Terror wins in Detroit

I just learned that a terrorist attack had been averted over the skies of Detroit. Here’s a news article about the whole thing. The author, a certain Mark Whittington, concludes this way:

A purely defensive, law enforcement oriented strategy will not work in the War on Terror. Military campaigns in places like Afghanistan, Yemen, and even Iraq are vital to keep the terrorists themselves on the defensive, and to eventually hunt them down and kill them. The long war may be wearying to the public, and especially to politicians who might clamor to “bring the troops home” before their job is done. But the alternative is not peace, but more terror and more deaths of innocent civilians.

Here’s my comment:

The author forgets that America’s intervention outside its borders precede the birth of international terrorism by several decades. Why this policy should have no consequences is a mystery; why abolishing murder by government would be a mistake is also strange, considering it is murder as such we oppose when terrorists take innocent lives.

Your opposition to terrorism commits you to an opposition to US military intervention, and therefore occupation of foreign lands. It isn’t coherent to say in one breadth that people have a right to life, and in the other, that you are going to occupy and kill until people stop killing you.

Another formulation that reveals the utter inconsistency of our commenters: we’re going to go on the other side of the planet, and kill people, until the terrorists finally surrender and hopefully, understand that it’s wrong to go on the other side of the planet to kill people.

The title may sound confused. Terror did not win! The attack was averted. But that is because you speak from the perspective of the eastern terrorists. I speak from the perspective of the western terrorists. From their perspective, terror wins, in that more people will be terrorized and killed in Afghanistan, Yemen and Irak (Is Yemen under occupation?); until “the job is done.” Roderick Long, a market anarchist, held a talk long ago, shortly after 9/11, named ‘Thinking our Anger‘ and it is incredibly thoughtful. Many people went mad and said horrible things at the time. But this guy kept his cool and cut through the bullshit. Here’s a quote that’s relevant to our discussion:

Our anger embodies a judgment that what the terrorists did on September 11th was wrong. But what was it that they did? They rained down death from the skies upon innocent civilians in order to express a grievance against our government. If, in the anger of our military response, we are heedless of the lives of innocent civilians in Afghanistan or elsewhere, then, in the name of our anger, we will have infringed the very principle that our anger is supposed to be expressing: we will be the ones raining down death from the skies upon innocent civilians in order to express a grievance against their government. Those who answer directly to their blood often end up having a lot of blood to answer for.

A number of television and online commentators have said that civilians in enemy nations are not truly innocent, because those civilians could and should have overthrown their governments if they disapproved of them. In saying this, these commentators take themselves to be expressing a hard-line position against the terrorists. But in fact they are endorsing the terrorists’ position. For their argument commits them to saying that I am responsible for any war crimes committed by my government, since if I really disapproved of my government I could and should have overthrown it. (I’m awfully curious to know how, but they never seem to give details.) But this is precisely the terrorists’ position: that any American is a legitimate target for the violent expression of grievances against the American government. When a viewpoint motivated by moral outrage against a terrorist attack ends up endorsing the very principle behind that attack, it’s clear that anger has been acting as an overeager servant and needs further instruction.

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