Re: TERRORISM: looking for solutions

From: Greg Burch (
Date: Wed Sep 12 2001 - 07:34:11 MDT

 Some more or less random thoughts on the events of yesterday.

On the technical/security side:

 I think the risk of a repeat attack using the same methods by the same
group or similar ones is very low. The 9/11/01 attacks have put a spotlight
on the gaping security holes that the attackers were able to exploit and
those holes will now be plugged. The cost of plugging them WILL likely
bankrupt a number of airlines, though and, in that, the terrorists will have
secured yet another victory.

 The clues now coming to light will probably provide sufficient leads that
the surviving members of the cabal that perpetrated the crimes will be
identified fairly quickly. I'm guessing that the perpetrators didn't try to
cover their tracks very hard. However, I'll bet that the links to bin-Laden
will be tenuous at best, but nevertheless real. The scenario I now think
most likely is that bin-Laden's core leadership cell only generally defined
the target and methodology and then severed connections to the action cells
that carried out the attacks under separate and autonomous leadership. The
most direct connections will be through funding. Most like scenario there:
Autonomous funds set up and access granted ahead of time to the action
cells, with further contact between the funds and bin-Laden severed.

 I've said for years that civil aviation provides one of the primary weapons
to terrorists seeking to attack the US. I took no comfort from being proved
right yesterday as I watched the second impact on the WTC in real-time. I
only hope that those whose job is security will be thinking about the other
scenarios I've imagined. I won't even describe them here, but they're
obvious enough to anyone with half a brain.

On the political/security front:

 I do expect further attacks from similar autonomous cells, invigorated by
the "success" of the events of 9/11/01. Thus, we're likely to see a much
increased impact of security behavior in our lives from now on. I think the
fears about this triggering a "police state" are overblown. My father's
generation went through the years of World War II with their basic civil
liberties intact, although temporarily and modestly curtailed during the
actual conflict. The diffuse nature of the threat makes comparisons to WWII
difficult, though.

On the political/cultural front:

The irony of calling on god - the nearly universal reaction of America's
political leaders - was completely lost on the media. NONE of the talking
heads on the tube noted it. Oh well . . .

The root problem is not US foreign policy, as some here have suggested. It'
s that there is a widely distributed culture of fanaticism in the Islamic
world. It focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it certainly has
other objects, as well. Consider that the savagery of the Taliban has
basically nothing to do with the on-going crisis in the Levant. Examples
can be found from Algeria to Indonesia that have nothing to do with
Palestinian nationalism. That culture of fanaticism has secured the "sacred
high ground" throughout the Islamic world. As a result, there is no secure
middle ground in politics or culture in the Islamic world. This is because
Islamism is truly totalitarian, or "culturally hegemonistic," to borrow a
phrase form Marxist rhetoric, i.e. it makes claim to relevance to and
dominance over every aspect of life. Contrary to the claims of
Arab-Americans and others today, and in the days that follow, that the
9/11/01 attacks don't represent "true Islam", in fact they do. They
represent precisely the aspects of Islam that made it the most successfully
viral meme in human history.

And herein lies the ultimate, gut-wrenching irony and threat: Our political
and cultural leaders cannot condemn this root cause of the problem. On the
one hand, it would likely be ineffective. Condemnation of Islamism would be
interpreted by Moslems all over the world as the simple rhetoric of
inter-religious bigotry and ompetition. In other words, condemning Islam
for what it is would be heard by Moslems as the same kind of rhetoric that
has fueled inter-religious wars throughout history, no different than the
kind of pronouncements made by leaders on both sides of the European
religious wars of the Reformation.

On the other hand, the modern dogma of cultural relativism makes any kind of
public judgment of one culture by another impossible. Any condemnation of
Islam for the fertilizer of fanaticism that it is would be interpreted by
the shapers of our own culture as chauvinism. Thus, our public discourse is
condemned to a fundamental impotence: We cannot as a civilization even TALK
about the root cause of the problem.

I wish I could offer a solution . . .

Greg Burch
Vice-President, Extropy Institute

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:29 MDT