“We will go on as if nothing happened!”. The masses cheer this sentiment on and the talking heads clap each other on their shoulders. We didn’t allow terrorism to change out political debate. We didn’t allow the terrorists to change us or our way of life. We won, end of story. Except that we didn’t.
To understand terrorism, you must be able to look at the different layers in its complex structure. Terrorism is rarely primarily about indiscriminate mass killing. The killing usually serves an end, these goals are what we must focus on if we are to effectively combat this evil. Terrorism can be defined as the use, or threats of use of violence in the furtherance of political aims. A regular bank robbery with hostage taking isn’t terrorism, it is violent crime. If the same bank robbers took hostages and demanded something from the political establishment in exchange for the lives of the hostages, then we are dealing with terrorism. Bank robberies can also be used to fund terrorism, ISIS has done this.
Mass killing is important to villainous people because it is necessary to spread their message and it serves as fuel to their political aims. How many people remember acts of terrorism with a single casualty or small handfuls? Only the statisticians at police headquarters. The 9/11 terrorist attacks succeded in drawing the US into a costly and protracted war due to the amount of deaths and devastation. If they had a significantly smaller number of people, the response would have been proportionally lessened. This drives the escalation in terms of methods and tactics. More destruction and carnage prompts bigger responses or bigger concessions from authorities. This twisted logic makes perfect sense when it comes to terrorism.
The terrorists didn’t win on 9/11, they won in the aftermath when the US committed to a costly, never-ending war that continues to drain the treasury and the moral fiber of the nation. The security industrial complex that followed continued to be a drain on the nation’s economic productivity. Regular crime or “lesser” terroristic acts can’t accomplish political goals of this magnitude. The terrorists can’t force these responses, they come internally from the victims themselves. Labeling terrorists as dumb, uninformed, brainwashed or rag-tag is doing a disservice to our own society. Underestimating the collective enemies of decency only gives them room to operate.
We in the West often fail to see or respond to these dimensions and different layers. We usually only look at terrorism through a surface level military lens. The West is overwhelmingly superior when it comes to conventional military hardware, gear and personell. A slingshot can’t win against ICBMs. But the weapons of terrorists aren’t their kalashnikovs, IEDs, grenades and so on. Their weapon is the political theater they orchestrate in order to prompt a specific desired reaction. The warlords of Somalia couldn’t defeat the US forces in conventional battle during the Clinton intervention. What they did instead was to kill a sufficient number of US troops and to do so in such a manner that they could undermine the political will of the US to continue their presence. That is how they accomplished their goals.
To a large extent the West has fallen hook, line and sinker for the terrorist’s traps. Not only are they killing us, draining our piggy banks, undermining our moral and cultural fibers, but they are making us attack ourselves with cries about “islamophopia”, xenophobia and so on. That is the evil genius behind seemingly random acts of terrorism. ISIS knows excactly what they are doing when they use barbarism to kill, instead of cheap and effective bullets. In the grand scheme of things one death is nothing, but put the hostage in an orange jumpsuit and cut off his head/burn him alive/drown him in a steel cage, then you have a political tool through weaponized barbarism.
If we take an overhead view of the current situation, the West can’t effectively use their strenghts against the terrorists. The superior technology of remotely piloted missile armed drones creates more new terrorists than they kill, when they inevitably kill brothers, sisters, parents, cousins and so on. Sadly, the Western world is moving full speed ahead when it comes to deconstructing itself and allowing the slow and methodical Muslim takeover through demographic replacement. If they weren’t so abhorrently evil, one could almost admire the successfulness of the terrorists.
Free speech also has been a major victim of terrorism. Speech codes, non-governmental suppression of dissent and the endless cries about hate speech tells us the sad legacy of our age of terrorism. Until we decide to start fighting on the correct battlefields, the long and steady march of terrorism will only continue.