Friday, November 20, 2015

Are We Even Asking the Right Questions With Refugees?

For people who still think that we should continue trucking in refugees without stopping to have a serious think about it:

I am not just afraid of the refugees (or rather, of the relatively small number of refugees who are likely to be a threat), I am also afraid of us and of where this might lead. Let's say that the overwhelming majority of the refugees are wonderful people and only 4 terrorists sneak in and start killing people in Southwest Missouri. Let's even say that it is not as bad as what happened in Paris (which is likely).

How would our people respond? After Paris, French and even Americans are demanding more intense bombing in Syria. France, the US, and Russia have all intensified their bombing raids and people are cheering. Do most people even care if the bombs will help solve the problem? Do most people stop to ask if the right people are being blown up or what the moral cost is with the women and children who are also dying? Maybe it is worth the cost, maybe it is going to be effective, but do we stop to ask?

Most people do not have a Syrian in their neighborhood to take the anger out on. Syria is far away and the government acts as our proxy. We would like to think that they are acting with restraint and targeting the attacks, for instance, to avoid hospitals run by international humanitarian missions. Maybe they are, maybe they are not.

What happens after an attack in our cities when we have a handy group of Syrian refugees to take out the anger on?

Ask yourself whether some of our hotheads are going to stop and ask whether those particular refugees are really at fault. What happens here when we have American police having to decide whether to fire on American citizens attacking Syrian refugees in retaliation for dead Missourians killed by Syrians. Ask yourself who moderate Muslims will side with after pictures of Americans attacking refugees are played over and over on international news.

Don't think this can happen? You maybe have not paid attention: to the fact that Sikhs (who are not even Muslim) were mass-murdered in Milwaukee after 9-11, or that a Mosque in Joplin was burned to the ground after that same community actively volunteered to help victims of The Tornado. Or that Evangel in Springfield had to close an event related to refugees because of someone who wrote something they absolutely *should not* have written. Maybe you missed the Muslim family who had their house shot up while they were (fortunately) attending an event in support of the Paris victims. Maybe you have not been paying attention to what Trump has been advocating which belongs more in '30s Germany than in America. If we go through with this, Trump's solution is going to get much more popular. Could we live with that and call ourselves Americans? I know that I could not.

We need to stop and think this through. Very, very carefully.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Inviting Terror and the "This is WAR" meme

Got a chance while sick this weekend to pick up and plow through more of Furedi's "Invitation To Terror: The Expanding Empire of the Unknown" which has been a breath of perspective on the whole Global War On Terror thing. His work cuts through much of the terrorism hype of the last several decades and the myth of a "new terrorist" which threatens global catastrophe. The threat of terror is real and must be understood, but it is not fundamentally any different than the threat of terror which has existed for decades--- even a century--- before 9/11.
One of the things Furedi gets into is the sheer terror of biological/chemical attacks during the Clinton Administration following his reading of a Richard Preston docudrama (some of Preston's books are quite good--- if taken with a grain of salt) and how this likely lead to bad foreign policy decisions across the board. Biological or chemical terror, along with nuclear terror, has been predicted for decades and is an actual potential, *but* the examples we have to date are mostly proof that it is an extremely difficult tool for a non-state actor (or even a state actor) to use effectively. The Tokyo subway attacks using Sarin gas were alarming, but ineffective delivery of the toxin lead to only twelve deaths instead of the hundreds which were possible. The 9/11 terrorists did not even attempt high-tech Weapons of Mass Destruction but resorted to fairly crude means which were available to terrorists 60+ years before. Even that required sending their operatives to the United States for advance training before they could pull it off.
Overselling the threat and turning it into a Global War on Terror goes bad places. It justifies jettisoning our principles of liberty and civil rights to the curb, but that is just where it starts. Having worked in the Pentagon, I have heard the "this is War" meme before--- only rarely from the military but almost always actually from the civilians, the contractors, mercenaries, and bureaucrats who have the most to gain from war and the least to lose. It dehumanizes the enemy in order to justify depravity. Then comes the "If you are not with us, you are against us," meme to expand that list of enemies beyond what can be supported by fact or reason. Finally is "sacrifices must be made" to visit that 'war' on people who have no conceivable relationship to 'the enemy' and never did. In so doing, we sometimes do the terrorists' jobs better than they could ever hope to do. Some of those mistakes and near-mistakes are the stuff of nightmares.
Somewhere we need to have balance in our approach to the real threats we face. We need to keep our eyes open and prepare for danger without issuing an invitation to be terrorized, without doing the terrorists work for them.

Furedi's book is well worth the read, covering not just the twisted US politics of the War on Terror, but also that of the UK and offering insights on a more rational approach. [Frank Furedi. Invitation To Terror: The Expanding Empire of the Unknown. Continuum Books. UK. 2007]