Shikha Dalmia Injects Some Much-Needed Common Sense into the Debate over Terrorism
Over at Reason, Shikha Dalmia has a new column called “What Islamic Terrorism Threat?” On top of being iconoclastic to the extreme, it is incredibly thought-provoking. I’d like to briefly address the ideas here.
First of all, the 9/11 attacks have been described as the defining moment of the current generation, like Vietnam was the defining moment of the one before this. In a way that’s very much true. It took a nation that had been experiencing a relatively long stretch of peace and prosperity and kicked it rudely into a world of cowboy expeditions to the Middle East, massive wartime deficits, and constant propaganda about the political pawns we call the military. The attacks very much changed our world. The question is, why?
I believe that the 9/11 attacks changed the entire fabric of our political, international, economic, and cultural existence because we let them change it.
If that is not indication that the terrorists should be the ones high fiving and yelling “Mission Accomplished,” I’m not sure what is. According to Dalmia:
Maybe … post-9/11 security has made America invulnerable. Or maybe the Islamists never posed that a big threat to begin with.
Most intelligence experts interviewed by The Washington Post for a series on nuclear, biological, and chemical attacks (the easiest of the three) three years after 9/11 agreed that anything requiring scientific expertise is virtually impossible to pull off for Al Qaeda—the only group in the so-called global jihadist movement with any ambition to strike on American soil. If anything, Al Qaeda’s capacity has shrunk not grown since then.
Look, we are not dealing with a cadre of secret superagents here. This isn’t SPECTRE from James Bond. We’re not dealing with Ernst Blofeld controlling brainwashed field agents across the globe while sitting in his lair carved out an active volcano, wearing a sharp suit, and stroking a white Persian cat. We are quite literally dealing with illiterate, incompetent, undernourished, most likely deranged primitives who would really like to lash out.
But they almost never suceed. Because they’re illiterate, incompetent, undernourished, and most likely deranged.
Can they get “lucky” from time to time? Sure, and with horrible results. But tell me with a straight face that starting a shooting war in the Middle East would make it less likely that they would want to attack us. Go on, just try.
So why did these people turn us into simpering cowards who wouldn’t dare bring shampoo on an airplane? We let them change us.
Why did we let these Islamofascists turn the land of the free into a Patriot Act police state? We let them do it.
How, in a country where a $100 billion budget cut is considered far too big, can we “justify” spending 20 times that amount toppling petty dictators halfway across the world (and, I might add, NOT succeeding in destroying Al-Qaeda)? We let them change the rules.
And all of this distracts us from the important issues, the issues that make us happier, healthier, and wealthier. When our priorities are so out of whack, it is no wonder our country is so riven. Consider what Dalmia has to say:
John Mueller, a political science professor at Ohio State University, points out that chances of an American being killed by international terrorism during his or her lifetime is about one in 80,000. More people drown in bathtubs every year. “Even if there were a 9/11 scale attack every three months for the next five years, the likelihood that an individual American would be among the dead would be two hundredths of a percent or one in 5,000,” he notes.
Security hawks—just like climate change warriors—maintain that no expenditure is too big to deter another attack. But that is utter foolishness. A country sacrifices lives when it ignores bigger threats to fight smaller ones.
Over 5,000 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan and Iraq without on balance saving any civilian lives. It is time to call off the “war” on terrorism. Al Qaeda is not worth it.
And incidentally, what ever happened to the anti-war protestors who were so vocal just a few years ago? We are still fighting. We are in the same places, fighting against the same people. If anything, our presence has surged. Has it been declared that it’s now okay because Obama said so? Why was I not made aware?