Catching up unsystematically on posts I’d missed, I came to Les Orchard’s pre 9/11 post, “I refuse to be afraid.” He and Bruce Schneier (whom his post cites) have it exactly right — you can’t beat terrorism by brute force. Our response to terrorist attacks should always be, “How can we conduct our collective affairs in such a way as to make terrorism pointless?” Saber-rattling coercive politics positively invites persistent attacks; it challenges terrorists to beat us at the game of destruction. In such a game, the terrorists always hold the advantage of surprise; it’s a lot easier to outmaneuver a monolith than for the monolith to devise preventive measures against any possible mode of attack (as our belated, retrospective gestures demonstrate).
At this point, the number of deaths after the terrorist attacks outnumbers the deaths on that date by a factor of, what? 10? The U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have not disabled Al-Qaeda; neither Afghanistan nor Iraq has a peaceful, benign, democratically-elected government; the U.S. population does not live in a higher degree of peace and security than it did on September 10, 2001. Thousands of military families, and tens of thousands of Iraqi families, bear the long-term costs of a misbegotten and failed policy.
I’m not afraid of Al-Qaeda; I am afraid that U.S. efforts to dominate the world are inadvertently advancing the cause of fear and terror, and are corroding the political ecology in which the ideals for which the Constitution and Bill of Rights represent an admirable, hopeful, vision.
[Edited to read “admirable, hopeful, vision” rather that “admirable, hopeful, ideal,” which was repetitive and imprecise.]