How Terrorism is Better Than War

Richard_Reid_explosive_shoeFred Reed writes at LewRockwell.com:

In recent years, I have seen terrorism denounced as a despicable crime. I wonder whether it shouldn’t be accepted frankly as a form of war. I am not sure why blowing up ten people in a restaurant in, say, London is more despicable than blowing up ten children in Afghanistan by a drone. (They are both despicable.) Some terrorists, such as the Unabomber, are merely freelance criminal psychopaths. Others, such as bin Laden, engage in terrorism for the same reason why militaries attack countries: to make the other side do what the attacker wants.

From the point of view of cost and benefit, terrorism is a brilliantly effective form of warfare, especially against heavily armed countries of the First World. The reasons are several. First, terrorism offers no target to the basically World War Two militaries of advanced countries. If five Saudis, two Pakis, a Russian and a disaffected American blow up a building in Chicago, against whom does the US seek revenge? Is it against Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States, none of whose governments had anything to do with the attack?

Second, the return on investment is phenomenal. For example, the attack on New York cost perhaps several hundred thousand dollars. Yet it drew the US into multiple drawn-out, losing wars costing hundreds of billions of dollars, and transformed America from a reasonably free country into a rapidly deepening Orwellian gloom. A tiny input, a stunningly large effect. If terrorism were a hedge fund, it would be the hottest buy on the planet.

It is truly slick. The terrorists don’t do serious damage to the attacked country. (The casualties in New York, unusually large for a terror attack, if folded into the year’s traffic casualties would hardly have been noticed.) They stimulate the victim society to damage itself. TSA, Homeland Security, militarized police, warrantless searches in train stations, ever-tightening electronic surveillance of citizens, neutering of the Constitution and the abrogation of civil rights: bin Laden didn’t do these things. He couldn’t possibly have done them. He stimulated us to do them to ourselves. Genius.

The remarkable return on investment characterizes terrorism. Some yoyo tries to put a bomb in his shoe, and for the rest of time Americans hop around barefoot in airports. On a guess, the shoe bomb cost fifty bucks. For the price of a meal for two in a reasonably decent restaurant, you change the behavior forever of a nation of over three hundred million. Such a deal. It is what the Pentagon calls a “force multiplier.”

Another way of putting this is that terrorists, in the United States at any rate, serve chiefly as enablers. Many entities in the country clearly want expanded, very greatly expanded, police powers: Congress, the FBI, NSA, DEA, BATF, CIA, the military, Homeland Security, TSA in particular, and the police in general. They want more power and fewer restrictions for differing reasons, some less malign than others, but none have any innate attachment to civil liberties. Terrorism gives them an ideal pretext for Sovietization, and there are no longer many safeguards. Tell the public it is in danger, that you will protect it if they just give up freedoms, and bingo.

It works, beautifully, again and again. A freelance moron tries to bring an explosive liquid aboard an airliner, and forever the government confiscates shampoo and tooth paste.

Read more here.

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23 Responses to How Terrorism is Better Than War

  1. Juan May 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    Ah yes, the old problem, reactio, solution shtick. Scare the sheep and they’ll let you do pretty much whatever you like as long as they feel protected.
    No mention that the very agencies you name may have a hand in fomenting/creating terror and keeping the tension as high as possible?
    Do you honestly think OBL was responsible for 9-11? I always thought he was a manufactured boogey man created by the CIA to scare the rubes into going along with the dictates of the police state.

    • echar May 3, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

      I think that by design we will never know. With that said, I certainly do not take the standard answer for doctrine.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMEawE15Ee8

      • Juan May 3, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

        Cool video. Very nice for this Friday evening;)
        Cheers:)

  2. Hadrian999 May 3, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    the problem with terrorism is the same as the problem with guerrilla warfare, you become a victim of your own success. as a terror group or guerrilla band gains successes they become more and more like a conventional force with supply lines, strongholds, and territory, then they become a target for conventional attack

    • Dingbert May 3, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

      Guerrilla warfare is waged out of necessity. It can never provide a military victory (although it can provide a political one). Hit-and-run tactics are designed to harass, drain, and demoralize, not conquer. If and when conventional methods are feasible they will be deployed.

      • Hadrian999 May 3, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

        you don’t have to employ conventional methods to become susceptible to them

        • Calypso_1 May 3, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

          Have you read “The Accidental Guerrilla” by David Kilcullen?

          • Hadrian999 May 4, 2013 at 10:32 am #

            I’ll have to check that that out

          • Zenc May 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

            I’ve read his “28 Articles”, but not the work you mention. I’ll take your mention as a suggestion and read it.

            “28 Articles” should be easy enough to find online, but if you don’t already have and can’t find it, let me know.

            I’m currently reading Max Boot’s _Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare…_ and finding it to be a rewarding survey of the subject.

            But it is a survey (however insightful) and may not present sufficiently technical discussions for certain advanced readers.

          • Calypso_1 May 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

            One thing particularly interesting in this book is how he demonstrates that the military has figured out the most effective technique is just good civil goverenance.

          • kowalityjesus May 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

            That reminds me of an idea put forth in a question to a famous jazz pianist I once heard lecture; when asked if there are any “hip” new voicings on the contemporary jazz scene, he answered that the best voicing he knows is root position 1-3-5.

          • Calypso_1 May 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

            : )
            I’m rather partial to 9ths & 11ths
            Modal secondal harmonies as well.

          • Calypso_1 May 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

            : )
            I’m rather partial to 9ths & 11ths
            Modal secondal harmonies as well.

          • kowalityjesus May 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

            That reminds me of an idea put forth in a question to a famous jazz pianist I once heard lecture; when asked if there are any “hip” new voicings on the contemporary jazz scene, he answered that the best voicing he knows is root position 1-3-5.

          • Hadrian999 May 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

            that is nothing new, that idea dates back at least as far as Che’s Guerrilla Warfare

          • Calypso_1 May 4, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

            Certainly – like many lessons though, it seems that fundamental knowledge is easily overshadowed by the illusion that progress/development always = an improvement.

          • Hadrian999 May 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

            that is nothing new, that idea dates back at least as far as Che’s Guerrilla Warfare

          • Calypso_1 May 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

            One thing particularly interesting in this book is how he demonstrates that the military has figured out the most effective technique is just good civil goverenance.

          • Calypso_1 May 4, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

            I’ll check it out.
            You might also enjoy this:

            “Ruffians, Yakuza, Nationalists: The Violent Politics of Modern Japan, 1860-1960″
            by Eiko Maruko Siniawer

          • Zenc May 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

            I’ve read his “28 Articles”, but not the work you mention. I’ll take your mention as a suggestion and read it.

            “28 Articles” should be easy enough to find online, but if you don’t already have and can’t find it, let me know.

            I’m currently reading Max Boot’s _Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare…_ and finding it to be a rewarding survey of the subject.

            But it is a survey (however insightful) and may not present sufficiently technical discussions for certain advanced readers.

  3. Guest May 4, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    IMHO it’s all a show to keep the general population in a state of fear and do as the authorities say. And it’s working.

  4. Grey Knight May 4, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    There will always be some malcontent who wishes to murder you.

    You will never be safe. Safety is a myth.

    This isn’t even about freedom, you could be murdered just as easily under any Government.

    So what is this about? Death is coming, and when it finds you, it is your time. Fear is denial.

    So why would you let fear rule you?

  5. Benny May 5, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    Terrorism only works so well in the West because [*cough cough* pick your elite] finds value in ruling a population that is fearful.

    Counter example: In my country (South Africa) ethnic separatists (Afrikaner neo-nazis) plotted to sow panic (as part of a strategy to incite “counter revolution”) by planting bombs in black townships.

    They killed four people by planting bombs in litter bins near open markets.

    Needless to say the plot was betrayed and soon after they were all rounded up and arrested, put on regular civilian trial (some still ongoing) and sentenced to long jail terms. The dumb apartheid-era police general leftovers that organised the op failed to realise the people that run the government don’t actually give a fart about a handful of peasants being killed by bombs – this ability being one of the reasons they rose to power in the first place.

    Contrary to the bombers’s beliefs, four dead people in a township somewhere did not send the government, or the general population, into a panic. Race war simply failed to happen. There were no mass crackdowns, lock-downs or Patriot Acts or similar (not directly attributed anyway). There were no new repressive laws, surveillance initiatives or legal authorisation for the army to attack the population at will. I myself, out of the country at the time, didn’t even hear of the events until literally months later (and I have long been what you might call a media junky, currently working as a journalist).

    Official government reaction since the bombings: jack shit. There is simply no way publicising or highlighting these events would benefit the folks that want to attract investment to a medium income developing country [and their own pockets]. That goes for the government and the political “opposition”.

    My conclusion: Hit them where it hurts – the wallet. Blow up a pipeline or burn a country club but give the peasants a miss. Civilian deaths won’t alarm a sociopath, but a declining bank balence might spark the overreaction and escalation you are looking for.

    If you care to verify facts, a link to get you started.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeremag

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