"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Those Who Deny The Terrorist Threat

In the 1930’s Adolph Hitler made no attempt to conceal his ambitions. Mein Kampf spelled out a dark strategic vision. Yet the West chose to either avert its gaze or deny reality. The prospect of fighting a major war so soon after the horror of World War I catalyzed the rationalizers. Some said Hitler was engaged in mere bravado; others said, he was a reflection of German national sentiment, not imperial ambition.

Whatever the rationalizers said, they stood tremulous in the face of Hitler’s goals. Now the West is engaged in its latest act of denial vis-à-vis radial Islam.

The civil libertarians contend any modification of our laws in order to hunt down and destroy these shadowy killers in our midst represents a threat to the nature of our government and the Constitution. Therefore fighting an all-out war only damages our side.

The second group of deniers might be called “the rationalists” who assume there is a justifiable hatred directed at the West because we invaded Iraq, support Israel, have a degraded popular culture or some other reason which, if only corrected, would lead to peace and harmony.

The third is composed of those who actually hate the West even as they derive the blessings of an open society. Michael Moore serves as an exemplar of this position. In the view of self haters any position which undermines the status of the U.S. and the West is desirable. This is “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” syndrome.

Each stance, in my judgment, is deeply flawed. The civil libertarians ignore American history which suggests that even though President Lincoln abrogated habeas corpus during the Civil War, it was restored immediately thereafter. And while the U.S. took steps to intern Japanese citizens during World War II in order to prevent espionage activity, restitution occurred once the war was over.

If the Patriot Act helps ferret out those who want to kill Americans, it may be a desirable short term measure even as the civil libertarians speak glibly about the threat to our Constitutional liberties. So far more than 165 violent acts against the U.S. have been thwarted by the Patriot Act according to the Justice Department.

The “rationalists” suffer from post hoc analysis. We invaded Iraq; hence radical Islamic violence has increased. Overlooked in this exegesis are the many violent acts which occurred before the invasion in Iraq, e.g. the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, Khobar Towers, U.S.S. Cole, the missions in East Africa, etc.

It is as if the rationalists suffer from historical amnesia. After all, they note, “there must be a valid reason for this hatred directed at the West.”

The idea that people hate us for who we are rather than what we do is a condition the rationalists cannot accept. Theirs is what I call the Enlightenment flaw: there must be a rational answer for all events.

Rationalists also contend that only a tiny fraction of the Moslem world shares extremist sentiments. That is true of course, but it glosses over a key fact: radical Islamists may represent an insignificant percentage of Moslems, but every terrorist is a Moslem. Even if one percent of that population which numbers 1.3 billion is extremist, more than a million Moslems can cause a lot of death and destruction.

Last, are the subversives from within who detest America so much they would prefer to see Osama bin Laden as president rather than George Bush. One might assume these people aren’t taken seriously; alas they shouldn’t be taken seriously, but in some circles they have influence.
So filled with hate is this group that they do not even respect the laws that offer their freedom to resist. Herbert Marcuse offered an explanation for the haters when de described America as the land of “repressive tolerance.” I wonder how this group would react to Sharia law. Can you imagine Jeanine Garofolo in a burkha?

These three groups may always be present in nations that promote self examination and allow protest. But when one considers the nature of the present threat, these groups can jeopardize national security or undermine our defense. The West should value its freedom, but first it should fight for survival, notwithstanding all the doubting in our midst.

15 comments:

James Elliott said...

1. Ooo! Hitler! So it's only bad when liberals use Nazi analogies. Got it. No hypocrisy here, no sir.

2. I see you confuse "being honest with why we are attacked" with "justification." There's understanding the multivariate reasons for someone's hatred and then there's saying it's OK. I'll give you three guesses which one your "rationalizers" do (hint, it's not the latter).

3. Civil libertarians are pointing out that:

A) There aren't any WINNERS when civil liberties are abrogated in the name of security, not that it "only" damages our side.

B) In a "Global Struggle Against Extremism" you are fighting a frame of mind, a tactic, that is recurrent throughout history. How the hell do you win a fight against an idea? The Civil War, World War II, both of those were finite. They had a beginning and an end. How long has the War on Drugs been? Any end in sight? Thought not. The War on Terror will NEVER be over, and we ought not to reduce our principles just to provide an extra ounce of physical security in a "war" without end.

Also note that the Supreme Court ruled that Lincoln was WRONG to suspend habeas corpus. And I agree. Abrogating our rights in one "extraordinary circumstance" lowers the bar (from "never") that the government must meet. And it gives justification for lowering it further still.

4. Are we still on the "liberals hate America" meme? Michael Moore may be a pontificating blowhard, and one who I don't usually agree with, but the man's got a social conscience. It's a far cry from wanting your country to move in a direction you think will be better for all (even non-citizens) to "hating the West." Recognizing what went wrong with the way the West has and still conducts its "business" doesn't elevate any other cultures above it. It's called facing reality. It's called being honest. Honesty means facing uncomfortable facts. According to your logic, I must hate Catholics because I want them to acknowledge their church's willingness to abide by the slave trade. Doesn't sound too logical to me.

5. The perpetrators of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center were captured, tried, and convicted long before the Patriot Act. Domestic terrorist Ted Kaczinsky, the Unabomber, was arrested (via his library records, I might add) long before the Patriot Act. Terrorist acts were thwarted long before the Patriot Act. Your odds of dying in a terrorist attack were worse (i.e. less likely) than being in a plane crash or struck by lightning. Your odds are still the same after the Patriot Act. According to HHS's 2004 statistics, you're more likely to die of hunger. Our country was nice and safe long before the Patriot Act was a little spermy swimming up George W. Bush's legislative fallopian tube.

You accuse civil libertarians of speaking "glibly" about civil rights. But you are willing to place limits on them to become not particularly safer than you were before said limits. Who then, speaks glibly, sir?

The terrorists are no more powerful today than they were on September 10, 2001. September 11, 2001 only served to embolden them. This threat you accuse us of denying is just as palpable today as it was in 2000 or 1999 or 1993, no more, no less. It is only the public perception of it that has changed.

Where is your outrage at the people in power, the one's who have the ability but have failed to provide adequate means and measures for the security of our ports, our rail systems, our airports, or our water, chemical and nuclear infrastructure? Why do you waste your time crying out against people who disagree with you when the people who can provide meaningful security refuse to do so? In short, sir, why do you rail against people without power when those with power fail so miserably at their jobs? Where is YOUR love of country?

S. T. Karnick said...

James, your second comment can be returned if you remove the personal insult at the end. It is entirely unnecessary and classless.

James Elliott said...

Are you sure you deleted the comment because of calling someone a name, or because it frankly blew the crap out Mr. London's most fatuous statement?

To reiterate:

"...every terrorist is a Moslem."

The second most devastating terrorist attack on Americans was conducted by a white Christian, an American. Timothy McVeigh was no Muslim. Ted Kaczinsky, an American, is from white Christian stock. Then there's the IRA, Action-Directe, and the drug cartels just to name a few...

And let's not forget that not all Muslims or Muslim extremists are conveniently brown-skinned, the better to profile them. There are Chechens, Albanians, Kosovars, plain old disaffected white folks of Western descent, and folks of African or Asian descent. I guess it's time to bust out the scarlet Ms.

Now let's just hope there aren't any other McVeighs out there waiting for us to get distracted.

S. T. Karnick said...

My decision to delete was based entirely on the name-calling, as you can see by the fact that I am leaving your cleaned-up version available.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I did find Brit Hume's locution, "statistical probility," as an elegant and still honest way to dispense with the pejorative "racial profiling."

We should be able to agree that men ages 15-50 are statistically far more probable to commit terrorist acts, even though there have been a few women.

Cool. We just cut out 2/3 of possible routine searchees.

We are presently not statistically alerted to East asians and Latin Americans. That helps.

During the 90s after McVeigh, and even through to today, there appeared to be a correlation between racist young white men and terrorism, and they were profiled for special attention. (I'm sure I've been confused with one of them, and if I were a skinhead, I'd expect even more attention.) That's cool.

We need not insult the intelligence and say that young Muslim men are not at a statistically elevated chance of terrorist activity.

Now me, I'm a white young(ish) man, and I suppose with my beard, I might "look" Muslim on the odd day, so that's a doubleheader. So be it. Profile me away. I'll make no sudden moves and I will not run from police. In fact, I'll do whatever I can to show I'm no threat.

Because that's the world I live in, America 2005. And I cooperate not for the sake of the state, but for my society. The two are not synonymous.

The Liberal Anonymous said...

Can we put a video camera in your house? It's for society!

James Elliott said...

Ah, so, Tom, you would consent to going down to the police station for an anal cavity search every morning? Just to make sure you're not a drug mule (you do live in LA). After all, what do you have to hide? If you don't agree, it must be a balloon full of heroin.

brmerrick said...

"And while the U.S. took steps to intern Japanese citizens during World War II in order to prevent espionage activity, restitution occurred once the war was over."

When did this "restitution" take place? The only restitution I heard of was a pittance handed out by Reagan more than 35 years after the war.

And not a single American of Japanese heritage was arrested for espionage, is it not so?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ah, James, you overlook both Dr. London and my invocation of the concept of "survival," and not the use of the nebulous term "security."

If I felt that the war on terror was forced upon us and victory is imperative for the survival of my (our) society, I'd fully and gladly cooperate. I do believe all that, and all I and Herb can do is urge my fellow citizens to take this existential threat as seriously as we do and act accordingly.

The war on drugs? Not so sure. But if I had a child who ODed on heroin, I'm sure I'd part my buttcheeks for anyone in authority to look up there to their heart's content.

As always, I invite you to do the same. ;-)

James Elliott said...

I think you just want to look at my butt.

The problem, Tom, is that militant Islam offers absolutely no threat to our culture or society, existential or otherwise, that it did not present BEFORE 9/11 and all the means you and Mr. London love so dearly. You are merely more aware of a threat that, while scary, is less dangerous than a thunderstorm or a plane flight. You take more of a risk climbing on your roof to clean your gutters.

That clearly indicates that such measures as you advocate are not necessary. Your willing abrogation of civil rights provides you nothing more than the illusion of increased security.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Herb, I would add in support of the very thorny invocation of Hitler in any forum whatsoever, that the philosopher Leo Strauss, a German Jew, was scarred for life by the inability of the (liberal, democratic) Weimar Republic to arrest the rise of Hitler in the early 30s.

That would be Edmund Burke's "when good men do nothing" argument. Strauss came to doubt whether liberal democracy had the guts to fight for its own survival, or anything really. Cabaret illustrates the moral inertia of the relativistic, sybaritic, and fallen Western society.

The things we're discussing are nothing new.

One is forced to wonder exactly who the backbone of Islamicist terror, which is largely comprised of rich kids not poor, and whose exposure to the West isn't to Jerry Falwell and the Boy Scouts, but to the nihilistic world of Western academia and the whores in picture windows in Amsterdam, is fighting against.

Weimar or the Boy Scouts?

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome! We cheerfully share our decadence with all, as long as they got the bucks and they're not Jewish.

(Strauss, after making his way to America, became a firm supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a president known more for his rather undemocratic commitment to the security of society than to abstract principles.

Whether I agree with this or that in principle or even long-term practice, I find FDR was a reality-based kinda guy.)

James Elliott said...

Ahh, Strauss. Now the neocon reader comes out. I figured it would, after the "existential threat" rumblings. Personally, I prefer Irving Kristol. He writes better than the others.

What is this existential threat you prattle on about, exactly? I really cannot see it. There is no credible threat to our way of life that can be imposed from the outside. As Mr. London pointed out (perhaps unintentionally), the terrorists lack the means and the numbers to place us under the yoke of a Caliph or to impose sharia law upon us. That perceived threat is based only on fear.

What is the "real" existential threat to America or the West? Perhaps it is this: Fear of the false threat leads to a willing sacrifice, a willing lessening, of the values and principles that have made America a beacon of hope, that we as a society have strived for and aspired to uphold. Therein lies the possible end to our shared culture and society. Therein lies your existential. The enemy isn't them. It's us, when we act out of fear, like animals.

Tom Van Dyke said...

James, I find that a very principled argument, in principle.

Does Gitmo do more harm than good? A legitimate question, deserved to be explored in its own right.

More of the same would gain you greater traction and engagement with the denizens hereabouts. None of us, not you, not me, are above a little fronting for our "side," but Bernard Shaw is also a patron saint here. Heretics welcome.

But I, and others gathered here I think, despair that Shaw's heirs are being educated in civility at the feet of the Daily Kos. Of such rudeness no civil society could ever be built.

Let us revel in and revere the inquiry toward truth that keeps in mind we are all brothers above and below the skin. I offer in evidence Messers. Chesterton and Shaw in debate and respectful engagement, with the estimable Hilaire Belloc as moderator.

The art of the insult is in its aptness, understanding, and human respect to, of and for, one's opponent. The art of disagreement is to convince, not condemn.

From such things, societies are made.

(I will stipulate you have a nice butt. But I would not pretend to be in a position to judge whether it is guilty or innocent, and so an examination would be moot.)

James Elliott said...

But I, and others gathered here I think, despair that Shaw's heirs are being educated in civility at the feet of the Daily Kos.

This is actually exactly why I don't post over there anymore. I found them to be as blindingly zealous as the most pontificating of conservatives.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Moth to a flame, James. :-)

Unsurprised about the revelation of your emigration from Daily Kos. I recognized the accent.