The Terrorism Dialectic

It started out with clarity. Terrorists would attack innocent people for no apparent cause. They were the bad guys. It was simple.

Except they didn’t like us because we supported—and sometimes installed—brutal dictators in their countries. So, they were killing our soldiers—but also innocent civilians, which was beyond the pale.

In any case, we reacted. We struck back. We killed them and their innocent bystanders. But that was okay because we didn’t mean to. They were just collateral damage.

Except the dead bystanders didn’t see it that way. They became angry and committed themselves personally to strike back at us.

So, we steeled ourselves for attacks from overseas terrorists who hated us so much that they’d travel thousands of miles to kill us. And, when they came here, they attacked military targets and civilians with equal fervor.

These guys coming here to kill us were crazy, so we invaded their countries and overthrew the dictators who wouldn’t do what we told them. And, with all the death we rained from the sky, whole populations who never thought much about us before became enraged and joined with our enemies.

Well, that would not do. These attacks were out of control so we put together a hugely expensive Homeland Security apparatus, which eliminated any civil liberties and looked everywhere for terrorists. We made suspected terrorists disappear, sometimes getting it right and sometimes just torturing an unlucky goat herder.

And still the attacks didn’t stop. They continued to spread to more and more counties with our allies getting attacked, too.

Clearly, we weren’t being tough enough. So we vowed to expand and intensify things, watching and threatening anyone who vaguely looked liked our enemies or nominally shared their religious beliefs.

Incredibly, our enemy expanded from a relatively small band of violent radicals to a significant portion of Islamic people who, heretofore, were simply living their normal lives and rarely gave the West a thought.

We’ve drawn the obvious conclusion. It’s time to escalate. Right?