Ockham’s Razor – Since October 2001 – by Scott Kirwin
Here’s the link.
I need to post more links to my work over there.
I read your post at Dean’s World, but I thought I’d respond here because I don’t feel like being “swarmed”.
Two of your arguments concerning the GWOT is (1) If we weren’t fighting them there, we’d be fighting them here, and (2) There hasn’t been an attack on American soil since 9/11.
These are both common arguments and both arguments make me roll my eyes.
The terrorists were attacking us long before 9/11 without much success. There was the previous attack on the WTC and the attack on the USS Cole. We were basically doing nothing to defend ourselves and their attacks were so ineffective as to hardly gain much notice.
And when it comes to 9/11, the science fiction writer and scientist, Dr. David Brin, summed it up pretty accurately (IMHO).
Years ago, on NPR, he stated that we didn’t have a security breakdown on 9/11; we had a “doctrine” breakdown. We’d all been told that if we’re ever in a hostage-type situation (which is what a hijacking is), we are to do what the hostage-takers tell us if we hope to come out alive. That’s exactly what the passengers of the first three planes did. The passengers of the forth plane changed that doctrine once they realized what happened to the first three planes.
As far as the hijackers themselves. They did not storm the planes with guns or explosives. They boarded with (at the time) perfectly legal 4-inch boxcutters.
As lax as our security was; not just at airports, but the country as a whole, the best these guys could do is board the planes with legal “sharp objects” and convince the passengers that they were victims of a “normal” hijacking where as soon as their demands were met, they’d return to the airport.
That’s the long and the short of it. And yes, the end result was unbelievably, incomprehensibly horrific. But the country wasn’t and isn’t “under siege” by terrorists. I find it laughable when I hear “there hasn’t been a terrorist attack on our soil since 9/11 because of our war on terror.” Although we’ll never know, I bet my bottom dollar that had we done nothing there would still be no attack on our soil.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite glad we destroyed the terror camps in Afghanistan and collapsed the Taliban controlled government. But it saddens me that so many of our citizens have bought (hook, line and sinker) the nonsense of these terrorist boogeymen that might be hiding under our beds at night unless we spend endless resources going into country after country to rout them so our people can sleep safe and sound at night.
It saddens me because this administration (and any future administration) can now use this perfectly, and brilliantly, created enemy to frighten the people the way an adult can scare a child with a make-believe monster. This enemy is countryless, and formless, and invisible. Like with Santa Claus, you better be good because he’s making a list and checking it twice. Like Yahweh, you better believe in his son or you won’t be in the Book of Life. And like this government, you better give them carte blanche on fighting this war or Osama and his boys are “gonna gitcha’”
It’s brilliant. Brilliant. But very, very sad.
And Scott, I’m not a bleeding heart liberal. I wasn’t back when you were, and I’m not now.
Maybe I’m just too jaded to believe the government anymore. I don’t know, but man oh man, this GWOT smells like a con job to me.
I understand your reasoning and natural distrust of the government. You’re not a liberal – you’re a libertarian and that distrust comes with the territory.
However I don’t believe in any entity called “the government.” Maybe it’s something that I’ve learned working for large multi-national corporations, or learned second hand from people who actually work for “the gov’t.” There simply isn’t one, single-minded entity that plans and acts upon a set of conscious goals.
In my eyes the government and large corporations are more like mindless amoebas controlled by a set of laws – whether of the biological or legal variety.
One thing I might ask is: How do you disprove your belief?
If a terrorist attack happens tomorrow, couldn’t you say that the gov’t either did it or allowed it to happen in order to keep the war going?
I see Islamic fascism as a long-term problem with its roots in the failure of Arab nationalism after Nasser’s death in 1970. Terrorism is a misnomer – it’s more of a clash of ideologies similar to that we had with Communism and Nazism.
You see that too, however you downplay the attacks prior to 9-11 and pretty much say that Mohammed Atta et al got lucky that day. I see that attack more as a continuum of increasingly deadly attacks that started with the Iranian embassy takeover.
I’m not saying that you are wrong; I’m saying that your argument is rational being that it fits the evidence so far. However if an attack like at the Glasgow airport last weeks happens (BTW the Wife was in the UK during those attacks – but I wasn’t worried), would you see it as part of an ongoing effort to use terror for political gain – OR would you see it as a gov’t conspiracy?
Don’t forget also that terrorist attacks have a tendency to do much more psychological than physical damage.
Thank you for your well thought out reply.
I agree that the government is not one single-minded entity that plans or acts upon a set of conscious goals.
I think the way to disprove my belief is to show me that anything real has been done to make us safer since 9/11. And if so, have these real measures thwarted any terrorist attacks?
We’re told that terrorist attacks have been prevented do to increased national security. All of this is taking place out of sight so we have no real evidence.
Yet six weeks ago, a man with tuberculosis, who was on the no-fly list and had his passport flagged managed to waltz right into the country. With all the supposed security measures in place, how did that happen?
Scott, it seems to me that you’re trying to pigeon-hole me into saying that if a terrorist attack occurs that either the government did it or allowed it to happen. That’s way too simplistic.
I’m sure the terror threat is very real. However, I don’t think its as “real” as we’re led to believe. Remember the film, Reefer Madness? Remember how it characterized pot smokers? It was hysterical lunacy.
Last year in one of your commentaries, you wrote that you voted a straight Republican ticket and stated, “Better red than dead.”
If that doesn’t sound like living in fear, I don’t know what does.
Before I live like that, I need to see some real evidence.
I see where you’re coming from and I sympathize. However you’ve got me trying to prove a negative: Why haven’t there been more terrorist attacks?
Imagine that we were having this same conversation in Dec 1944 about the war with the Japanese. “Since Pearl Harbor there hasn’t been one successful attack on the US by the Japanese, yet we have thrown four hundred thousand men to their deaths fighting them.”
In 1944 wouldn’t you have had a similar viewpoint as today? What about in Aug 1945 after we bombed Hiroshima?
My point is that while you’re in the midst of an event in history, it’s very hard to determine its scope. It’s only when an event is over and we begin to view it in its entirety that we can judge it accurately.
I think you missed your point about my original post. If I am wrong people like me will be made fun of just as today cartoons like American Dad make fun of those holding the Cold War mentality. Aside from the soldiers prosecuting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, no one here will be harmed.
If you are wrong, however, then, well… I suppose you can look at Israel and Lebanon to see what life will be like. Terrorism is all too real there. Plus since you distrust the government, and the government is all that stands between you and a terrorist, you’ll be in a jam.
I don’t live in fear because I don’t distrust my government and the military. However should the Carter wing of the Democrats take over the government, then trust me, I’ll start living in fear.
PS: Out of curiosity, what do you think about the terrorist attacks in the UK?
The bombing of Pearl Harbor is completely different. It was a military attack on a military site. It wasn’t an attack on an office park.
I’d already commented earlier that Atta and his boys didn’t storm the airports with guns and explosives and hijack the planes. They had to do it subversively. The only thing subversive about Pearl Harbor is that it was a sneak attack. Other than that it was clearly a military attack.
My views on the UK attacks are pretty much the same as the attacks on us. Like I said, terrorism is a real problem but I see our government benifiting by keeping our hysteria level high. And I think its just hype.
You made a comment that I find somewhat disturbing. You say that if you are wrong then nobody gets hurt, but if I’m wrong, well…
That’s the exact (absolutely exact!) argument made by a fundamentalist Christian. I’ve heard it a thousand times. If the Christian is wrong in what he believes, what’s the harm. But if the atheist is wrong, well, he’s going to burn in hell forever.
Now I believe you’ve said, at one point on your blog, that you’re an atheist. My guess is you don’t buy that line of reasoning when arguing/debating about religion. And I don’t buy it when arguing/debating about terrorism.
Asymmetric warfare is still warfare. Bin Laden declared war on us in 1996, and al-Qaeda propaganda uses militaristic terms to describe its operations.
So al-Qaeda is at war with us, but you don’t think we should be at war with them?
And should we gauge truth solely on who benefits from an event? Cops benefit from crime, since the latter leads taxpayers to spend more on the former. Do you think the police are drumming up the crime threat to stay in business? That’s what you are accusing the military and the Bush Administration.
I’d agree with you if our foe was Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. However consider what we know:
Al-Qaeda wants to attack us. They make videos and statements to that effect. Al-Qaeda follows a doctrine that views as apostates, and a direct challenge to their religious beliefs.
Al-Qaeda attacks our troops daily in Iraq. Al-Qaeda and it’s allies the Taliban attack NATO forces daily in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda fired a shoulder launched missile at an El Al flight in Kenya in 2003. Al-Qaeda attempted to down a plane in Dec 2001 using a shoe-bomb.
Al-Qaeda killed 3,000 US civilians on 9-11.
Prior to 9-11 al-Qaeda conducted attacks on the USS Cole, the US Embassies in Tanzania, and two barracks attacks in Saudi Arabia.
That doesn’t even include the Madrid bombings and UK attacks in ‘05, and the most recent attacks in the UK.
You’re comfortable brushing these facts aside as “hype”?
What would it take for you to believe al-Qaeda?
What would convince you that we were truly in a war with them?
Would they have to command an army? Wear a uniform? Hold territory? These are tokens of conventional warfare, whereas we are in an unconventional war.
Sure they are small – but so is a virus, and a virus can still kill a much larger, more complex organism.
You shouldn’t judge a threat solely on size; you have to consider what it is capable of.
As for religion, yes I’m still an atheist. I’m not resorting to faith. I don’t need to. I see what’s happening in a historical context – namely that we are involved in another great battle between civilizations: Islamic Fascism vs. Secularism.
I believe that there is one reality, and that it is objective and able to be explained. However smart people like you and me can view the same data and come to two different conclusions. Either one of us is right or both of us are wrong. Visits like this one and comments like yours convince me that keeping an open mind is critical.
And that was one of the points of the essay..
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