Those of you who have been reading since I was blogging on Tripod will recall (or be able to go back and read) my post in which I wondered why the terrorists, if their true aim was terror, were not attacking us randomly in all manner of locations. You can only do the big attacks so many times before security gets too tight around the important targets. For example, for a long time after the 11 September attacks in the US, the Statue of Liberty was closed. Washington DC is also now off limits for any pilots who have not obtained prior clearance. Anyway, these types of attacks barely terrorize me. They happen in certain high visibility areas that most Americans have no contact with. If it weren’t for visiting my wife’s family, for example, I’d never be in the New York City area. Therefore, I wondered why they didn’t just attack mass transit and other public areas which are impossible to protect.
It was so obvious that it was only a matter of time before it would actually happen. Israel-style terrorism has arrived in London. It remains to be seen if the two attacks of July 2005 are the last of the attacks or just a foreshadowing of times to come. So far we have been blessed not to have one of these types of attacks in the US. I think there would be colossal circumstances from a series of subway and bus explosions in the Us.
I don’t want it to seem as if I was wishing the terrorists would resort to this type of violence. I wish they would just stop with all the violence and put their anger towards something more useful like delevoping a viable economic model for their country. I just seemed shocked a the fact that what was commonplace in Isreal hadn’t become commonplace in the US. But what do we do now?
It is orders of magnitude easier to keep terrorists from crashing planes than it is to keep them from public place destruction. A plane is a controlled environment. Passengers may be screened prior to entry since it takes a long time to load up a plane and as long as the cockpit is secure, it’s relatively hard for a terrorist to do much. They can cause a plane to simply explode in the sky or fall randomly, but it won’t really have the same impact as a directed attack. Also, if they don’t leave some kind of evidence around, people are liable to believe that it was just an accident. How do we keep a terrorist out of a park?
As far as I can currently fathom, there really are only two possible outcomes if terrorist bombing of public places becomes as common as in Israel. Outcome one is to become a police state. We go all out Orwellian and track where everyone goes and what they do when they get there. Everyone must carry around an ID with technology which is near-impossible to fake. A police officer can force someone to leave, even if they are just innocently feeding the pigeons. Video cameras are everywhere and crime goes to near zero. In reality there is only one chink in this armor; unfortunately, it’s a big one. The problem is that in such a state there is no check on corruption. Once the State can see whatever any citizen is doing it can silence oposition. Since they control the evidence (all the video cameras) they can choose whether or not to present the evidence. “The camera at this location was broken at the time.” Our current society (in the US) is founded upon the ability to call things into question. It is not unAmerican to question what our government does – it is VERY American. It’s the reason our founding fathers implemented a system of checks and balances.
This doesn’t mean we should overthrow the government or oppose everything they do as a vast conspiracy. Remember, a pendulum in any direction but center contains too much energy. In other words everything in moderation. We don’t want to blindly go along with everything the governemtn says. But we want to hold it accountable. The government is there for US! (that’s you and I, not the United States) Remember the whole concept of the social contract…Locke…Voltaire, etc We give up some rights to the government in exchange for protection from those who would do us harm. I’ll allow Uncle Sam to take money out of my paycheck so that he can pay for Policement to protect my right to private property, for example.
However, when we have a police state, we have given up too many of our rights and gained little in return. While we will be safe from regular crimes such as petty theft (who would rob you if they were sure they’d be caught on camera) we would have problems with corruption. For example, when video evidence is taken to be infallible, what happens when someone takes some video editing software can produces a video of someone else committing a crime in an attempt to blackmail them?
The second possible outcome of these attacks is for the US and other industrialized nations to simply ignore the terrorist attacks. We just take them as a fact of life and continue to live our lives as if nothing is going on. Israel is a good example here. If they were to become paralyzed at every terrorist attack, they wouldn’t be able to function as a country. The attacks now only affect the families of the deceased, but the rest of the country just goes on with its business. This will be hard for us to do because Americans like to take things personally. We grew up on Westerns and Dirty Harry movies. The bad guy’s supposed to get it in the end, not keep attacking while the sheriff goes on with his normal business. What would happen if Dirty Harry would just continue on with whatever he was doing instead of attacking the bad guys? It really does go against everything our country stands for. For another example, we only got into World War One after some Americans were killed on the Lusitania and World War Two after Pearl Harbor.
I’m also curious as to whether there’s any way to end the “war on terror”. Whether we took the 1984 route or the Isreali route, would we ever be able to get back to life as normal? Could we ever capture enough people or restrict enough immigration? If we stopped interfereing in Israel, would the bombings really stop? As far as I know, the answer to all of these questions is “no”. If the terrorists really do believe that God wants them to kill us, is there any way to stop them? Can anything deter someone from doing what God wants them to do? I mean, it’s GOD so what country could possibly put up enough barriers to keep them from acting out on behalf of God?
Looking at the US and racism, I’d have to say that it would take a long time for these people to stop hating the US. It’s been around 40 years since the Civil Rights movement ended and there still isn’t complete equality and lack of racism in the US. They are still teaching that the US is evil in these countries. First we need to get them to stop, but even then it will take around two or so generations before the hating ends.
Whatever the answer is, we need to think about it now. If we don’t start thinking about what direction our policies will take, we’ll have to make decisions in the wake of another attack. Hastily made decisions rarely yield anything productive.