On responses to terrorism

Apparently it's conventional wisdom that bombing Daesh/ISIS in Syria and Iraq is an appropriate counter to the attacks in Paris.

This is regrettable in my opinion because it shows how irrational and primitive policy has become (or always been?) in the Western world:

How could bombing a civil war faction on another continent possibly be a counter to French and Belgian nationals committing mass murder in France?

Can there be any doubt that they could do exactly the same if said civil war faction was gone?

To think of Daesh/ISIS as one hostile clan that attacked our hunter-scavenger clan's cave and killed a few people there before our hunter-warriors at the cave killed the attackers appears to be the most intuitive and thus the most powerful interpretation of events.
Too bad it's also a wrong one. The killers were from the own clan, and had merely communicated with some other hunter-gatherer clan which subsequently claimed the kills as its own success.
Is a clan war a promising strategy for increasing security at the own cave?

Sadly, Hollande grossly failed as a leader and went all-caveman and the other clans reluctantly (symbolically) stood by him, everyone is now at a tribal war against that really, really distant Daesh clan that already made more than enough enemies to doom itself anyway. 

On top of that, terrorism is almost entirely propaganda, and very little action. Its damage done is almost entirely in the (over-)reactions, hardly any damage is done directly. 14 people were killed by mass murderers recently in the U.S. - a mere flea bite to a nation of about 320 million people. Tobacco alone accounted for about a hundred times more deaths that day and on every day since, and will likely continue to do so every day for the foreseeable future.

I don't care about those 14 deaths, or the 130 in Paris. Without mass media, I wouldn't have learned about it, much less felt it. I'm not scared that easily.
Many - probably including you, dear reader - now think that I'm heartless or in some other way despicable for not caring.
I hand this accusation back to them (and probably you) a hundredfold, for I'm almost certain they/you didn't care about the more than 2,000 victims of Big Tobacco in the Western World on that day, or every day since.  It's primitive caveman thinking that leads us to pay excessive attention to what amounts to a flea bite.
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Back to action and propaganda. What's an appropriate response hostile party that's 99% propaganda and 1% action so far as it concerns you? It's certainly not 80% action and 20% propaganda - knowing full well that any of our action only fuels their propaganda.
Yet that's what Hollande, his allies and notably the vast majority of U.S. president wannabes intend or already do.
They grabbed their flintstone hand axes, their wooden clubs and charged towards that distant clan. Or more accurately, they told some others to do so, themselves preferring to sit on comfortable pelts next to the camp fire, awaiting the stories of brave combat.
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This leaves one question:  What consequences should be drawn from looking at the mass murderers as members of the own society?

Again, the dominant (most publicised) reaction appears to be caveman-level aggressiveness. The difference is merely that the offending clan is being considered as part of the own tribe and thus some limiting norms have to be observed (unless you're a wannabe U.S.president, apparently).

The central question is thus whether to uphold those (civilisational) norms or not. To not uphold them leads straight to nazi-level discrimination against minorities in my opinion.

Legally, there are few categories of people:
(1) innocents
(2) presumed innocents suspected of having committed a crime
(3) convicted criminals still enduring the punishment
(4) convicted criminals who already endured their punishment

Effort such as "no-fly lists" or the "Gefährder" talk in Germany add an unofficial 5th category: Those who are considered hostile, but not found to be hostile (or criminal) in a due process.

Frankly, I advise against ANY such efforts* because the actual effect of terrorism, the action part, is truly negligible compared to the severity of demolishing civil rights that protect us all. I'm not hysterical enough in face of terrorism to trade substantial freedom for unproven and negligible, likely not even merely subjective, security gains. There's not much real security to be gained because the actual damage done by terrorism is very little anyway, and all the terror hysteria only decimates the subjective (perceived) security.
Terror hysteria serves certain bureaucracies and politicians, not the population.

The Western world with its countries of millions of people needs more sophisticated policy, politics and national discourse than a stone-age hunter-gatherer clan. Sadly, we don't have it when it comes to terrorism.


*: I'm nevertheless fine with airport-run security using an non-government list of people descriptions that leads to more intense security inspection if not addition of non-government onboard security personnel when met by an airline customer.


  1. Military theorists have known since time immemorial that terrorism is mere theater, and no real threat to a stable nation (much less to a superpower). The inordinate obsession with terrorism was deconstructed by documentarys like 'the power of nightmares', but it hasn't done any made any impact on the population at large.

  2. Please stop giving cave dwellers a bad reputation. The current politics are not their doing.
    Shocking events are usually used to push for long held agendas and not for making ad hoc solutions to a problem. Persistemce of the Islamist threats will help enact a lot of üoöitical wishlists. Interestingly, an attack prevented by chance does not lead to similar wishlists to solve a re-occurring problem.

    1. Honestly, I don't see how for example flying a few recce flights with German Tornados over Syria could be part of some agenda. There's not even a noticeable benefit to the industry.
      The German MoD my get a little bit additional attention, but that's actually against the interests of the chancellor who had the last say about this.

      There's very little "agenda" behind all this than possibly "keeping the perception that meddling in foreign countries is normal" alive. A long-held agenda was a good explanation for the Neocons' policies, not so much for Hollande or Merkel in regard to Syria.

    2. It certainly seems clueless, what Germany is currently doing. It is used to do some intervention, which do have quite a bad reputation in Germany. As such, it is longterm making interventions as normal for Germans as for people of the Anglosphere. I see it as a cultural approximation to the common way of acting and doing politics (intervening) of the Anglosphere, that had stalled for some time.

  3. Good text.

    If only politicians treated terrorism in what it really is: an act of crime instead of war. It is far more likely for a French citizen in 2015 to be a victim of "traditional" criminal homicide instead of terrorist one.

    Yet terrorism makes pretty much all of Europe to go wage war in Syria, while France is considered to have an exceptionally low rate of homicide.