. They come to tell us that we are not safe. Those on the far left do it with a certain schadenfreude, ectsatic that they can criticize the Bush (or even Blair) administration for failing to do enough. They tell us that the government must do more. They are essentially correct in their assessments of our current vulnerability. They are incorrect in their approaches. The government can never make you totally safe from anything.
WE ARE NOT SAFE! WE WILL NEVER BE 100% SAFE! In truth we never were. While September 11, 2001 marks a turning point in American history, with a major terror attack by foreigners on US soil, it was inevitable. It was only a matter of when, where and how. We were and always will be vulnerable. Timothy McVeigh showed us that. As did the SLA in the 1970s as clownish as they were, along with the Blak Panthers and even earlier the Klan. The inability to destroy the drug trade, or organized crime, or to eradicate violence in our society are all indicators of our vulnerability.
In the 1970s and for most of the 80s when I was growing up, the fear of Armageddon hung over every discussion of Foreign Affairs. The nation, western civilization, and the world as a whole lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation, the modern Sword of Damocles. We often didn’t talk about it. It was too frightening! But we lived with it. We went about our lives and we quietly worked to undermine our enemies. We were actually constrained, because we could not directly confront the Soviets militarily. Today we are vulnerable to attack. But the most horrific attack the enemy could perpetrate will not rise to the level of destroying our society. And today we are free to hunt our enemies down where they hide.
Terror attacks will continue. Tragically some of us here in the US, in Great Britain, and in other nations that share our values, will unfortunately be sacrificed by the homicidal tactics of our enemies. But they will not achieve any goals by this, save for the despicable expression of their anger. For that is what this tragedy is all about. It is the acting out of frustrated men who have seen that world does not conform to their pathetic and narrow ideals. So they preach in temples of hatred, those Mosques that are loyal to radical Islam. Here they call forth younger angry men, who they brainwash until they are willing to sacrifice themselves and others, in this cause of futility.
Eventually radical Islam will recede. The examples of Turkey and Northern India will take hold. Reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, democratic movements in Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait, and even Iran will slowly bear fruit. As these nations taste freedom and economic growth, the havens of terror will shrink. In the meantime, our enemies will continue to lash out like the weak animal they are. They are cornered and they know it. Their terror tactics are those of the powerless, they are the tactics of the defeated. No major political goals are or will be accomplished by the random pursuit of civilian deaths. For us the response is easy. The answer to terrorism is to not be terrified. We may face many more years of terrorism, but we have nothing to fear.


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