The Different Nature of Terrorism and Terrorist Threats Post 9/11 and the Implications of These Differences
The new kind of homicidal/suicidal terrorist values neither life nor the future viability of civilization. This new kind of terrorist manifests neither humanity nor conscience. They appear to have no moral compass or sense of the sanctity of life. Perspectives that were typical concerning the behavior of terrorists prior to 9/11 can no longer be viewed as being applicable. There is no way of predicting with any degree of certainty what any one of this new kind of terrorist, any group of such terrorists, or any network of terrorist groups might do. Will they go after hard targets, soft targets, mixes of these, or will they simply make threats and use fear to try to undermine the stability of society? A fairly thorough cataloguing of possible terrorist actions already exists. A vast amount is now known regarding the past and present intentions of the terrorists. Surely efforts to learn more need to continue in order to deter, kill, or apprehend and bring terrorists to justice. But how much more comprehensive or detailed does our knowledge need to be in order for us to take effective action when it comes to emergency preparedness and contingency planning and taking steps to strengthen our security? There are only so many kinds of protective and preventive measures that can be taken. Why not begin by doing what we can do based on what we already know needs to be done? Why not plan to enhance our efforts when it is possible to do so? Once basic preparedness steps have been taken, additional questions might be asked. What can be done now based on what is currently known regarding weapons and tactics that could conceivably be used? What can be done now based on what is currently understood concerning the potential impacts of such weapons and tactics? In what ways could additional information conceivably alter basic actions that are needed now? Why not attend as fully as possible to basics now? The fact is that anything could happen at any time. The government's Ready Campaign launched in February of 2003 is a first step in the right direction. But there are numerous other preparedness approaches and initiatives, some of which have long track records. FEMA's community-based program model known as Project Impact is but one example. Other preparedness efforts undertaken during 1998 and 1999 for Y2K by FEMA and the Red Cross, as well as the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion could also be used as models or built on. The Citizen Corps, even if the program is not funded by Congress, could be implemented in some form. Our challenge is to continue to do what can be done now to address the problems, threats, and challenges we face, while keeping our focus on our goals of strengthening our national economic, personal, and societal security to the extent possible.
We are in a different ballgame post 9/11. There are no clear rules. Today's terrorists have stated and demonstrated their intent to destroy life without concern for even their own lives. They have been clear that there is no way that they can be appeased. There is nothing that can be done to change them from their destructive course of action. The implications that such aberrant behavior has for the future stability of the world are grave indeed. The full implications have yet to sink in fully. As others have said, "This is not your father's war."
The reason that any of this is important is that how the problem is understood can affect our motivation to take action.
In the Volume 1 of the Discourses, Meher Baba addressed the subject of non-violence and violence. He wrote that in a situation in which a mad dog is in a school yard, that a mad dog must be subdued using violence in order to protect the weak. This analogy seems to me to be wholly applicable to the homicidal/suicidal terrorists in the world today: Today's homicidal/suicidal terrorists can be seen as the mad dogs and the nation and the world as the school yard. The threat they pose is increased exponentially owing to their willingness to used weapons of mass destruction and disruption to achieve their destructive goals. It behooves us to do all in our power to rid ourselves of the threat they pose and to take defensive action in face of the attacks that we have suffered. At the same time we need to be doing all we can to strengthen and secure our situation. If we fail to act, our future and the future of generations to come will be in ever increasing jeopardy.
There can be multiple reasons for the fact that so many seem to be oblivious to the changes in the world that have occurred as a result of 9/11 and the implications of these changes. One of the reasons can be a certain naivete concerning human nature and the assumption that surely what we have seen to date have been isolated examples of aberrant behavior. For others, they may simply be disinclined or reluctant to recognize the full extent of the challenges and threats that face us. They may be in a state of denial. Yet another reason can be a deeply embedded assumption that taking action based on the results of traditionally accepted modes of analysis somehow holds the key to our security, that such approaches will allow us to control the situation that we find ourselves in and they can be relied on to do so in the future. Many seem to believe that action taken base on the use of these modes of analysis that have been so widely relied on in more stable times will somehow get us out of the situation that we are presently in. They may be acting on the assumption, if not the hope, that a reliance on such approaches can in and of themselves somehow make things right.