peaceThere has been a lot of pleading lately, from people across the political spectrum, for Democrats and liberals to ‘develop a real policy to deal with terrorism’. In the absence of this, the argument goes, every terrorist act plays into the hands of the Republicans and the neocons, giving them ‘I told you so’ justification for their ‘anti-terrorist’ actions (at least in the minds of the 50% of Americans who still buy the Bush con that unilaterally attacking Iraq had something to do with fighting terrorism). And in such an atmosphere, irresponsible idiots like Tommy Franks are advising terrorists that if they want to turn the US into a paranoid police state, the answer is simple: just pay one wacko in the US to detonate one dirty bomb anywhere in the country.

If the Bush regime is struggling next year to get re-elected, the best shot in the arm they could get would be more terrorism. In fact the Republicans now are almost fully invested (politically, and, with taxpayer money, financially) in the exaggerated and inept “war on terrorism”. No wonder, then, that the bozo ‘president’ says “bring it on”.

The point he’s missing, which most of the mainstream media are too lazy to bring up, and which the Democrats are either too timid or too disorganized to articulate, is that in a free country in the 21st century there is no defense against terrorism. The laughably inadequate, ill-thought out Bush-Ashcroft ‘security measures’ are a complete joke, easily circumvented by a terrorist group with even a small modicum of intelligence. I can think of half a dozen terrorist acts that would put Tommy Franks’ ideas to shame, and probably cost less, and which all the security measures implemented and promised in future freedom-erasing Patriot Acts don’t even begin to address. But unlike Franks, I’m not about to sell them to a magazine for terrorists to read. The concentration of power in the West automatically brings with it enormous vulnerabilities (as the incompetents in the Ohio power industry demonstrated clearly to twenty million of us in two countries last summer).

Quite simply: If someone wants to kill three thousand or three million Americans, in spectacular fashion, they can and will find a way to do it, any time they damn well please. The technology is available and inexpensive and all the ‘security measures’ in the world cannot stop it. It is simply naive wishful thinking to believe otherwise. This is what conservatives, fueled into a rage by 9/11 and armed with the muddle-headed thinking of ‘eye for an eye’ religious teachings that simply don’t work in a modern, global society, can’t and won’t accept. Cowboy analogies just don’t apply any more: Just because the answer to armed desperados in the Old West was a strong police and military presence and every citizen armed to the teeth, doesn’t mean the answer to armed terrorists in the New West (terrorists armed largely with technologies we sold to them, or which they stole from us) is an endless, bankrupting, freedom-sacrificing series of wars, overseen by a police state with Orwellian surveillance of everything and everyone and Star Wars and mini-nukes to ‘out-gun’ the bad guys. But this is exactly what Bush and the neocons are prepared to turn the West into, and they’re furious with ‘treasonous’ individuals and countries that don’t share their zeal.

Yes, the Democrats and liberals do need a policy to deal with terrorism. If we don’t have one, any major terrorist act in 2004 guarantees a Bush re-election. But our policy needs to recognize that terrorism is a reaction, not an action. People who attack the West, and Western forces, ideas and institutions are reacting to our actions and ideas that to them are absolutely abhorrent — the invasion of their countries, militarily, culturally, and economically, by Western troops, moral depravity, crass consumerism, spiritual sacrilege, and the power of money over man. It’s not our ‘freedom’ that they hate, it’s the imposition of Western culture that overwhelms them in their own countries and threatens everything they believe in. They don’t really care what Americans do in their own country, which is the real reason so few terrorist acts are carried out on American soil.

There is no defense against terrorism, but there is a viable policy to deal with it. Problem is, it’s a hot potato: no one really wants to adopt it, because it looks weak and it costs a lot. That policy is to stop attacking countries that don’t espouse Western values, and leave them to evolve in their own way at their own rate. That policy is to invest the billions that the US is now spending on arms, to instead provide those countries with humanitarian aid — money and supplies for education, infrastructure-building, medicines, and civilian technologies and training in how to use them. No strings attached except that we need to be able to audit to ensure the money and technologies are used for their intended purposes. Nothing to be paid back. In fact, for countries whose foreign debt to us is crushing them, making them economic slaves to us, we need to write that debt off. Goodwill is the only dividend we need.

If we did this, there would be nothing for terrorists to react to. And while there will always be a few deranged minds in the world who will blow up government buildings and commit other dreadful acts, and while under the auspices of the UN we may still need to intervene together to deal with leaders who inflict genocide or other massive cruelty on their own people or their neighbours, for the most part such a policy of incessant investment in nation-building will inevitably produce a world that is more peaceful, less harsh, and yes, safer and more secure for all of us than the one we live in today.

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  1. NTodd says:

    You totally nailed it.

  2. Euan says:

    Absolutley spot on Dave – the last two paragraphs really are the only way.

  3. NTodd says:

    FWIW, I wrote a somewhat germane piece for Open Source Politics a few weeks back: A Peaceful World Won

  4. mrG says:

    One more point to your argument: Let’s not fall into the trap of believing that just because someone is our enemy makes them stupid. History does not support this assumption. Thus, if you can think of ways to enact Frank’s nightmares, you can be certain the ‘terrorist‘ has also thought of these and countless other far more clever ways (because they, supposedly, think about them full time and have bigger budgets than you or I).So we are left with a question, a hard question, and an important question: If we are so easy to attack and have been for a long, long time, then why don’t they attack?And the reasonable answer must be, “Because they don’t want to.” — we can paint the object of our Two Minutes Hate with all the baby-eating stories we like, but they are men, likely men with a profit motive agenda very much like our own. The Soviets never attacked because a radio-active USA would not have served anyone, and these people won’t attack because it won’t serve anyone.They, like us, want solutions which serve their profit motives. Make peace profitable, and they will hock their guns to be a part of it.

  5. Charles2 says:

    At last, someone puts it all together in a cogent way.Now the question that nobody has asked, much less started to answer: Were Frank’s comments “his own,” or were they advanced talking points, or even a warning? I’m not sure anyone could really answer that definitively except for Tommy; and I don’t imagine he’s telling.

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    This has been germinating in my head for a while — glad it resonates. And Gary, you’re right, I should not assume the ‘enemy’ is stupid. I should have left it at ignorant. But I’m preaching to the choir here — we need the Democratic candidates to start saying this, repeatedly and consistently, because it’s a complex message and will take some time to get traction.

  7. Euan says:

    Don’t make them the enemy or ignorant. As I quoted on my own blog Alan Watts had this sussed:”…. when the two poles, good and bad, forget their inter- dependence and try to obliterate each other, man becomes subhuman-the implacable crusader or the cold, sadistic thug. It is not for man to be an angel or a devil, and the would be angels should realize that, as their ambition succeeds, they evoke hoards of devils to keep the balance”

  8. Paul Towlson says:

    Thanks for your article Dave. The only effective way to fight terrorism is to remove their oxygen, and that oxygen is the experience and perception of injustice. Unfortunately that is more costly and less popular than bombing certain targets.To use force is rather like using a broom to sweep away layers of dust. It redistributes, but that is all.

  9. Jon Husband says:

    Thanks, Dave, and thanks, commenters.If my memory serves me well, a few brave souls advanced this line of reasoning in the weeks and first few months after 9.11, including some notable and predictable voices like Edward Said, Chomsky, A. Roy – can’t remember any Americans, tho’ (oops, Chomsky is American) – and some op-ed pieces in the Guardian, and such like.Drowned out, I guess, by the insidious gushing and cheerleading of Fox and CNN, which has given real and tangible meaning to the notion of “manufacturing…both consent and reality”.There really is just one way. Using force not only redistributes, but also attracts more “dirt”. Injustice and oppression never, I repeat never, brings stability and peace and greater freedom. The histor of the world, the history of various societies, and the histories of individuals we know, including ourselves, should onclusively demonstrate this.Ego, hubris, and narrow minds, particularly when combined with cunning and great might, will no doubt lead to an unhappy time of reckoning. Always has, always will.

  10. KevinG says:

    Dave-Many of the comments you have made echo my own thoughts. The obvious problem is that the financial interests of the American public is best served by the current policies. Policies that keep American dominance intact.Any Democrat brave enough to put together a policy similar to what you are advocating would be eviscerated by their electoral opponents, the media and the public.I couldn’t agree more that we need to turn the corner, but I am at a loss as to how people will be convinced that the sacrifices in personal purchasing power will be worth the gains in security.

  11. Roger Eaton says:

    There is a good essay on the subject of preventing terrorism in a smart way at Seven Keys to a Safer Nation by Eisha Mason of the Center for the Advancement of Nonviolence in Los Angeles.

  12. Bob McWilliams says:

    Dave,Your analysis is right on the money. The U.S. can deal with terrorism in three ways – the old three legged milk stool analogy: One – try to defend against all possible attacks (NOT POSSIBLE!); Two – attack them before they can attack us (CAN’T GET THEM ALL!); or, Three – change the way we treat others in the world (THE ONLY WAY TO SUCCEED!).As someone once said: we have seen the enemy and he is us! We need to take a place as equals in the world community. We need to take that often talked about moral high ground and set the right example – one of collaboration and sharing. And, perhaps soon, recognize that nation/states are no longer relevant and be a part of a communitarian world. As the Bahai say: “One Planet, One People Please!”Bob

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