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Posted by aogMonday, 30 July 2007 at 09:53 TrackBack Ping URL

Cathy Young writes, in part

What’s not going to help is dismissing the risk of a terrorist attack—an argument that can easily backfire, in a reversal of the story of the boy who cried wolf, if a major strike does happen. An even greater mistake is to is downplay the consequences of such an attack. Thus, in his Foreign Affairs article, Mueller writes, “Even if there were a 9/11-scale attack every three months for the next five years, the likelihood that an individual American would number among the dead would be two hundredths of a percent (or one in 5,000).”

But this argument ignores the impact of such attacks on the friends and families of the victims—and the psychological impact on the entire nation (not to mention the economic devastation). It is true, as some have pointed out, that even in Mueller’s extreme scenario, the annual casualties would still be far below the toll of auto accidents. But that does not mean we are irrational in our response to terrorism. For one, a large-scale disaster, even a natural one, draws more attention and thus elicits far more shock than many small incidents with a higher cumulative death toll. Perhaps more importantly, there are many things one can do to reduce one’s risk of dying in a car crash. There is nothing one can do, short of moving into a bomb shelter, to minimize the risk of being killed or maimed in a random terrorist attack.

This touches on some key points, but doesn’t quite follow its premises to their conclusion. To me, the clear message here is that we should make dealing with terrorism more like dealing with auto accidents — create ways in which citizens can make a difference. It’s the “pack, not a herd” concept in another guise and while it’s an annoying catch phrase, it does encapsulate something that would be of far more benefit that additional government provided “security”.

That Young doesn’t touch on that says something about the modern civil liberties crew. Her choices seem to be between the childish nay-saying of the ACLU vs. a more moderate trade off of liberties for security. Young is concerned that such nay-saying will polarize the issue in to favoring the rights of terrorists vs. protecting citizens, which I agree is not a good place for the debate to end up.

But I think that’s a false dichotomy, that supporting a mobilized citizenry is another choice, superior to either of those. The real problem for the Left is that it has boxed itself in to an ideological corner that can’t tolerate the level of self sufficiency and independent thought such a mobilized citizenry would require. In the hey day of modern liberalism, it was presumed that free thinking citizens would naturally conclude that liberalism was superior. Very few liberals believe that anymore, so the pack option is not politically viable for them.

One need only look at the recent John Doe or “King Amendment” issue. I cannot imagine any explanation for the effort to strike down this provision than Senators too embedded in political correctness and loyalty to the noisiest and richest special interests. And even those Senators know it’s a sell out, or they wouldn’t have tried to be so sneaky about it. The complaints about potential racism, harassment, etc. are just ludicrous. The amendment would have protected people reporting to responsible actors (law enforcement, trained airline personel, etc.) who would then be able to take real responsibility, filter out the crazies, and keep track of hot spots1. I would accuse those Democratic Senators of trying to suppress anything that would encourage citizens to be more aware of what’s going on around them, but I can’t believe those Senators are themselves sufficiently aware of the real world to plan and act at such a level. I suspect it’s just the hind brain twitching of a dead ending ideology.

1 It’s one thing if one or two socially similar people say, “that guy over there sure is acting funny” and a different thing if 30 people of many social backgorunds say the same thing. But no single citizen will have access to that information.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Bret Wednesday, 01 August 2007 at 12:30

…we should make dealing with terrorism more like dealing with auto accidents…

Or bee stings.

I think that if we had constant attacks, we would get used to them, much like Israel, so it wouldn’t remain traumatic for long. Of course, it would make sense to spend more on trying to prevent them in that case.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 01 August 2007 at 13:13

Yes, although it’s not that we need to spend more, it’s that we need to accept that if a group of fanatics are trying to kill us in to submission, we’re going to have to do some unpleasant things we’d rather not in order to win.

That said, the psychology of the Israeli polity is utterly bizarre to me. It’s like the ultimate in political correctness, where the government (with the apparent approval of the citizenry) sacrifices its own citizens for the never quite forthcoming approval of the “world community”. It’s like President Bush reaching out to the MAL — it’s not that it’s an intrinsically flawed idea, it’s that in practice it amounts to throwing red meat at lions to calm them down.

Bret Wednesday, 01 August 2007 at 13:19

Israel has the approval of the United States which is worth quite a bit in aid and support. From the people I know who’ve visited Israel, they are no more phased by suicide bombers than we are upset by automobile accident deaths. It’s just part of life (over there).

Michael Herdegen Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 01:32

From the people I know who’ve visited Israel, they are no more [fazed] by suicide bombers than we are upset by automobile accident deaths.

If true, then the bombers, their organizations, and their aims have failed before they ever strap on the explosive vests.

erp Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 08:29

I doubt we’d ever become complacent about being terrorized. Even the most loony liberal will lash out if it touches them personally as the reaction after 9/11 clearly showed.

Islamist leaders know this and that’s probably why there haven’t been and probably won’t be anymore attacks like 9/11 here in the U.S. In the UK, the reaction to terrorist attacks is to pander even harder, so they can expect more of them.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 09:18


Yes, lash out, but at who? My money’s on President Bush, in office or not.


But public opinion polls in the USA show that there’s very little sympathy for Palestinians precisely because they support terrorists, which is no longer just an abstract thing that happens Over There. I would expect that support for Israel would increase if they respond forcefully and specifically to terrorist attacks if the responses were strikes instead of occupations.

erp Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 10:12

AOG, you’re preaching to the choir. I think Bush is a God-sent leader who is able to take upon himself all the hate and derangement and still stay the course.

I hesitated to use a stronger statement than lashing out in deference to other readers who are sensitive to semantics. By lashing out, I mean that Americans, even loonies like the KosKids, will want to retaliate with force if bombs were set off in their neighborhoods, schools, malls, etc. and they or their kids, families, friends, etc. were blown apart while they were peaceably going about living their lives. No matter how irrational some us may get, we haven’t been wussified yet and with the help of God, we never will be.

Having meaningful discussions with terrorists is about as useful has having confabs with the leader of the wolf pack that’s running rampant in the sheep fold.

I think Brown had one heck of a nerve coming over here and telling Bush that he knows he can count on us to go over there to save their chestnuts again.

Bret Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 12:39

Michael Herdegen wrote: “If true, then the bombers, their organizations, and their aims have failed before they ever strap on the explosive vests.

Yes. My guess is, at this point, that further suicide bombers will likely make no more difference than any other random event in the evolution of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

BTW, by “no more [fazed]” I mean that the Israelis pretty much go about their business even though there’s a constant and non-negligible chance of being killed by a suicide bomber. Contrast that with the Washington, D.C. sniper who nearly shut down the city because of fear.

erp wrote: “I doubt we’d ever become complacent about being terrorized.

I didn’t say complacent. It’s more that we’d just get used to it. I think we’d put effort into stopping it, perhaps a lot of effort (Israel does), but still go about our business.

aog, How exactly would the Israelis respond “specifically” to a terrorist attack, especially if it’s of the suicide bomber variety?

Bret Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 12:40

erp, Couldn’t’ve God sent us someone who was a little better at public speaking?

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 13:38


I honestly don’t believe that. I think the Kossacks and their ilk would become more upset with our government than the actual perpetrators. Just look at Cindy Sheehan for the archetype. It’s all part of the denial of moral agency to the barbarians, because not denying that is accepting that there things outside of one’s control.


I was thinking more of rocket attacks, in which case shell the heck out of the area every single time. Make it clear that letting Hamas or whoever set up and launch rockets is suicide. As for splodey dopes, just saturation bomb the headquarters of what ever group takes credit. If that doesn’t work, label it an act of war and bomb the headquarters of whatever gang claims to be the elected leadership. There was also the suggestion by someone else that every bomb that goes means annexing additional land, say a hectare or so, to add to a kill zone around the fence.

Bret Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 13:54

aog wrote: “…shell the heck out of the [rocket launch] area…

Yeah, but then resulting “civilian” casualties turns the US Media sharply against Israel and weakens public support even here. Same for the saturation bombing, especially since they’d stop taking credit quickly if that happened.

aog also wrote: “…every bomb that goes means annexing additional land…

That’s be occupation, wouldn’t it?

erp Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 14:29

For reaction to local bombing that is extensive, I see really bad reactions and yes even the Cindy Sheehan types won’t want their neighborhoods terrorized. Closing down mosques, herding Moslems into interment camps, etc. Massive deportations and sorry to say, I wouldn’t raise an objection. We’ve been more than patient.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 15:11


At this point, I don’t think so. Again, I think that if the policy were made clear ahead of time and followed, it wouldn’t cost Israel much support, if any. Old Media here is already strongly against Israel, that can’t get much worse. As for annexing, it’s not occupation if (1) it’s annexation and (2) it’s cleared of inhabitants first. Again, if stated clearly and pre-emptively, I think the American Street would take the view “don’t like it, stop blowing up Israelis”.


They won’t want their neighborhoods terrorized, but they think the best way to avoid that is to surrender and attack Bush. Just remember how Robert Fisk became famous in the blogosphere.

erp Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 17:37

Fisk has become a part of speech. Hardly the way most people would like to become famous.

What loonies think won’t matter if their blaming Bush doesn’t keep their neighborhoods safe as it obviously will not.

Tom C., Stamford,Ct. Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 19:44

The thing you folks are missing is the fact that the ‘terrorists’ have nothing to do with Islam and are ‘historistically’ pre-ordained failures like the national socialists and the bolsheviks. Europe and America will be singing kumbaya in the new neighborhood mosques and suicide bombings will be on page 12 with the police blotter while the ‘rationalists’ will be occupying the dustbin. Be happy, history has ended, don’t ya know.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 20:29


Fisk’s first claim to fame was to get beat up in Pakistan and then forgive the thugs while blaming the “imperialist” Western governments. The point is that even as he was being physically pummeled, his own self beaten, he still refused to blame the perpetrators for their actions.

erp Thursday, 02 August 2007 at 21:12

I know that, but his is a truly insane response.

Islamic terrorists have everything to do with Islam. If they didn’t non-terrorist Moslems would be denouncing them instead of making excuses for them and worrying about us not respecting their way of life.

cjm Friday, 03 August 2007 at 22:06

israelis have a death wish and i don’t waste any sympathy on them. until they are willing to push the palestinains into the sea, level damascus and tehran and rihad, they get what they deserve. slitting a few media owners’ throats and a few academic bastards’ throats while they are at it. they have this insane notion that the world will feel bad for their demise. in other words, they aren’t competetive in the darwinian sense.

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