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Functional Terrorism
by Jan Sand
2007-04-25 09:45:00
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Humanity is capable of many horrible things and a good many of them are totally insane and without any sensible reward. The unfortunate quality of terrorism, whatever its origins and results, is that it is very frequently effective.

Simply defined, terrorism is any action that is performed to create terror. It is a normal ploy of animal and even some plant life to engender this capability as a defensive, and sometimes, aggressive capability. It is a fundamental part of the fabric of all life.

Fear is not a digital emotion that is either on or off. It has a wide spectrum that varies from faint uneasiness to total panic and where it reaches the point of terror is different within different individuals and different situations. No doubt an atomic weapon can inspire terror as can a raised eyebrow under the proper circumstances. Combining the two is a potent union.

Although so-called peace loving governments widely decry terrorism in actuality their military and legal systems wallow in it as a means to establish internal and international order. There is nothing they like better than to effectively threaten other governments and their own citizenry into civil behavior. And, of course, this can be quite laudable. Religions from time immemorial have threatened their adherents with eternal awful punishments to keep them in line. Their admonition has been that if there were no Hell everybody would end up there, an oxymoron that seems to carry some kind of cockeyed information to believers. So there is no question that terror is an effective and useful and commonplace mechanism.

The problem seems to be that, especially in recent times when technology has been able to package extreme violence in compact bundles, individuals and groups have obtained the possibilities of terror once securely restricted to official quarters. Beyond that, modern systems essential to maintaining normal life have become extremely vulnerable to even mild disruption. This makes individual initiative at terror extremely capable and potentially widespread.

Gun owners in the USA continually plead that their ownership of these relatively mild weapons ensures that the government's repressive powers will be sufficiently constrained to protect citizen democracy and freedom but this ubiquitous popgun potency only guarantees that innocents will regularly be killed through accidents and anger. When and if the government ever decides to use its heavy armaments against its own citizens there is little doubt of the outcome. Terror gains in potency when it is believable. That is why the initial demonstration of its power is all-important.

The atomic bomb became a useful terror weapon after the destructions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There is some evidence to the argument that Japan was well on the way to surrender before the two initial atomic bombs were detonated. But Truman may have wanted to impress the Soviets that the USA was invulnerable. There was no question of the impression created. It has much to do with the overwhelming world reluctance for repeating that particular brand of horror. And perhaps fended off an actual direct conflict during the Cold War.

Since then, there has been no dearth of humans doing awful things to each other but nothing atomic has been employed. It is noteworthy that the mutual acquisition of atomic bombs by India and Pakistan has lead to cooler negotiations prevailing between the two. And the mere possession of atomic armaments by Israel seems to have kept intergovernmental conflicts at a lower level there. The recent explosion of a test atomic bomb in North Korea also has quieted the more boisterous exercises of the USA in that direction

The terrorist destruction of the Twin Towers in New York was, strategically, somewhat similar to the first atomic explosions at the end of WWII. I do not want to imply in any way that I look with approval at the death of three thousand helpless victims at that tragedy any more than I approve of the atomic bomb demonstration that took a great many more lives, innocent or otherwise. This is merely a notation of its efficiency.

A mere nineteen active participants armed with no more than pocket knives plus probably not more than a hundred or so other backup militants has triggered the expense of many multiple billions of dollars plus untold tragedies in both Iran and Afghanistan plus violent dislocations of the finance and legal and cultural patterns within the USA and throughout the world. It was, insofar as the USA is concerned, the opening ploy in what seems to have become an endless war between millions of people who do not seem to be able to come to sensible terms over their differences.

The interminable conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians probably would have seen no concessions at all by the Israelis without the particularly nasty suicide bombers' intermittent and unstoppable incidents. Again, I do not mean to imply I approve of the death of innocents. But there is no doubt that they command official attention and motivate negotiations.

So it appears that terrorism is and has been with us since the inception of civilization and before. When atomic weapons trickle down to the individual terrorists as it seems they must since the USA and other nations are doing very little to prevent it, the world seems in for miseries suitable to accompany those generated by the inexorable destruction of the environment.

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Albert Einstein2007-04-29 09:48:28
The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.

Sand2007-07-04 09:03:27
I am greatly relieved to learn that the reports of your demise are greatly exaggerated.

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