I remember in my college days in the late 70’s and early 80’s taking a course in International Law with Professor Jean-Robert Leguey-Feilleux Ph.D. The course included a discussion of terrorism. Dr. Leguey-Feilleux told us one of the issues before the United Nations and the international community was a definition of “terrorism.” The best definition of “terrorism” I remember, and the one I believe my instructor endorsed, was “the taking of innocents for political purposes.”
Terrorism was not killing, but may cause death and certainly fear. Terrorism is political. In another class, I read that David Easton defined “politics” as “the authoritative allocation of values.” So “terrorism” is the taking of innocents in an attempt to influence how people or peoples allocate their values. The primary motivator in any such effort is fear. The absence of fear negates the intent of the terrorist. But fear may motivate others to seek gain from the tactical terrorist efforts for strategic purposes. I believe such is the goal of the Bush administration and the Republican Party in the United States.
During the 40 or so years of the Cold War, the Republican right could be counted upon to rant about Democrats being “soft on Communism” and take an electoral victory in the White House which was only interrupted by Kennedy’s “missile gap,” Johnson’s “Great Society” (following JFK’s assassination) and the blip of Jimmy Carter after Watergate. After the rise in expectations after the growth and success of the Solidarity movement in Poland, due in large part to Pope John Paul II, and similarly after Democrats forced increased emigration from the old USSR though Jimmy Carter’s “human rights” focus upon US foreign policy, the Cold War ended.
Now there was a conundrum for the right. No more “soft on Communism” to run national elections strategies upon anymore. There ensued two terms of Bill Clinton.
Clinton infuriated the right into heretofore unseen levels of spastic fits of yobbo yapping and a renewed commitment by the right and its corporatist supporters to an electoral victory in 2000. After nearly a billion dollars of campaign spending to support a candidate which the corporations invented and called “George Bush,” Bush v. Gore ensued. “W” was then anointed president thanks to the one vote of Sandra Day O’Connor, along with the rest of the Republicans on the US Supreme Court. But “W” was an unproven commodity and he foundered in his early days in the Presidency, until 9/11.
George Bush likes to repeat the mantra “9/11 changed everything” and he’s right. 9/11 gave the political Right an opportunity to claim Democrats are “soft” on terrorism just as they had in the past claimed Democrats were “soft” on Communism. George B. Shaw said; “Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but no one has a right to be wrong on the facts.” Let’s look at the former Soviet Union and its satellites as a threat and compare them to our latter day foes in the “Global War on Terror (GWOT)”.
At a minimum, the Soviet Union had hundreds of thousands of soldiers and sailors in arms. It had thousands of tanks, planes, ships and submarines. The Soviets had over 15,000 nuclear warheads, most targeted on the US. Their nukes actually worked. We may not now know where they all are but, there were thousands.
The Soviets had numerous substantiated chemical, nerve and biological weapons. In short, real WMD existed. The Soviets had a skilled professional army with special forces, weapons and tactics which challenged the United States for over 40 years. The former Soviet Union was governed by a philosophy completely antagonistic to our way of life and our system of government. The U.S.S.R. was dedicated to “burying” us. The Warsaw Pact nations had tens of thousands of tanks, millions of armed citizens, and access to the latest in Soviet weaponry and tactics, including anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapons.
If we look at the current forces of “global” terror, we might come up with, say, 100,000 people dedicated to using innocents for political purposes. Modern day terrorists have no standing army, no tanks, no planes, no nukes, no chemical, nerve or biological weapons. Modern terrorists have no identifiable nation state backing (outside of Afghanistan and its drug lords), although most of the 9/11 terrorists were from our friend Saudi Arabia. We have identified Osama bin Laden, a 6 foot 7 inch diabetic in need of weekly dialysis as a target but, we can’t or won’t find him.
The last I heard, there were over 300 million people in the United States. How may a global “force” of 100,000 so poorly equipped pose any credible threat to our nation? It’s simple. They don’t. But, what W and the Republicans want you to fear is that they do. Why? To rule the government, suppress dissent and enact an agenda completely against the self-interest of the average American.
According to The Cato Institute, the number of US citizens killed by international terrorists since 1960 (when we started counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe peanut allergies. I now declare that there must be a global war against lightning strikes! We must have Homeland Security arm us all with lightning rods, arrestors and all manner of safety equipment so as to deter any strikes against the unarmed citizenry of America! We must commit untold billions or even trillions of dollars and sacrifice our every civil liberty to defend us against this threat! Or, we could just come in out of the rain.
Oooops, we just did that on November 7, 2006.
(I still reserve the right to waste all Bambis and/or to get Jimmy Carter and the rest off the peanut farms when there is any future need for a straw man to allow me to keep my new power, as needed or desired by me.)