A while back, someone used the “email a comment” function to ask me, “You write, ‘Our response to terrorist attacks should always be, “How can we conduct our collective affairs in such a way as to make terrorism pointless?” ’ I was wondering how you would answer that question, and what you consider to be the terrorist’s point.” (I’m not posting it as a comment, since it wasn’t quite clear to me that the commenter intended the message that way.)
All along, my short answer has been something like, “Figure out what a war would cost in dollars and energy, and devote those resources to building up the economies and infrastructures of the nations where terrorist sympathies run highest. Don’t try to suppress violence and terror by answering it with terrifying violence; do good to those who hate you.” I do not claim that this would solve the problem of terrorism, but it would at least be an admirable course of action, and subsequent suffering and casualties would be inflicted in spite of the U.S.’s generous aid, not in response to the U.S.’s campaign of conquest and torture.
It doesn’t make a significant difference if the recently-published estimates of Iraqi death toll are off my 100%. The fact remains that the U.S. government chose to pursue a course of action that resulted in vastly more deaths than would have been the case if they had chosen differently. The fact that people are haggling over how many tens of thousands of Iraqis have died in a war that has not brought a higher degree of peace and security, that has evidently increased the amount of terrorist activity in Iraq, illustrates how the policymakers in the U.S. government have gone off their hinges. (Don’t let’s get started about their blaming the Clinton administration, during which there were no nuclear weapons in North Korea, for the recent nuclear tests there.)
Diana Butler Bass, a classmate of mine from olden times at Duke and a speaker coming to Seabury in a couple of weeks, said it vividly in a column at beliefnet. That’s what I meant; that’s what I hope that I would have done.