Terrorism and the Ostrich

Our daily life is fragile. We are just one bad event away from a time when flour spilled on a subway floor, makes a million people late to work. The event? ---- terrorists succeed in lacing one mass transit system with anthrax spores or plutonium dust.

Preventing terrorism is becoming more difficult. Partly, because advancing technology, increasing mobility, and more integrated infrastructure, allows fewer untrained people with fewer dollars to do bigger disruptions.

Partly because the group willing to do antisocial acts is increasing. Anyone who sees himself or others experiencing downward mobility considers the system as malignant and can justify acts against it.

Partly because terrorists, who need little training, capital, and logistical support, can remain invisible until they attack. While Al Qaeda cells would be killed or incarcerated long before they could perform 200 acts a year in New York City, 200 non-related WASP terrorists would be just as hard to stop after the first 10 events as before.

Preventing this terrorism, will make the expense and and loss of personal freedom of getting rid of Osama Bin Laden, and his copy cats, and Sadam Hussein and his successors, Kim Jong Il and Mohammad Khatami, look cheap.

Even if we become successful at containing it, tomorrow's terrorism will be more disruptive and harder to contain.

History reveals the demise of civilizations from Rome to Russia which first underestimated its confronters and then self-destructed protecting itself from them.

Is it possible that today's conditions are this bleak? I am still riding the subway and getting to work on time. I just got back from a wonderful European vacation. It depends if you give meaning to our trend of putting more human product into defending against terrorism. Then, the terrorist problem appears, much bigger and growing much faster than the terrorist problem seen by the subway rider and world traveler.

People, and subsequently civilizations, that don't value trends focus on other problems. The cognitive defect that under values trends was also held by many people in the past. We must remove this defect or go to their destinations. We have to understand the temporal nature of our predicament. We have to find behaviors that will change our course. Failure to do so, will make our grandchildren miserable.


Jack Alpert (Bio)     mail to: Alpert@skil.org      (homepage) www.skil.org      Other position papers

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