|Attacks Result In Undeserved 24-7 Coverage
The bitter reality is countries have used this threat to create an economy of fear, an industry of fear, a national psychology of fear, far beyond what anyone might or could expect. Because of fear we have built and inflicted on ourselves a massive and expensive industry geared to strip us of our liberties. A rash of terrorist attacks across the world have been used to justify and confirm to many Americans that threats remain and no price is too much to pay in an effort to protect American lives. I caution those who think surrendering privacy and removing our freedoms is the answer, and state we should not overreact. In the later part of 2013 I penned an article titled, "A terrorist Under Every Bed." where I noted that a gender gap had interestingly emerged as to how people see the government’s anti-terrorism programs. It appears men are more inclined to think the government has gone too far, it also seems that younger voters, those in their twenties are appalled by the intrusions into our privacy.
These feelings seemed to extend as to how many Americans have begun to view Snowden as more of a whistle-blower alerting America to domestic spy operations rather then as a traitor as the White House and National Security officials contend. Also interesting is the shift among Republicans who say government has gone overboard in restricting civil liberties in the so called fight against terrorism. When you join this group with far left Democrats that are antiwar and adverse to the fascist tendencies of government with Libertarians who want "less government" the number of people opposed to these programs grows quite sizable. Going forward an issue that should become the focus or at least included in this debate is the actual dollar cost of these programs and whether the money can be better spent. This question so far has been grossly ignored because of an obsession based on fear.
At the risk of sounding unfeeling and unsympathetic to the victims and their families I must point out it is the 27-7 news coverage and high media ratings that can surround even a small attack that drives and motivates terrorist. It should be noted politicians often relish national exposure and a moment in the spotlight. Even the mayor of a city instantly becomes the "savior in chief" when standing before the cameras with a dozen officials standing behind them dressed in bulletproof vests looking grim. Call me naive, but I think people are basically reasonable or even good and as someone living in a medium sized city in the Midwest terrorism rates far below my concern over the occasional tornadoes that pass through the area. Even when traveling through Europe the fear of transportation shutting down as a result of an attack looms as more of a danger than being hurt in an incident.
Below is part of, and EXCERPTS from an opinion piece written by Ted Koppel, it was printed in the WSJ in 2013. The article was titled; America's Chronic Overreaction To Terrorism, I have dropped away parts of the original printing and simplified it where I could. It should be noted that many of the comments I viewed concerning this article talked about how Koppel was acting as a mouth piece for the Obama administration and his views represent the left thus leaving America open to harm. This is somewhat ironic in that Obama by his actions has shown that he is in no hurry to halt NSA and similar surveillance programs that intrude on the privacy of American citizens. We now see the formation of a rather bizarre alliance to end the program joining the far left that often calls for more government action and social programs with Libertarians that want less government. I must say I find myself agreeing with Mr. Koppel who is a special correspondent for NBC News and an analyst for NPR.
Terrorism, is designed to produce overreaction. It is the means by which the weak induce the powerful to inflict damage upon themselves—and al Qaeda and groups like it are surely counting on that as the centerpiece of their strategy. It appears to be working. Right now, 19 American embassies and a number of consulates and smaller diplomatic outposts were closed for the week due to the perceived threat of attacks against U.S. targets. Meantime, the U.S. has launched drone strikes on al Qaeda fighters in Yemen.
In 1998 al Qaeda launched synchronized attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing more than 220 and injuring well over 4,000 people. In October 2000, al Qaeda operatives rammed a boat carrying explosives into the USS Cole, which was docked in Yemen. Seventeen American sailors were killed and 39 were injured. Each of these attacks occurred during the presidency of Bill Clinton. In each case, the U.S. responded with caution and restraint. Covert and special operations were launched. The U.S. came close to killing or capturing Qsama bin Laden at least twice, but there was a clear awareness among many policy makers that bin Laden might be trying to lure the U.S. into overreacting. Clinton administration counter terrorism policy erred, if at all, on the side of excessive caution.
Critics may argue that Washington's feckless response during the Clinton years encouraged al Qaeda to launch its most spectacular and devastating attack on Sept. 11, 2001. But President George W. Bush also showed great initial restraint in ordering a response to the 9/11 attacks. Covert American intelligence operatives working with special operations forces coordinated indigenous Afghan opposition forces against the Taliban on the ground, while U.S. air power was directed against the Taliban and al Qaeda as they fled toward Pakistan.
It was only 18 months later, with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, that the U.S. began to inflict upon itself a degree of damage that no external power could have achieved. Even Bin Laden must have been astounded. He had, it has been reported, hoped that the U.S. would be drawn into a ground war in Afghanistan, that graveyard to so many foreign armies. But Iraq! In the end, the war left 4,500 American soldiers dead and 32,000 wounded. It cost well in excess of a trillion dollars—every penny of which was borrowed money. Saddam was killed, but what prior U.S. administrations understood, however, was Saddam's value as a regional counterweight to Iran. It is hard to look at Iraq today and find that the U.S. gained much for its sacrifices there. Nor, as we seek to untangle ourselves from Afghanistan, can U.S. achievements there be seen as much of a bargain for the price paid in blood and treasure.
At home, the U.S. has constructed an anti-terrorism enterprise so immense, so costly and so inexorably interwoven with the defense establishment, police and intelligence agencies, communications systems, and with social media, travel networks and their attendant security apparatus, that the idea of downsizing, let alone disbanding such a construct, is an exercise in futility. The Sunday TV talk shows this past weekend resonated with the rare sound of partisan agreement: The intercepted "chatter" between al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was sufficiently ominous that few questions have been raised about the government's decision to close its embassies.
It may be that an inadequate response to danger signals that resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi last September contributed to an overreaction in the current instance. Clearly, it does not hurt, at a time when the intelligence community is charged with being overly intrusive in its harvesting of intelligence data, that we be presented with dramatic evidence of the program's effectiveness. Yet when all is said and done, al Qaeda—by most accounts decimated and battered by more than a decade of the worst damage that the world's most powerful nation can inflict—remains a serious enough threat that Washington ordered 19 of its embassies to pull up their drawbridges and take shelter for fear of what those terrorists still might do.
Will terrorists kill innocent civilians in the years to come? Of course. They did so more than 100 years ago, when they were called anarchists—and a responsible nation-state must take reasonable measures to protect its citizens. But there is no way to completely eliminate terrorism.The challenge that confronts us is how we will live with that threat. We have created an economy of fear, an industry of fear, a national psychology of fear. Al Qaeda could never have achieved that on its own. We have inflicted it on ourselves.
Over the coming years many more Americans will die in car crashes, of gunshot wounds inflicted by family members and by falling off ladders than from any attack by al Qaeda. There is always the nightmare of terrorists acquiring and using a weapon of mass destruction. But nothing would give our terrorist enemies greater satisfaction than that we focus obsessively on that remote possibility, and restrict our lives and liberties accordingly.