Jens Oliver Meiert

Can We Prevent Terrorism?

Post from April 12, 2016 (↻ August 23, 2017), filed under .

We could not prevent terrorism *, is how I had planned to begin here.

Anyone determined to spread terror, whether physically or psychologically or both, would manage to do so, so the rationale.

We would never be able to stop that, the conclusion.

“Hey I just caught a terrorist!” said no TSA agent ever.

Figure: The security theater is over here.

That terrorism can never be prevented, and here I’ll start making statements, is actually very important to understand to also understand our political leadership.

At first, the realization that it cannot sheds an unpleasant light on the competence of our leaders. If any school kid can grasp how anyone not confined to a cell can cause trouble, but not the people in charge of our nations, what does that say about the latter?

Of course, our leaders are not that stupid. They well know. We should certainly look into what we can do to keep people safe—we all agree—, and our leaders might simply be concerned and eager, and set unrealistic expectations about what’s attainable. Yet maybe, without resorting to theories, something else is going on. What we can tell for now is that the knee-jerk response to terror has, since 9/11, become to cut people’s rights and to respond with like violence. The problem is that that’s how terrorism wins, and has long won. An even bigger problem is that while murdering people in distant countries is itself criminal and does not catch the few terrorists, cutting rights—led by anti-democratic surveillance—punishes everyone de facto innocent.

We should understand: Terrorists may take lives, but our leaders’ standard response is to take freedom. Life without freedom, however, serves only the people in power and may well be worse than death for everyone else, and so one’s left to wonder who we should be afraid of: some obscure terrorists—or our own leaders?

Terrorism, now, is not simply violently “fought” for that ever only incites more of it. Terrorism is, first and foremost, responded to with virtues and values, and by refusing to be terrorized. That is strength; that is the strength that also guards our freedom and our rights. We can never entirely prevent terrorism—but we can prevent serfdom.

I’m not too happy with this post and yet I publish it. Why not so happy? After a number of edits, I’m not sure (otherwise I’d fix it). Perhaps it’s that one could get the idea that we couldn’t or shouldn’t do anything about terrorism, which is inaccurate (we could, for example, stop provoking terrorism through invading other countries, or not fund it, or instead do good police work). Why still publish? Cost of problem vs. cost of solution, essentially. I could doctor this post more, even more, but the point should be clear enough.

* Note that this would not cover state terrorism as with some Western countries’ international conduct. That is something we can stop.

About the Author

Jens Oliver Meiert, photo on Google+.

Jens Oliver Meiert is an author and developer (O’Reilly, W3C, ex-Google). He plays with philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on he shares and generalizes and exaggerates some of his thoughts and experiences.

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Last update: August 23, 2017

“The end does not justify the means.”