Terrorism and the Mind-Killer

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James K

James is a government policy analyst, and lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His interests including wargaming, computer gaming (especially RPGs and strategy games), Dungeons & Dragons and scepticism. No part of any of his posts or comments should be construed as the position of any part of the New Zealand government, or indeed any agency he may be associated with.

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7 Responses

  1. Avatar Katherine
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    says:

    It’s always interesting to hear non-US views on 9/11. I’m Canadian and was 13 on 9/11, and while I initially recognized it as a tragedy, it was one in the same sense that an earthquake or a hurricane that killed thousands was a tragedy; the political/international importance didn’t hit me until I heard the news channels comparing it to Pearl Harbour, and then my reaction was absolute terror – not of an attack by terrorists – but that the US would nuke someone, followed by relief when they didn’t.

    I had the opposite reaction of yours to security measures and the Iraq War – due to being middle-class, idealistic, altruistic, and being raised in a Christian family and a peace church (Mennonite), the second I did become aware of politics I automatically inclined to the left and held (and hold) the view that, if any wars are legitimate, they must be wars of defence.

    The Patriot Act and Guantanamo made a HUGE impression on me, because my social studies class was covering the English Civil War at the time, and I picked up the idea that secret prisions, secret trials, and getting rid of habeus corpus were sufficiently serious to lead to the executive getting their head chopped off.

    When the Iraq War – the idea that one of the supposed ‘good guys’, our ally, could start a war of aggression against a nation that hadn’t attacked them, horrified me and turned my world upside down at the time – and torture were added to that, it moved the US solidly into the “bad guys” camp in my mind.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Katherine
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      says:

      The Patriot Act and Guantanamo made a HUGE impression on me, because my social studies class was covering the English Civil War at the time, and I picked up the idea that secret prisions, secret trials, and getting rid of habeus corpus were sufficiently serious to lead to the executive getting their head chopped off.

      For me my reaction to those was confusion, I couldn’t figure out what they were playing at.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Katherine
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      says:

      I was 21 at the time and in University in Nova Scotia. We had like a hundred stranded plane travellers staying at campus.Report

  2. Avatar Pierre Corneille
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    says:

    I really like your post, but since I’m the type of person who almost always has to find something to quibble with, here it is:

    Whatever their ideology, politicians are ultimately trying to surf the wave of public opinion without being drowned my it. This isn’t an all-encompassing belief, I don’t think the New Deal would have happened without FDR, nor do I think Iraq would have happened without Bush.

    I think the US was on a collision course with Iraq since the end of the Gulf War, and Bush Jr. or no Bush Jr., a war of some sort would have been likely, although it might not have taken the quasi-religious liberationist tack that it ultimately did take. I also think something like the New Deal was in the offing regardless of who replaced Hoover in 1932 (or 1936, if Hoover by some chance would have won reelection).

    However, if I am right, then that only strengthens the original point you made (and to which the block-quoted passage above was only a qualification) about politicians following the wishes of the median voter.Report

  3. Avatar Kaleberg
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    says:

    1) What is a “hasty” war? The US was in WWI for about a year but in Vietnam for about eight. We stayed out of WWI for three years, but were itching for Vietnam. I think the rule is Democrats want to use wars to accomplish particular foreign policy objectives, while Republicans want the state of war to implement repressive policies at home. This follows the usual liberal “getting things done” versus the conservative “doing things right” divide that has existed since before the Enlightenment when the liberals won a few.

    2) The US was always big on avoiding security theater. Seeing guys with machine guns doesn’t make me feel safer. Real security is invisible, like a vaccine, not a ward full of iron lungs. No one even notices proper security unless they are looking carefully. Go to Vegas or Disneyland or read any book on the subject by anyone who has a clue. Security theater is about cowing the opposition and the public. It plays well for tin pot dictators, but until 9/11, the US was into security, not the illusion of security. (Have you studied rhetoric? The thing versus the illusion of the thing is a major point.) I was surprised at how many people didn’t get this. New York Magazine had an excellent article on why there had been no sequels to 9/11, and it had nothing to do with Iraq or Afghanistan or Guantanamo or the TSA.

    3) It wasn’t fear that damaged us morally, it was cowardice that damaged us morally. The entire decade was “I hear America clucking, awk buck buck!” with no apologies to Walt Whitman. Did you ever hear of the London blitz? Sure, everyone was afraid. They weren’t stupid, but they weren’t cowards either. For 9/11, the cowards were in charge. It all comes from having a military deserter as commander in chief. You can probably find a Roman precedent.

    4) The purpose of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were to cow the opposition. In that, they worked quite effectively. Read your George Orwell. What was the purpose of the ever shifting wars between Oceania and the other two major powers in 1984? The point wasn’t who Oceania was at war with, it was that Oceania was at war.

    —-

    I’m probably a bit harsh here. 9/11 has been a learning experience for a lot of us.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Kaleberg
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      says:

      1) Hasty refers to the degree of thought put into getting into it, not the length of time spent fighting in it, just to clarify.

      2)

      New York Magazine had an excellent article on why there had been no sequels to 9/11, and it had nothing to do with Iraq or Afghanistan or Guantanamo or the TSA.

      I believe that.

      3) I see your point about cowardice vs. fear, if by cowardice you mean surrendering to fear (as opposed to feeling fear without letting it rule you).

      4) I don’t buy your argument. I really don’t think the Republicans wake up every morning and say to themselves “How can I oppress the American people today?” The people who become politicians naturally have a strong locus of control – they believe they can make everything better because people who don’t believe that don’t become politicians. Naturally they respond to every problem by thinking the solution is for them to have more power. This isn’t about evil intent, but merely the regrettable by-product of human psychology. Obama has followed precisely the same track Bush did. Either every US President gets fitted with a keeper after their inauguration, or there’s something beyond partisan politics going on here.Report

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