Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fareed Zakaria on Our Response to the Underwear Bomber

In responding to the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein voiced the feelings of many when she said that to prevent such situations, "I'd rather overreact than underreact." This appears to be the consensus view in Washington, but it is quite wrong. The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn't work. Alas, this one worked very well.
 I could not agree more.  The rest of Zakaria's piece is dead on as well, this paragraph in particular:

As for the calls to treat the would-be bomber as an enemy combatant, torture him and toss him into Guantanamo, God knows he deserves it. But keep in mind that the crucial intelligence we received was from the boy's father. If that father had believed that the United States was a rogue superpower that would torture and abuse his child without any sense of decency, would he have turned him in? To keep this country safe, we need many more fathers, uncles, friends and colleagues to have enough trust in America that they, too, would turn in the terrorist next door.


Anonymous said...

I posted a comment on this issue on the Economist.com yesterday (not as eloquent as Mr. Zakaria's piece):

Profiling, to whatever degree you do it, is only one tool. I'm surprised that the Economist doesn't look more deeply into the economics of Al-Qaeda and it's affiliates. These efforts require capital. Recruitment involves propaganda which is not always free. Not getting caught costs money. There's food for your troops that can't hold down jobs. Some people need to be bribed (not everyone's a zealot). You have to buy explosives and ammunition. Where's all the money coming from? A lot of it is coming from their percentage of heroin sales. How could we combat that? Create a legal market for heroin. Any decent-sized market would cut into their margins. It would be possible to make it unprofitable for them altogther. Is the War on Drugs more important that the War on Al-Qaeda? Winchester73/comments

I think you have to do some degree of profiling, but you'll fail if you don't address the economics.

Libertarian Advocate said...

Jeffrey: You (and Zakaria) are exactly right on the point of the purpose of terrorism. Both the prior and current administrations and their congressional lackeys don't appear to understand the strategic purposes of the tactic that is terrorism.

Or, perhaps the politicians do understand and are fully in on and behind the policy, since terrorism and over-reaction to it is directly supportive of their goal of asserting ever more intrusive government control over the lives of Americans. In that context, one might (not unreasonably) be led to believe that there exists a collusive relationship between the terrorists and the government.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Inciting fear might be an aspect of terrorism, but killing "infidels" is also part of their ideology.