All adult humans who are familiar with the relentless demands of our various body functions have an “urge to purge” from time to time. This cleansing habit has been cleverly written into our constitution which set up our present sophisticated democratic way of managing our social contract with the elected leaders who run our governments. Usually citizens feel much better when unpopular rascals are purged from office as a result of the public’s demand for their elimination.
Unfortunately, there is no known laxative on the market guaranteeing that the vile and the bile will be removed quickly and the stool softener formula will be effective in the future.
Today humans all over the world are confronted with the ugly symptoms of social indigestion that need purging: terrorists. This is not a new threat to society, but one that seems to require urgent political attention only because a violent and unsought death has become such a tragic way to gain eternal peace. No religious promise about the afterlife can divert human resolve from trying to avoid undue risks to life and limb. Consequently, national security is “job one” for our federal government.
The Genghis Khan solution for limiting potential insurrectionists is unpopular and unacceptable today. Laying waste to an area where enemies might be holed up worked as late as WWII, when “collateral damage” was not a big issue. Photo evidence of collateral damage in recent wars displayed on the front page of the local newspaper, on TV, or on the Internet is a turn off to any war that injures innocent civilians and helpless children. Unconditional surrender is a thing of the pass when nations strove against nations and all citizens were considered “the enemy” whether or not they wore uniforms.
Isolating and eliminating daring insurrectionists and dangerous international terrorists cannot be achieved by attacking unfriendly nations with our weapons of mass destruction and armed forces trained primarily for battles with other armies. Guerilla warriors have learned over the past decades how to wreak havoc, instill fear, and evade being captured and defeated. The suicide bombers of the 21st Century like the Kamikaze pilots of WWII are dying for honor and religious causes. They are dissatisfied with the power structure of the world and ready to sacrifice their lives to deliver a message. Terrorism is a cancer that must be treated like one.
Of course, there are no perfect remedies for most cancers. And some cancer remedies destroy healthy cells while trying to kill unhealthy ones. Nevertheless, the approach to any type of cancer is focusing expert analysis on the over-active individual culprits in an effort to discover the best way to defeat them and prevent their reappearing is some other unguarded area that allows them to revive and resume their undesirable activity. The medical objective is to slay the cellular perpetrators of the fatal illness expediently without collaterally damaging the patient.
A similar approach should be studied in searching for an effective way to fight and diminish the spread of terrorism. I lived and worked as an executive for a multinational American company in Argentina the first two and the last three years of the Dirty War from 1972 to 1980. The ERP rebels were Communists who hated American multinational companies and aimed to overthrow the government in power. They kidnapped, assassinated, and bombed targets in an effort to create chaos and fear. Eight people associated with my company died in terrorist attacks during that vicious uprising. The wives of some thirty managers in our company received miniature sarcophagus with a warning that if their husbands didn’t resign from their jobs, they would end up in a full-sized sarcophagus. Pretty scary, but no one resigned. Good jobs were scarce and precautions were taken to protect these employees.
The military pursuit of the terrorist organization eventually eliminated the threat or drove it underground. Later kidnappings were considered the work of copy-cat criminals looking for money not a change in government. The procedure used by the military in hunting down suspicious cells of terrorists was similar to the medical procedure used now: detain and kill anyone involved no matter how little a role they played in the cell’s activity. An estimated 10,000 humans went unaccounted for after the war and were considered slain. The relatives of these disappeared souls eventually received some justice, and the country returned to a more normal status, although personal security is still a major problem.
Where do we begin to face up to the new challenge of suicide-bombing terrorists? How do we attack a small, well-organized group of hate-filled humans determined to change things in the world for whatever legitimate or illegitimate reason they may have? Obviously, not by random acts of destruction aimed at targets in allied countries like sending remote-controlled drones into neighborhoods where innocent people reside. To innocent victims of those bombings, we are the feared terrorists.
The surgical removal of anti-American terrorist cells wherever they are “holed up” in the world is made difficult for a variety of reasons:
1.) Americans don’t speak the language; therefore our intelligence is minimal at best.
2.) We don’t know whom to trust in a foreign country to provide us with accurate intelligence.
3.) We don’t know how to defuse the underlying causes of animosity, and when our leaders do acknowledge their failings to do that politically, they rarely do anything concrete to change direction significantly.
4.) We are naive or uneducated about the culture of the people who protect the terrorists.
5.) We assume that we are liked everywhere because on average Americans are decent people who want the best for others and attempt to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves.
6.) We are ignorant about how the power structure is established and implemented in foreign countries. This leads to counterproductive diplomatic negotiations that accomplish very little like pressing our allies to adopt economic sanctions against our “mutual enemies.”
7.) We act like we are the favored people of some higher power because we have invented some technology that provides us with weapons of mass destruction that no one else should have.
8.) We disparage those humans who do not think as we do, love democracy, adopt capitalism, and embrace Christianity. By doing that, we are isolating ourselves from the good will of others.
9.) We saunter around the globe acting rich, powerful, trend-setting, and wise. Such arrogance turns off those leaders who might want to support common interests.
10.) We expect others to think as we do, act as we do, and agree with us about solutions to common social problems. However, the most powerful world leaders can’t mutually define and prioritize the problems, won’t agree about possible solutions to those problems, and aren’t in a hurry to implement concrete corrective action.
When you ignore the input of other folks who live in other circumstances, you are implying that they are stupid or out of touch with reality. Whose reality? We hardly know what the reality is for the vast majority of Americans who reside in the confines of this nation. The media give us their edited vision of reality if the customers subscribe to it. Big Brother on TV is doing what the advertisers and the influence peddlers want in furnishing information to induce viewers to go along peacefully (and passively) with the decisions of the political party in power.
Our government spends billions of dollars screening decent people in airports for terrorist needles in those haystacks of passengers rather than spend that money on identifying (not to use the word “profiling”) infiltrators bent on wreaking havoc. Our government can’t even consistently identify illegal immigrants who are using stolen Social Security ID. We are told that the government is doing everything in its power to protect us, but what independent agency is evaluating the affectivity of the measures employed? Who was watching the mortgage banks? Who was questioning the validity of the ratings of the companies that rate stocks and bonds?
The point is that America must stop trying to influence foreign people they don’t know, don’t understand, don’t communicate with at the grass roots, and don’t allow to use the autonomous space they have to be themselves and develop their talents and resources. We throw the hungry overseas a fish on occasion and the poor some charity dollars hoping that their problems will vanish thanks to our periodic goodwill. Such phoniness and superficiality buys us little reciprocal goodwill.
Some of us believe that we should stop trying to influence foreign governments that misrule their citizens. As sympathetic as we have become to the agony of destitute humans in remote locations due to poor political management and lax law enforcement, (“poor” and “lax” being how we describe their social dilemmas), we can’t do much. We can change ourselves, our viewpoints, and our way of doing things at home and abroad. We can’t fix what we can’t touch! If we meddle, we only aggravate the passions of those who hate us and long for the day they can find some clever way to bring us retribution for being what they think we are as a nation.
Despite our urge to purge, we won’t be able to exterminate all the terrorists in the world any more than we can eliminate serious crime, stop illegal immigrants from coming ashore, and halt the importation of illegal drugs. The major political and economic questions will always be: How many citizens are harmed if our present security measures are ineffective, too cumbersome, and excessively costly? Can the risk to individual citizens be reduced some by examining the challenges to our national security system and altering our ways of protecting citizens from the animosity of hateful, alienated foreigners and unhappy, revengeful Americans?