Thursday, July 14, 2005

Securing our daily lives

The news about the London perps couldn't possibly be worse, I think everyone can agree: homegrown terrorists, including some who seem to be about as successful and assimilated as you can or even should reasonably hope for in today's tolerant multicultural world. The reason it's terrible is that it will provide ammunition -- and, sad to say, rightly so -- for the Nativists, Know Nothings, and mononationalists everywhere. And that is terrible because it may well result in repressive policies toward cultural minorities of all sorts, despite the fact that it's way too late to put the globalization genie back in the bottle. As a result, all of the mixed people and minorities everywhere will be under threat (and therefore likely to become only more aggrieved) while the flows of humanity will not cease. It doesn't take much imagination to conceive the multiform evil that may flow from this dynamic conjuncture.

When you consider this scenario, you realize all the more what a folly the Iraq adventure has been, what a misplacement of resources and energy away from the securing of our local vulnerabilities. For example, a friend writes this morning:

I took the train yesterday from NY to D.C. -- a first for me -- because of storms in the East. (We're getting closer to the apocalypse, my friend. Five major tropical storms by early July? Locusts are around the corner.) And not to be alarmist but I really was surprised at the lack of security. Not a single metal detector, ID check or even uniformed law enforcement. It would be easy for someone to blow Penn Station to smithereens.
To amplify the point: when I took that DC-NYC train a couple weeks ago myself, I was a half hour late into New York because some kids were fooling around on the tracks somewhere in Jersey. Just think: if some dumbass kids can do that, it's obvious that someone smart and malicious could do something awful. What really underscores the point is that the fellows who just blew up the Tube were more or less an exact sociocultural analog to disaffected New Jersey teenagers.

Guarding against these kinds of risks ought to be obvious, moreover: blowing train lines has long been a preferred guerilla warfare tactic. What we're up against in "Al Qaeda" is, in fact, a highly evolved, network-centric form of guerilla warfare.

What does that say about the way the war ought to be fought? I'm no expert, but if there's another thing that London proves, it's that "taking the fight to the terrorists" with hard military forces is obviously not the answer. Radically decentralized guerilla networks can probably (I say probably, because who really knows) only be penetrated by an equally highly evolved form of policework. What's certain is that building tactical nuclear weapons and missile defense shields (or whatever other nonsense that the 1980s Blue Skies crowd has in mind) is utterly beside the point.


zachawry said...

Your post begs the question: If anyone with an IQ over 80 could put a major crimp in our national infrastucture (a point I don't deny), why hasn't it been done yet?

zachawry said...
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