On Terrorism – Part 2: How to Eliminate Terrorism Without Eliminating Liberty

We fight our so-called War on Terror as if we had only one ambition in our entire existence: to destroy terrorism at all costs. In reality, we have many goals, such as economic growth, personal and cultural development and many others, including maintenance, and expansion, of our civil liberties. So the real question is how do we stamp out terrorism without stamping out freedom?

In part 1 I developed 4 insights.  Insight 1 alone tells governments to stay dedicated to the good of the citizens, as they see it. I question the thinking of anyone who would choose terrorism as their means of communicating their ideas. After all, it would surely be much easier for them to just start a blog and write to their elected officials periodically. For the record, most of my elected officials (or one of their staff) write back. Those I have written to seem decent. I got a fair listen to my views. After all who would commit terror, for political reasons, when there are better, easier more effective non-violent ways to express political ideas?

Insight 2 alone tells us that, out of people born in this country, with any potential and competence are not getting involved in terrorism. They are finding better, non-violent ways to make a living and express their political thoughts and desires.

Insight 1and 2 together tell us where we can concentrate resources to maximum advantage: (1) we should try to catch terrorists coming in at the borders. It potentially bags all the guys who want to come here to settle a score. It is easier, cheaper and less invasive than surveilling millions of law abiding Americans. Right away we should stop spying on civil libertarians, peace protesters and minority rights activists… They plainly want to be part of the lawful, peaceful political process.

Insight 2 raises a good question: how do we redirect people who might consider joining these  terrorists to something more positive and more persuasive? One way would be to teach about the accomplishments of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Another would be to relate the story of the Irish Republican Army who gave up violence, because, after decades of attacks, violence was ineffective at creating political change. Doesn’t our government spend a lot of money here on schools and abroad on the Voice of America radio, etc. Why can’t they teach a little history lesson from time to time?

If we want to fight terrorism, we have to reach out to the morons, losers and dregs in our country, and show them a better way. We have to support democracy and liberty, both here and abroad, so that open free discussion will always be a better means of persuasion than violence. While fighting the terrorists of today, we must prevent the terrorists of tomorrow from starting down that path.

I believe there is also a more effective way to thwart those people who choose to commit terrorism for its own sake i.e. not for political persuasion. It sure seems like Insight 1 tells who they are… It seems like certain items such as guns or certain chemicals would be needed to commit a terrorist plot… Why don’t we put more effort into watching the tools of terrorism? Think about it:  some unarmed / unequipped man might want to commit terrorism, but what is he going to be able to do, so long as he is unable to acquire the items he needs to act? I am not saying we need more gun control, and I am not arguing that big brother should watch people more than ever. I am arguing that we should be smart about how we prevent terrorism, so that we can nab all the bad guys with out bothering everyone else. A good place to start would be to account for the 14,000 guns that went missing in Iraq.

Insight 3, alone, tells us that we can reduce the desire of these guys to attack America, by giving less support to foreign corrupt / brutal / repressive regimes.

This isn’t just code for taking a more neutral stance in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is also meant to say that we need to choose our friends more carefully. We need to weigh the probability of engendering hatred when we support dictators. There will be some times that we need a key country (think of Saudi Arabia and its oil) to be stable. I think that in most of these other countries, like Somalia, or Afghanistan, that we don’t really need to prop up any certain government. Whatever government the people in those countries choose, should be good enough for us. It would certainly be cheaper and easier. It would respect our Democratic traditions. It might even be that these governments could do a goood job if we didn’t fund covert operations and coups there (think of our involvement in Latin America, especially in the 1970s and 80s)

Insight 4, alone tells us, that we can reduce the desire of these guys to come attack us, by not dropping bombs on them in their countries. It’s like telling your kid to not go poke a bee hive.

Whenever we go into a country, the military tells us about surgical strikes, high technology and precision-targeted munitions. They make it sound like this is easier than cooking breakfast. Afterwards, we hear that something like 1 of every 4 of the precision weapons missed and some of those misses killed civilians.

The way to eliminate certain violent people is to arrest. Their government can arrest them in their country, under their laws, if their government is friendly. We can arrest them if/when they try to enter our country. We can hold them for a few days while we verify their identities, bring criminal charges, etc. Its much more exact than dropping bombs from 5,000 feet up. And if you are occasionally wrong, you can let the guy go – which is much better than accidentally dropping bombs on somebody’s wedding party.

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