Terrorism is over. Or we’re at the point where we can say that it’s the end of an era. And that is a terrible thing. What used to have the capacity to ‘terrorize’ us is over. We can argue endlessly about what terrorism is and is not and why it is and why not but what is clear is what it attempts to do in its asymmetrical way; instill moral erosion and emotional trepidation in the target population. Degrade not their ability to fight but their will to. The purpose is fear and demoralization which are sudden and frightening but which are also both long and slow, eventual things. Coupled with the inner softness and naivete of many in the west it results in a weird moral inversion. The kind of inversion you see where feminists and gay rights spokesmen embrace the people actively involved in mass murdering them, for instance. But again, those are far off things; side effects. The point, if one exists, to terrorism is to let the animal in your house. To make you look at the spectacle of gore.
And for a while this worked quite well. We watched the Golden Age of Terrorism unravel as the PLO high jacked airliners and blew them up. High jacked the Olympics, attacked embassies and so forth. Over time though this became less effective and shocking. Ho hum another high jacking. The special intelligence services rounded up another 20 people before they do much harm. So the terrorists switched gears again and attacked buses and trains and pizzerias. We are shocked and horrified but again terrorists tend to overplay their hand and numb us to it. We’re willing to go to extraordinary lengths to address that but what we discover is that the lengths aren’t so extraordinary after all. Another security guard, another pat down, another instance of being alert.
And then they changed tactics again. In fact one could make the case that rocket attacks aren’t terrorism, they’re just war. We know how to ‘do’ war, far better than they do. We build bomb shelters and we send in the drones.
When populations became inured of it though as they always do, terrorists switched gears again and pull a page from the CCCP’s KGB manual and worked to use terrorism to rally public opinion to their side. The narrative of “Why ELSE would desperate people do this unless their cause was just….?” The idea that one can fight a terrorist war almost solely on the pages of the press on TV and online has its appeal. It’s cheap, it’s distributed, anyone can do it and you get to use your enemy’s own value system against them. Any of us who’s ever felt they were swatting at flies understands this. Genocidists, maniacs, anti-Semites, mass murderers and their hangers on are more successful simply SAYING they are just and the Jews (and anyone else you want to stand in as their proxy) are by definition evil.
But as I said, the coupling of that with terrorism is over. Why do I say that is a terrible thing? Because violence is a drug, an addiction. We were shown airliners grounded in Jordan blown up – with no one on them, in 1970 and that was shocking. We heard Leon Klinghoffer was tossed into the sea in his wheel chair and that was shocking. Bus bombings, train bombings, roadside bombings, rocket attacks, and worse stunned us. For a while. But like all addicts and voyeurs, it’s never enough. The consequence of violence is ennui, indifference, being jaded.
Terrorists inherently understand this which is why you no longer see any sort of connection between terrorist acts and anything resembling a goal or objective. We are told, or its implied that we already ‘know’ what they want and we’re left to draw our own conclusions. It could be the Jews, or American foreign policy, or capitalism or pollution or some real or perceived snub to Islam. The point is, there is no ‘is’. There are no longer any objectives. There are comparatively few terrorist acts now. And the few that pop up here and there while shocking don’t drive any results or effects past the immediate terrorist act. Israelis didn’t stop riding the bus, Americans didn’t abandon air travel, Spaniards still ride the train, children still go to school in Sderot.
And that why this is a terrible thing. Terrorism has degenerated into Horror, or Horror-ism, or slasher porn. It has simply become savage atrocities for nothing. It has become its own nihilistic fury. And in doing so it has become acceptable. When atrocities become acceptable then anything goes. There are no more rules in the world. Chopping off someone’s head on YouTube is interchangeable with screaming something in the UN. A pogrom, a genocide, a UN resolution, a blog posting it’s all the same thing.
With ever diminishing returns terrorist have gone insane. In the past few weeks we’ve been treated to decapitations in the street, stabbings at the Eiffel Tower, bombings at sporting events followed by shootouts and people running each other down in the street. We’ve seen whole families in Gaza butchered in honor killings, and Baghdad brothels shot up killing a dozen because ‘prostitution is haram’ (child rape and mass murder and slavery apparently there was no law against that…). Hundreds of people have been blown up across the region in the last 10 days and it’s called ‘instability’. A so called red line about chemical weapons is obviously meaningless. We see people killing and EATING each other on video. Terrorists have to push harder to shock and ‘terrorize’ us.
It’s the crispy edge of sanity, no?
It’s the crispy edge of sanity, no?
In an odd way this is a trap that all the anti Americans, anti-Semites, pro terrorist cheerleaders like Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky fall into. They defend mass murder on the basis of “You do it too, why isn’t that terrorism too?” And of course one could argue the point but the trap they fall into is, even if it is, YOU’VE just made a wonderful case for obscene brutality. The response to war crimes should not be pointing to other war crimes as an excuse.
But there you have it. We have amused ourselves to death and excused and explained the worst excesses of the Dark Ages. We are defending cannibalism. So when the missiles come flying into Israel with sarin or tularemia or botulism or VX in them we’ve ALREADY accepted it. And part and parcel with accepting it is condemning anyone who fights back. Just part of the scenery you know. You Israelis, you Jews, you just have to get used to dirty bombs and eating human lungs, nerve gas and napalm. We are poised on the border of a new conflict which isn’t like many other we’ve ever seen in the modern age. It isn’t a modern conflict at all. It’s tribal. Tribal battles are based on a few basic principles -
- Defense is pointless, just storm over the hill and kill everyone you see after they attack you.
- Perpetrate atrocities because it binds the tribe together
- Perpetrate atrocities because someone has or will do it to you
- Fight to the death
- Killing them all isn’t enough, obliterating them from history is required
- No negotiation ever, about anything
- Mass suicide is acceptable if it kills everyone else
- Enemies are eternal
This I’m afraid is close to where we are. The Arab Spring was never going to grow anything other than jungle vines, poison mushrooms and carnivorous plants. It gave license to barbarism while ‘tolerance’ ran cover for it. The west looked on at these humanitarian wars of peace and, I don’t know, hoped they’d stop on their own? How many wars just stop like that? Any? What happens when the Arab Spring finally comes to Paris and they burn down the Louvre? What happens if after a generation of legitimizing terrorism it mutates into horror porn and descends on the very people who ran cover for it? When will someone get hacked to death with cleavers in the House of Commons? Oh, it’s coming, you know it is. What happens when we finally realize that the self haters aren't ideological morons, they're just cowards who won’t fight back, ever? What do you think happens when people go to jail for smoking cigarettes but are given interviews on CNN when they slaughter children?
If Assad falls then Syria disintegrates into tribal demi states each with weapons each bent on killing everyone, including Israel. If Hezbollah implodes and drags Lebanon into Syria’s tribal war then southern Lebanon becomes a Mad Max wasteland. A nuclear Iran WILL use it on someone. It’s not clear that the Jews are always number one on the list but Israel is always near the top. Maybe it’s Riyadh or Bucharest or Damascus or Cairo or Athens or Ankara or Zagreb or Rome too. It might not matter to Iran. And importantly it does not appear to matter to us or anyone else either. Meh – a nuclear strike on someone – we saw that movie I think Morgan Freeman was President.
We like to comfort ourselves by chanting “Never Again” as if keeping the boogey man at bay will save us. Never mind that since then millions of people have perished in what can only be described as industrial scale genocides that vary from the Holocaust only in fairly minor ways – perhaps the length of time they took or what weapons they used or whether they destroyed ethnicities or people who could read. What they all share is that someone got away with it. It became acceptable. We’re at the point where terrorism and genocide, cannibalism, war crimes, apocalyptic horsemen all, are something less to do about something and more something to debate on the op-ed pages.
We are turning a corner, a corner after terrorism. Because terrorism flourishes where at least someone is still civilized and fearful of losing what they’ve built. We’re close to running past that now where everyone believes they have nothing to lose, little to gain and there no rules except “exterminate them all”.