Some Hard Truths about Terrorism (and Anti-Terrorism Policy)

Rosa Brooks, writing at Foreign Policy offers some truth on the issue of terrorism:  The Threat Is Already Inside (And 9 other truths about terrorism that nobody wants to hear.)

The while thing is worth readings, but here are some excerpts:

Occasional terrorist attacks in the West are virtually inevitable, and odds are, we’ll see more attacks in the coming decades, not fewer. If we want to reduce the long-term risk of terrorism — and reduce its ability to twist Western societies into unrecognizable caricatures of themselves — we need to stop viewing terrorism as shocking and aberrational, and instead recognize it as ongoing problem to be managed, rather than “defeated.”

[…]

Fourteen years after 9/11, we still have astonishingly little empirical evidence about which counterterrorism techniques are effective and which aren’t. In large part, this is because governments haven’t made it a priority to fund or conduct evidence-based counterterrorism research. This needs to change.

[…]

The cheapest and easiest way to reduce the benefits of terrorism is to stop overreacting. That 129 people were killed in the Paris attacks is a terrible tragedy and a vicious crime, but 16,000 people in the United States are murdered each year in “ordinary” homicides, 30,000 die in accidental falls, 34,000 die in car crashes, and 39,000 die of accidental poisoning. We should mourn each and every death, and we should take all reasonable steps to prevent more deaths from occurring and punish those responsible for intentionally inflicting harm.

But we need to stop viewing terrorism as unique and aberrational. The more we panic and posture and overreact, the more terrorism we’ll get.

As she also notes in the piece, we can no more win a war against terrorism than we can against poverty or crime.  So while this does not mean we just sit back and take it, it does mean that reality is what is and there is no way to make the world terrorism free.  More importantly:  a lot of what we do in the face of terrorism (like the current freak-out over refugees, among other reactions) actually can have the effect of incentivizing more terrorism.  For terrorism to truly work, there has to be a massive over-reaction.

 

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Terrorism
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Jesus Christ. You know what, I will vote for Ted Cruz or Donald Trump before I accept terrorism as a way of life in the West.

    What a load of cowardly, passive, weak, “lie back and enjoy it,” advice.

    No. That’s my answer. No, I will not accept this for me or my children.

  2. Skooks says:

    And w;ho benefits from massive over-reaction besides terrorists? Talking heads–whose pockets are lined by the viewing of their propaganda by the American masses. Just like Big Money is corrupting our American electoral process, Big Money is also corrupting American mass media.

  3. @michael reynolds: All well and good, but it is utterly impossible to eliminate terrorism and anyone who tells you otherwise is either a fool or lying.

    It is like saying we can eliminate homicides (which, as noted, is a far more serious problem than terrorism).

    Of course, neither myself nor the piece is stating that we do nothing, but most of what ends up being done just either a) makes things worse, or b) only males life worse for non-terrorists.

    The degree to which you are reacting to these recent events with pure emotion is fairly stunning, given the way you have addressed political issues in the past.

    (And yes: I understand, as Brooks herself notes, politicians can’t talk this way, but truth is truth–tell me which of the 10 items in that list in untrue).

  4. @michael reynolds:

    I accept terrorism as a way of life in the West.

    And seriously: who in the world is saying that?

    I feel as if I can be direct since you are a very regular member of the OTB community and one who can hold his own (not to mention a successful professional who needs not worry about what some professor has to say): but your reaction to the Paris attacks have been overwrought and is very much defining the very nature of what terrorism is. I agree with you that the attacks were horrible and I don’t accept them as legitimate in any way. However, the bottom line is: this is not a new phenomenon and it is one that cannot be eliminated no matter how much we do.

    I sincerely ask: which of the 10 things listed in that piece is empirically, demonstrably incorrect?

    It is easy to say “No” in a vague, defiant way. It is yet another to demonstrate how the observations are, indeed, incorrect.

    I am not even sure, to be honest, what you think the answers are.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: What Steven is pointing out is the percentage of risks. We don’t want to overreact, which just boomerangs.

    The problem is: what do you do about someone who is determined to turn himself into a bomb? How do you discover him? How do you track him?

    Historically, idiots-who-want-to-commit-suicide-for-religious-reasons have come in waves. Look at (deep breath) Assassins/Anarchists/Tamil Tigers/whatever. Usually what’s happened is a) they die out (literally) after making quite a nuisance of themselves, b) if they’re centralized, some power gets annoyed enough to storm their fortress and get rid of them, forget due process or anything like that, or c) they somewhat achieve their goals, so the populace that was sort of supporting them stops supporting them any more (which makes them more vulnerable and able to be attacked.)

    Then of course there’s the religious wars case, where basically everyone who was a fanatic gets killed off and the moderates take over.

    (There’s something about the Mideast which makes this not work. They’ve been fighting over bits of land for the last 2000 years. Must be all that sand.)

    I only see one possible solution that wouldn’t require us turning completely away from our present human rights: 1) build a huge wall around the entire Mideast, 2) cut off their access to the internet, 3) anyone else who preaches ISIS-like stuff out here on our own public communications channels, pick them up with their families and dump them inside the Mideast wall.

    By the way, that goes for so-called Christians calling for killing of gays and “race war” idiots. Dump them all behind the wall and don’t let any of them back out again. Anyone who abuses the First Amendment Freedom of Speech shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

  6. And you are not really paying attention to what the article is saying. Specifically we have to stop overreacting. It is the goal of the attacks in the first place.

    Terrorism has no military usefulness. You cannot take down France with these kinds of attacks, but you can get people (and governments) to alter their behavior–indeed, this is whole goal.

  7. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds:

    No, I will not accept this for me or my children.

    Only a fool flails at the inevitable and you aren’t a foolish man. Earlier generations accepted enemies shooting tens of thousands of us to pieces and permanent threat of nuclear annihilation; yet remote possibility of a suicide bomber today results in demands for absolute security.

    Perspective over panic.

  8. @Ben Wolf:

    Perspective over panic.

    Exactly.

  9. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Will you also not accept a land where there is a single murder, rape, or other act of violence?
    Will you also not accept a land where a single person goes to bed hungry or without a home?
    Will you also not accept a land where a single person has to go without medical care?
    I could go on, but you get my point.
    None of us want there to be any terrorism, any violent crime, or any poverty. Accepting that all of those things will always be with us to some degree doesn’t mean we “lie back and enjoy it”. We can still work hard to minimize all of those things while recognizing that none of those efforts will be 100% effective and realizing that they don’t call for us to freak out and overreact.
    We freaked out and overreacted to crime in the US in the 80s with a raft of ‘tough on crime’ legislation. We are now having to deal with the hangover from that radical overreaction. Do you really want us to do even more of the same for terrorism?

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am not responding emotionally. Rather the contrary. Emotionally I want to save refugees as much as the next guy, possibly more since I’ve donated some money to the cause. I am not ignorant of history (compared to the average American) and I fully recognize that posterity may disapprove of the things I suggest. I don’t care, because all that matters is winning. And I don’t think we are anywhere near the point where we should accept this as a way of life. We haven’t lost unless all the civilized folk surrender.

    It’s not emotion, in fact it’s the absence of emotion. I am simply more in touch with my inner psychopath. I am not quite as civilized as you folks in academia. I am seeing the bright clear line from A to B without the filters of sentiment or concern for the opinions of others. That’s what unnerves you about my response, it’s not that I’m wetting my pants, or that I’m in some spittle-flecked rage, those are all reactions you would more easily accept. It’s my indifference to anything but my goal.

    Back during the Iraq invasion I was screaming that if we meant to do this it would take hundreds of thousands of troops, and would require us to pull a Japan: write them a constitution, forcibly re-order Iraqi society, and keep our boots on their necks until the new order took hold. I said it would save lives in the long run and actually make the area a little bit better.

    Instead we went the soft occupation route. And civil war, mass terror and ISIS followed. Everyone then said I was crazy, but I was right. Because if we were going in, the only winning move was boot-on-neck occupation.

    And now the winning move – not the nice move, the acceptable move, the moral move, but the winning move – is to ratchet retaliation up by orders of magnitude. We are fighting a tit-for-tat war with a death cult. We don’t win that. We win by staggering ISIS and by making it clear that western power will occupy, destroy, even annihilate large sections of the ME so that the people who could and should be dealing with ISIS – the Saudis and the Egyptians and the Iraqis – will have no alternative to dealing with ISIS themselves.

    The ISIS and AQ folks have hope right now, and it’s the hope that’s dangerous. People think it’s hopelessness, but that’s not how people’s minds work. Russian peasants suffered for centuries with barely a peep to draw the Cossacks attention. And then came a liberalized regime (by Russian standards, not Vermont’s) and then ideology. Communism. Hope. Hope and a precipitating event: WW1.

    We need to kill that hope. We need to reduce them to despair. (Sherman and Georgia.) And we do that by showing our real teeth, not the plastic chattering teeth we’ve been showing, but the real extent of western power. If we intend to beat these people we need to stop the slap fight and start the war.

    If we were serious about this the B-1’s and B-2’s and B-52’s would already have leveled most of Raqqa. Because that is the winning move. At least that’s what my inner psychopath is saying, and it’s the psychos who win wars: Grant, Sherman, Patton, Lemay, Bomber Harris, Churchill himself, certainly Stalin. Rational people run staffs and make plans, but the plans they make are for the psychopaths to fight.

    In any given group of 10 soldiers, nine are nice, level-headed folks. And the tenth is the one who does all the killing. That’s the person who wins wars. Always thus.

  11. @michael reynolds:

    If we were serious about this the B-1’s and B-2’s and B-52’s would already have leveled most of Raqqa. Because that is the winning move.

    To put it bluntly: that’s utter nonsense. And it is not nonsense because it is violent or because it would require killing people (and setting aside other ethical consideration of such a move). It is nonsense because leveling Raqqa does nothing to stop radicalized Belgians. Indeed, it would very likely radicalize more young men around the world. Winning, indeed.

    Did you learn nothing from Afghanistan and Iraq? (Or, for that matter, any number of other examples).

    The whole problem here is that terrorism doesn’t require a city as a base or even centralized control. Half a dozen persons with guns can do a lot of damage before they are stopped and no amount of city leveling is going to fix it,.

    Plus you sound like Cheney. Seriously. You sound exactly like Cheney. It is the logic that if we just blow enough stuff up we win. There is zero empirical evidence to suggest that that is the case.

  12. You are, btw, conflating a military campaign against ISIS with a way to stop terrorist attacks. These are not the same thing.

    You may, in some ways be right about ISIS, although I seriously question the cost/benefit analysis there. And even if you can militarily crush ISIS you aren’t going to end terrorism. You may even encourage it.

    (And yes: a major error made by the US government was the way it handled post-Saddam Iraq–indeed, its utter lack of a plan. The degree to which we had the capacity to impose a Germany or Japan post-WWII scenario remains an open question, however.)

  13. One more thing:

    It’s not emotion, in fact it’s the absence of emotion. I am simply more in touch with my inner psychopath. I am not quite as civilized as you folks in academia. I am seeing the bright clear line from A to B without the filters of sentiment or concern for the opinions of others. That’s what unnerves you about my response, it’s not that I’m wetting my pants, or that I’m in some spittle-flecked rage, those are all reactions you would more easily accept. It’s my indifference to anything but my goal.

    I must confess: you are coming across as emotional. Not pants-wetting, but emotional just the same. But there is no point in arguing over that.

    You seem to mistake what I am saying (or what Brooks is saying) as being controlled by some sort of ethical or liberal squishyness. That isn’t the point.

    The point is: you can call all day long for “winning” or declare the resoluteness of your vision, but at that end of that day you have to be able to define winning in a way that conforms to reality.

    Just because one defines wining as X means that X is attainable.

  14. One more one more thing:

    We win by staggering ISIS and by making it clear that western power will occupy, destroy, even annihilate large sections of the ME so that the people who could and should be dealing with ISIS – the Saudis and the Egyptians and the Iraqis – will have no alternative to dealing with ISIS themselves.

    So, a deep, perpetual war in ME is your policy goal. We have already occupied two countries in the region at a massive cost (although we did not dominate them in the way you described, I will allow). We have been engaged, in fact, for going on a decade and half in these conflicts to one degree or another. To accomplish what you describe would cost far, far more in lives and money (as well as effects on the global economy) than the Bush wars ever did. It would also lead to far more deaths than what the world has suffered at the hands of terrorism.

    This is the world you want for yourself and your children?

  15. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Yes, let’s not get too excited about terrorists. Not when there are far graver threats out there, like racists and sexists and gun owners and conservatives. Once we get rid of them, then we can worry about the trivial threat posed by radical Islamists.

  16. Lit3Bolt says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Really? When faced with psychopaths, your answer is “we must out-psychopath them, and then they’ll act rationally and surrender?” Never mind the fact your solutions require millions of troops, decades/century long occupations, STASI-style secret police, trillions of dollars, and the use of nuclear weapons. You’re advocating the Ann Coulter approach to terrorism.

    You don’t even make sense anymore. Have fun fighting the bugbears of your mind in your vale of years.

  17. @Jenos Idanian #13: Of course, gun violence in the US kill a whole lot more Americans than does radical Islamists.

    And sexism and racism affect the lives of American far more than radical Islam.

    As such, you have a point after a fashion, despite your sarcasm and disdain.

  18. WR says:

    @michael reynolds: “At least that’s what my inner psychopath is saying, and it’s the psychos who win wars: Grant, Sherman, Patton, Lemay, Bomber Harris, Churchill himself, certainly Stalin.”

    I think what’s driving many of your friends here crazy with your current approach is your complete inability or unwillingness to look at any evidence that might suggest you’re not 100% right. And it’s evidenced by your statements about the Iraq war, which are provably half-true and then complete conjecture that you’ve decided is truth. Yes, waging the war the way the Bush administration was guaranteed to fail — but you state as fact that waging it your way was guaranteed to succeed. And of course we can know no such thing. The fact that A is wrong does not necessarily mean that B is right — it’s not a binary world.

    But I will suggest anyway that psychopathy is not the key to winning wars — unless you are willing to say that Churchill and Patton were bigger psychopaths than Hitler and Tojo and Goering and Goebbels.

    And in fact, had we and Russia let the psychopaths run things for us, then the Cuban Missile Crisis would have left both countries smoking ruins.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    You know what the “response” was to Pearl Harbor where 2500 people died? The numbers range from a quarter of a million to 900,000. That’s not Japanese soldiers on Iwo or Guadalcanal, that’s from bombing. If we take the low number – a quarter million – then our retaliation was a matter of 100 to one.

    In Germany the allied bombers (us and the Brits) killed between 300,000 and 600,000. Given that the Germans never did attack us, I’m not sure how to calculate the ratio. But we burned their country down, killed their army, and split the ruins between ourselves and history’s second greatest monster, Stalin.

    So, actually, my approach to war is the same approach taken by beloved liberal icon, Franklin Roosevelt.

    It is also the approach taken by Abraham Lincoln, who kept swapping out commanders until he found the psychopath who understood that if he had 2 soldiers and the enemy had one, then it was all about attrition. Grant was called a butcher. But he won. And he won for Abe Lincoln, generally considered our greatest president.

    Proportional response is what feeds the ISIS narrative. “Look, all the West can do is blow up buildings we long since evacuated, they are powerless against us, Allah akbar!” That’s the f-king narrative from ISIS, and it is enormously empowering to radicalized Muslims. It is our impotence that feeds the narrative, because the narrative rests on hope – hope that they can prevail.

    We have to kill that hope. Just like we killed Confederate hope and Japanese hope and German hope. And the world is a much better place for it.

    So, I’m advocating the path previously taken by Lincoln, Roosevelt and Truman, three of our greatest presidents.

    As for the notion that terror has no address, oh, bullsh-t. ISIS has proclaimed a state, that state is at war with us, that state has territory and people. People occupy space on the surface of planet earth. ISIS has a declared capital, don’t pretend they don’t have an address. I can see their address on Google Earth.

    And let’s cut the crap about this being some purely domestic French thing. This is ISIS inspired, ISIS planned, and the nationality of the individuals involved is irrelevant. Some American-born Communist in 1955 blows up the White House and you don’t look to Moscow? Please.

    Finally, no, cringing in the corner of the playground so as not to “make the bully mad” has never worked, ever. The way you deal with bullies is by breaking their arms and rupturing their kidneys. They don’t bully so much once they’re crippled. And they sure as hell don’t bully the guy who crippled them.

    Name our greatest allies. Britain: we fought them twice. Japan: incinerated their cities, occupied their country. Germany: incinerated their cities, occupied their country. Italy: destroyed their towns and villages, occupied their country. The only one of our major allies we haven’t fought is France. This notion that once we’ve had a war it’s eternal enmity is historically nonsense.

    You do not beat murderous psychopaths with understanding, you beat them by sending your own psychopaths to kill them. That’s what war is. War is hell as Sherman said, and who would know it better?

  20. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: You’re right here — bombing ISIS into rubble isn’t going to stop the radicalization of Muslims elsewhere, it’s going to encourage it.

    But, destroying ISIS as a state is going to be a key part of winning. But, only a part. And, when we do effectively go after the core of ISIS, it is going to apply a lot of outward pressure, scattering ISIS commandos outside of the area, and increasing terrorism in the short term.

    The rest of the solution is intelligence, police work, and stopping the attacks by ISIS outside of the Mideast, to prevent the radicalization of the far right in Europe and America, and the rise of fascism.

    michael reynolds is terrified about the results of the terrorism, and wants to pursue a strategy that is going to increase the terrorism in the short term, because it is the only way to reduce it in the long term.

    And, he does sound terrified — he’s had a complete, sudden change over the past few days, to the point where he does sound like Cheney.

    I don’t see a good solution. When good people start sounding like Cheney, fascism has fertile ground to take root. Michael is threatening, in rhetorical jest, to vote for the far right in the US if there isn’t a strong response.

    If we want to effectively stop terrorist attacks in the west, we’re going to have to give up something — privacy. We would need to give our antiterrorism forces (police, FBI, DHS, CIA) the ability to know what people are doing what. And, we will have to ask ourselves if we can have Liberty in a Surveillance State. Or, can we craft a new type of Surveillance State that just doesn’t care about the little things?

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @WR:

    No, they were not “bigger” psychopaths, they were psychopaths with more resources.

    And I don’t mean to imply that my “hard occupation” would absolutely work, but given that you admit the Bush approach was doomed, I’d suggest mine had a better chance of success.

  22. WR says:

    @michael reynolds: “Jesus Christ. You know what, I will vote for Ted Cruz or Donald Trump before I accept terrorism as a way of life in the West.

    What a load of cowardly, passive, weak, “lie back and enjoy it,” advice.

    No. That’s my answer. No, I will not accept this for me or my children.”

    I think of another recent religious war fought by soldiers on one side and terrorists on the other. The fact is that the IRA committed horrible atrocities in England, killing scores of innocent people in bombings.

    Had they listened to you, the answer would have been to drop nuclear bombs on Belfast. And now millions would be dead and one of the most beautiful places on earth would be uninhabitable for centuries. But that would have shown them Catholics.

    Except, of course, it would have radicalized the Catholic Republic of Ireland, which was not involved in the fight, and opened up an entirely new religious war.

    Instead, a long and arduous and dreary and very flawed peace process was allowed to drag out, and the war ended. And while there are psychopaths — to use your word — on both sides who would still like to see hostilities commence again and the underlying problems have not been settled for all time to everyone’s satisfaction, millions of people in England and Northern Ireland live lives free of the threat of terrorism and war.

    Dealing with people is hard. Dealing with ideologies is hard. Killing them all is much easier. It’s the lazy, stupid, angry answer to every problem, which is why it’s the Republican answer.

    Why it’s become yours is beyond me. But whatever.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    As I pointed out the other day, the cigar in my mouth is more dangerous to me, personally, than terrorism. I am not remotely terrified, I am however determined. And frankly, I see further on this than most of you because your world views pass through lenses of self-imposed moral and ethical and communitarian filters. I have the same filters, but mine can be more easily removed.

  24. WR says:

    @Gustopher: “If we want to effectively stop terrorist attacks in the west, we’re going to have to give up something — privacy. ”

    Maybe before we do, we should ask ourselves if it’s worth it. Somehow we manage to live with tens of thousands of gun deaths a year because we’ve decided that’s less important than a particular kind of “freedom.” We live with God knows how many deaths from smoking in a year because we’ve decided that’s less important than a different kind of freedom. Why is terrorism the sole exception? Why is this the risk that is so terrible that we have to turn into a police state?

    Look, I don’t want to be shot or blown up any more than the next guy. But I also don’t want to live in East Germany. Surely these are not our only options.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    It is a mistake to treat this as a conventional war…the terrorism that is going on today is not like Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, or even the Soviet Union…of course the impulse to hit them harder is strong, but as noted, that only works to create more terrorists…it is hardly “cringing in the corner” not to carpet-bomb certain areas of the Middle East…beating murderous psychopaths means being smart and not acting like a rampaging bull trying to gore everything in sight that looks like an enemy…

  26. Gustopher says:

    @WR:

    Look, I don’t want to be shot or blown up any more than the next guy. But I also don’t want to live in East Germany. Surely these are not our only options.

    Look at the polling. Look at the people here. Look at Michael Reynolds. Look at what a few pinpricks have caused them to do to themselves.

    Even if we can live with the pinpricks, can we live with the damage that we will collectively do to ourselves as a result of these pinpricks?

    We may have to choose what type of a surveillance state we live in — an East German style with everyone as an informant, where every indiscretion is catalogued and used for leverage should you know the florist across the street with the suspicious friends, or simply Edward Snowden’s Worst Nightmare.

    I’ll take a secretive, discrete surveillance state over the more overt police state. I’d rather have neither, but I don’t think my fellow Americans have the stomach for that. Toss in some ineffective security theater to keep the rubes happy.

  27. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Must be all that sand.

    Or the absence of moderates capable of achieving and holding power.

  28. WR says:

    @michael reynolds: “Finally, no, cringing in the corner of the playground so as not to “make the bully mad” has never worked, ever.”

    It’s remarkable how you continue to knock down straw man after straw man without ever once responding to any of the serious points anyone else has made. You’re a better thinker than this, you’re certainly a better writer. But you’ve apparently decided that reason is a sign of weakness… or something.

    It’s too bad, Your posts were until very recently always interesting and always thought-provoking. Now it’s just yahoo nonsense. Hopefully you’ll recover if not your sense of proportion your pride as a writer. Until then, I’ve got eleven episodes left of Jessica Jones to watch, and this seems a lot more entertaining than running over the same old ground.

  29. WR says:

    @Gustopher: “Even if we can live with the pinpricks, can we live with the damage that we will collectively do to ourselves as a result of these pinpricks?”

    Or maybe we should expend a little energy trying to prevent our society from going mad before we simply preemptively acquiesce to it.

    This is a moment. The moment will pass. There are serious choices to be made now that will determine a lot of what happens in the future. But your position seems to be that all the choices have been made and now we have to figure out how to live with the consequences. It’s like there’s a desire to give up so no one has to try to do anything hard anymore.

  30. @michael reynolds: You are utterly missing the point (especially of the article I posted).

    1. Terrorism is not just ISIS. As such, you cannot talk about a war with ISIS as some kind of final war on terrorism. You are not presenting a focused argument.

    2. I am not claiming the Paris attacks were wholly domestic. What I am pointing out is that radicalized youths are not eliminated by bombing a given city.

    So, I’m advocating the path previously taken by Lincoln, Roosevelt and Truman, three of our greatest presidents.

    Except, the situation here is not that of the US Civil War nor of WWII. You are drawing radically false analogies, and it is affecting your analysis and argument.

  31. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: There is a difference between psychopaths and sociopaths despite the fact that we use the terms synonymously in common oral English. The difference is that a psychopath, in addition to operating on a separate and mostly self-serving moral code and conduct pattern, is divorced from reality in specific ways similar to those of people suffering from various mental illnesses.

    Dude, you gotta stop listening to your inner voice. He’s lying to you and you’re going to lose whatever you value as your soul if you don’t. I’m serious here.

  32. @michael reynolds:

    I see further on this than most of you because your world views pass through lenses of self-imposed moral and ethical and communitarian filters. I have the same filters, but mine can be more easily removed.

    You keep talking like you understand better because you understand what has to be done.

    What I am telling you is that there is no evidence to suggest what you are prescribing is either a) feasible, or b) likely to be efficacious. You keep asserting that the argument here is about cringing a corner or placating the bully. That is not the point.

    Indeed, you could carpet-nuke the Middle East and you would not guarantee the end of terror attacks like the one in Paris. That is part of the point.

    You make it sounds like enough will and enough military firepower will solve the problem you are concerned with–this is not the case.

  33. Gustopher says:

    @WR: I think we need to be confronting the hard choices head on.

    Americans have shown an amazing weakness when confronted with terrorism, and the only way to prevent these attacks is with foreknowledge — human intelligence, electronic surveillance, analysts piecing it all together.

    So, if we are unwilling to weather some minor attacks, if we aren’t strong enough, if we don’t have the resolve… Then we really ought to be discussing what type of a surveillance state we want, how intrusive we would accept, and what we are willing to give up.

    We are beginning to see this a little — the yahoo news reporter asking Trump if he would support Muslims carrying special identification, etc, but it’s a much broader question than would you simply be willing to treat Muslims like the Nazis treated the Jews before they set up the death camps (back when they were kinder, friendlier Nazis)

    We trade away privacy all the time — when we buy something with a supermarket discount card, or even a credit card — does it really matter if the government has a similarly detailed look into our lives? Credit rating companies, banks, marketers… have we already given up our privacy, and we just aren’t seeing a benefit for it because we haven’t given it up to the right people?

  34. Gustopher says:

    Would Donald Trump support a registry of all Muslims who have guns? And would his answer change if it was phrased as a registry of all gun owners who are Muslims?

  35. @Gustopher:

    So, if we are unwilling to weather some minor attacks, if we aren’t strong enough, if we don’t have the resolve…

    Except that in most ways we do weather it. The only ways we don’t have been a) ill-advised military actions, and b) giving up liberties–both with dubious efficacy. (And this is rather the point).

  36. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    As I pointed out the other day, the cigar in my mouth is more dangerous to me, personally, than terrorism. I am not remotely terrified, I am however determined. And frankly, I see further on this than most of you because your world views pass through lenses of self-imposed moral and ethical and communitarian filters. I have the same filters, but mine can be more easily removed.

    I’ll agree with the first sentence.

    I don’t believe than us, and more able to see things clearly because you can lift your moral, ethical and communitarian filters at will. I mean this in the best of all possible ways, but that’s crazy talk. That’s downright delusional crazy talk. Or really poorly worded. Let’s just pretend it’s the latter.

    And, when the attacks first happened, you were talking about how the refugee crisis would lead to the rise of the far right throughout Europe and result in fascism. That’s what I think terrifies you, not the prospect of ISIS blowing up your local cigar shop.

  37. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Except that in most ways we do weather it. The only ways we don’t have been a) ill-advised military actions, and b) giving up liberties–both with dubious efficacy. (And this is rather the point).

    So, we weather it in all the ways except the most consequential. I’ll just round that down to us not weathering it at all.

    If there was an attack a few days before the Presidential election, do you have any doubt that it would tip the balance in favor of whoever said “we’re going to start bomb them ten times more than we have been bombing them up to this point?” That’s not weathering anything. That’s being played like a puppet.

  38. @Gustopher: you are confusing me insofar as you are advocating more loss of liberty.

  39. WR says:

    @Gustopher: There’s a Benjamin Franklin quote that righties used to spout almost religiously, and now have dropped down the memory hole. It goes, roughly, those who would give up liberty for some temporary security deserve neither.

    Now there’s no liberty we can’t throw away fast enough, even with no evidence that it will help us. We’re being told that the Paris attacks mean we must end all encryption of our private correspondance — even though none of the Paris attackers communications were encrypted. We’re told we must turn away refugees — even though none of the Paris attackers were refugees.

    But on the other side, we’re told that we still can’t stop people on the terrorist watch list from buying guns, because Freedom.

    Right now everyone in the world is trying to leverage these attacks to achieve something they’ve been unable to get before, even though there’s no real connection. I’d say let’s stop and take a breath before we start shoveling it all at them.

  40. An Interested Party says:

    There’s a Benjamin Franklin quote that righties used to spout almost religiously, and now have dropped down the memory hole. It goes, roughly, those who would give up liberty for some temporary security deserve neither.

    Actually, I heard that from those on the left after 9/11 and it was as true then as it is now…it is amazing that a few terrorists can cause us to make so many more stupid decisions and in the process do more to hurt ourselves than the mighty Soviet Union did during the Cold War…

  41. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You know what the “response” was to Pearl Harbor where 2500 people died? The numbers range from a quarter of a million to 900,000. That’s not Japanese soldiers on Iwo or Guadalcanal, that’s from bombing. If we take the low number – a quarter million – then our retaliation was a matter of 100 to one.

    You keep acting as though nothing happened between Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. The US alone lost over 100,000 in the Pacific Theater. Add in the deaths of allied states and we lost over 4,000,000. http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/C/a/Casualties.htm You can’t simply sweep all of that under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen.

    In Germany the allied bombers (us and the Brits) killed between 300,000 and 600,000. Given that the Germans never did attack us, I’m not sure how to calculate the ratio. But we burned their country down, killed their army, and split the ruins between ourselves and history’s second greatest monster, Stalin.

    Casualties during all of WWII are estimated at over 50 million, by far the most of them allied. Over 400,000 of those deaths were US servicemen. Again, this is in no way comparable to radical islamist terrorism. It is ridiculous to conflate them.

    So, actually, my approach to war is the same approach taken by beloved liberal icon, Franklin Roosevelt.

    FDR faced an existential threat, not pinprick terrorist attacks that are in no way an existentialist threat to the US or our allies.

    So, I’m advocating the path previously taken by Lincoln, Roosevelt and Truman, three of our greatest presidents.

    Each of them was facing an existential threat to our country and or strongly allied states. That is far different than what we are now facing.
    You are advocating something that makes no sense ethically or tactically and calling anyone who disagrees weak. You have immediately dismissed all argument rather than actually engaging. You need to step away for a bit, take a breath and think.

  42. Kari Q says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Forgive me, but are you okay? Your responses are so out of character that I am concerned for you.

  43. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I advocate the minimum loss of liberty necessary to avoid a greater loss of liberty. And, I advocate making it as informed a choice as possible.

    Those who cringe and panic when they see the attacks in Paris, and who want the government to ensure that it cannot happen here need to accept that they are asking for a loss of liberty. I’ve lost a lot of respect for this country over the past week — our worst instincts have been on full display, and we have a large chunk of our political class pandering to our fears.

    Honestly, it feels worse than 9/11. I’m not seeing the unity or the desire to help that we had then, I’m seeing only fear, and anger, and barely contained bigotry. It’s ugly and it’s dangerous — more dangerous than ISIS is.

    We should be a strong country, but we’re not. We should be strong enough to stand firm and not let some pissant little attack change our values, but we’re not. We should be capable of dictating our own responses rather than just immediately caving in, but we’re not.

    And, if we aren’t able to act mostly rationally when challenged, then we have to do whatever we can to avoid being challenged. We’re not responsible enough to have unlimited freedom. We’re not willing to rise above our worst instincts.

    We can tut-tut about Egypt having free elections and electing the Muslim Brotherhood, but right now Donald Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination, followed closely by Ben Carson. It’s not ISIS that scares me, it’s us.

    Personally, I think that since we have little or no privacy protections from corporations, that it is not a significant additional loss of liberty for the government to have access to similar data. Is that going to be enough for the government to stop most terrorist attacks? Or would it just be abused? Probably a little of both.

  44. Matt says:

    @Kari Q: Naw this is well within his character. This is basically how he responds when gun control is mentioned.

    Guns and terrorists seem to be the two things that terrorize him the most.

  45. stonetools says:

    First of all, I think that we have to accept that we are in a war. Unfortunately, its not the kind of War that Michael likes-A WW2 type war with a Tokyo that we can bomb or maybe conquer. It’s more like the Cold War, which was an ideological struggle. Ideological struggles aren’t solved by leveling the enemy’s capital. Ideological struggles are long, messy conflicts, in which military power can play only a secondary (though important) role. Ideological struggles tend to be long, messy affairs , as was the Cold War (1945-91).Let’s start thinking in terms of a conflict that will last decades, folks. I think the biggest problem with Michael on one hand and Doug on the other , is in the unwillingness to face the reality that we are facing a long, long struggle.
    The strategy of containment that won the Cold War was disliked by many who preferred a ‘rollback” strategy. They who wanted a short , victorious war with the Soviet Union-a nuclear conflict with could be won with courage, resolve, and and a willingness to accept only a “few” million casualties. It didn’t have the satisfying kick of imagining Moscow and Beijing being vaporized by our nuclear bombs. But in the end, it was the wiser policy.
    Now if you are in a war, you should also understand that you will have to accept casualties. The enemy gets to take punches, and some of them are going to hurt. That’s what happens in war. It’s time to Michael and others to understand that we will take some hits. The proper reaction is not to get flustered, and continue to follow a winning strategy.

  46. mantis says:

    People who think terrorism is a nation that can be crippled should never be listened to when it comes to combatting terrorism. People who think radicalized muslims willing to commit suicide to inflict casualties are dissuaded by American bombs should likewise never be listened to when it comes to combatting terrorism.

    Sadly, it seems Mr. Reynolds has become both of late. Cheney, in deed. Hopefully he snaps out of it.

  47. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Guy…with all due respect…what are you thinking?
    We’ve had terrorism in the West since…forever.
    Terrorism is not some new tactic invented by the brown men, that make Republicans soil themselves, in the last 15 years.
    Terror inflicted by white right-wing bigots is friggin’ pervasive.
    Maybe not in Marin County. But elsewhere in this fine country.
    You are agreeing with Trump and Cruz and, at the risk of aggrandizing him, Jenos.
    They have no clue how to combat an ideology, and all of their past and current ideas are counter-productive at best…and more likely utter disaster waiting to happen.
    I only know you thru your comments…but I know you are wise enough to know that.

  48. gVOR08 says:

    “Winning” is a pet peeve of mine. I know so many people who said we must “win” in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Vietnam. I would ask what do you mean by win? What realistic set of conditions would you count as having “won”. The near universal response has been to look at me as though I had grown a second head and had spoken Greek. Win, we gotta win, you know, win!

    Was it Orwell who said that guerrilla warfare always comes down to killing everyone who wants us to leave, so that we can leave?