Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

A Step Back: Terrorism

On my walk today, I saw a license plate subheader that read “Fight Terrorism.”

And I thought to myself, isn’t that what they want?

There hasn’t been much soul-searching lately regarding what the Bush administration started in 2001–the “war on terror” or “war on terrorism,” depending on your rhetorical pleasure. But let’s take a pause, amidst unprecedented turmoil in the Middle East, to reflect on what the future of our engagements with the rest of the world might look like.

Terrorism engaged in by extremists is, by definition, a marginal activity. It is a tool used by the deranged to gain attention for a cause.

If you give attention to that cause–in other words, if you give in–you have just helped those extremists accomplish their goal. When the United States of America responded so violently and wholly to the dastardly terrorist attacks of 9/11, they allowed Osama bin Laden and cronies to proclaim “mission accomplished.” This was an unfortunate miscalculation for US foreign policy.

What we effectively proved was that, if you hit us hard enough, we will respond. If you want your extremists views to be heard on the world stage, our reaction told every sicko from Caracas to Cairo that all you have to do is hit the United States (or her allies) hard enough. That is a terrible precedent to set.

What would a better response have been? While hindsight is–of course–20/20, learning from our mistakes will help foster better decisions in the future.

We knew right away that Osama bin Laden and the harboring Taliban were responsible for the attacks on our homeland. Surgical airstrikes–like those supported by President Ronald Reagan against Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi (sound familiar?) in 1986–might have fulfilled our desire to fight back.

But what is more powerful–to acknowledge the extremists and launch a quarter-million troops to their delusional chagrin, or to brush yourselves off, lend your neighbors and fallen brethren your hand and rise above those who would seek to strike you?

The United States held an unprecedented opportunity in 2001: defeat terrorism by rising above the fray. Take care of the perpetrators without giving credence to every crazed lunatic with a small following and an RPG. Yet we did the opposite.

As we engage in military operations over Libya, and as the Middle East embroils itself in internal conflict and strife, let us remember that the most powerful actions aren’t administered from aircraft carriers or Army tanks; the most powerful response is having the will-power and restraint to forge a world where a man with a gun cannot hold us all hostage.

(Original post on The Journeying Progressive)


  1. Or argue, or engage. It’s nothing more than bullyism, and you treat it the same way. What does the bully want more than anything?

    To influence your orbit.

    Since 9/12/2001 I have been cringing at our collective willingness to allow our orbits to be changed. Never, ever, in daily life do I play into the orbital mechanics of bullies. There is no win in turning towards them (nor honor or glory or satisfaction, if you care about those things) unless it is under your own direction driven by your own intention.

    Don’t we learn anything in the schoolyard? Bullies don’t want you to walk a certain way or talk a certain way, they just want to know they have the power to change the way you walk or talk. Not for anything can you afford to give them that power. We can much less afford to allow terrorist punks to change us than we can schoolyard punks, the mentality is the same but the price is much higher.

Comments are closed.