On Terrorism – Part 1: What’s It Good For?

This will be a 2 part series. In part 1 I will look at terrorism from the point of view of the terrorist. I will ask ‘what’s terrorism good for?’ In Part 2 I will look at terrorism from the point of view of society. I will ask ‘how do we end terrorism without ending liberty and privacy, using what we learned in part 1?’


Now that all the blathering about the failed bombing in Times Square has cooled down, I would like to ask a practical question: ‘what is terrorism good for?’

Lets do a quick thought exercise. Lets put ourselves in the shoes of some person with extremist views, such as radical Islam. Also think of the domestic far right or far left such as Hutaree or the Earth Liberation Front… What would such a person stand to gain from committing an act of terrorism?


Pro: Gets much attention                                                                                     Con: its negative attention

Pro: Makes people scared                                                                                    Con:makes people angry at you and your idea(s)

Pro: May be the only way to express yourself in a repressive country Con:Western countries such as USA have many better ways to get positive attention for ideas

Unless I missed something, I don’t see anything that terrorism is good for in this country… Terrorism turns off open-minded people like me, who might have given those peoples’ political ideas a fair listen if they hadn’t started trying to blow things up. Are terrorists really interested in creating political change, or are they just interested in causing death and destruction for its own sake, or for the sake of vengeance?

If certain people really want to cause political, religious, or other change in this country, wouldn’t it make sense for them to pick ways to communicate their ideas that are more likely to win hearts and minds?

Insight 1: Terrorists must not be very interested in creating change – just destruction.

As I look back on terrorist incidents in this country, excepting the original September 11 2001 attacks, they have all been farcically inept. I think of the plot of pot-heads a few years ago against the Sears Tower in Chicago. I think of the idiot truck driver who allegedly tried to blow up a shopping mall in Columbus Oh.  I think of some fool on an airplane trying to set his shoes on fire, or another who tried to blow up his underwear in-flight.  Most recently, some guy tried to set an SUV with some incorrect and unmixed ingredients of a fertilizer bomb on fire in Times Square. There have been a few dozen of these attempts in the last decade.  What morons, losers and dregs these people have been. This is how the Three Stooges would attempt to commit an act of terrorism.

The difference is that the Three Stooges would be a parody made for television. They would have been cute and funny, if they had incorporated a terrorist plot into one of their TV skits. They would have hit each other and maybe blasted themselves. When the police showed up, the Three Stooges, covered in debris from their prematurely-exploded bomb, would have pulled on the cops’ noses and ears and whacked themselves on the head, and the television audience would have roared with laughter.

Insight 2: In this country, no one with any intelligence or ability of any kind wants to get mixed up in terrorism – they have better ways to make a living and express themselves.

I can imagine some man out in the deserts or mountains of some repressive country. I can imagine that brutal living conditions, poverty, corruption, political repression, violence by his government and/or maybe a stray American bomb we accidentally dropped on a member of his family, could cause a man to have a heart full of hatred and a desire to commit acts of violence against people he doesn’t know. I can imagine such a place is like a big angry hive full of wasps that want to sting whoever they can get to first. What I don’t see, is why that man would choose to come to our country to commit violence, when he could instead launch a political revolution in his own country. Surely taking action in his own country would potentially address more of the causes of his hatred.

INSIGHT 3. These guys want to attack America, because they see us supporting corrupt / brutal / repressive regimes in their country.

INSIGHT 4. These guys want to come attack us when we get involved in the violence in their countries. A lot of these countries have a tribal / retaliatory tradition. To them, it makes sense to go blow up people here, because we dropped bombs there.

It seems like the only thing terrorism is good for is being an excuse for reducing liberty and privacy. Since the September 11 attacks, the War on Terror was used as the excuse for many invasions of liberty and Privacy in this country. Many broad and scary laws such as the PATRIOT Act were passed and existing laws such as FISA were rewritten for the sole purpose of going after terrorists.  These laws were then abused and/or misused.

Is there a better way to completely eliminate terrorism, without eliminating liberty and privacy?

Find out in Part 2

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