By Doug Casey
As you know, I think we’re moving into an era of intense international conflict. And during the next ten years, you can plan your life around the US being in the middle of anything and everything that even vaguely resembles a war. It promises to be unpleasant, inconvenient and dangerous.
This article – which is long, but not nearly long enough to cover the subject in as much detail as it deserves – explains why military conflicts are in store, what they’re going to be like and what might be the morality of the matter. This last has some importance, because we’re talking in good part about terror. And, to paraphrase Nietzsche, you may not be interested in terror, but terror is interested in you.
A Matter Of Definition
In discussing any subject, I always like to begin with definitions of a few key words, especially words I hear people using in vague and nebulous ways. Sloppy definitions feed sloppy thinking, and they often disguise the fact that the speaker doesn’t know what he’s talking about. This is especially perverse in that it’s often the case with words that have high psychological impact. "Terrorism" is absolutely one of the worst offenders.
There appear to be over 100 definitions of the word in use by different groups. I suspect one reason there’s no commonly accepted definition is simply that the term has become so useful for people in power, at once a pejorative for enemies and a catch-all for prosecutors. The latter was demonstrated in the 2008 Liberty Dollar case, when a US Attorney characterized the issuance of the silver rounds as "a unique form of domestic terrorism."
Of course that’s a ridiculous assertion that only a fool would make, but the rhetorical accusation places the accused in the same moral class as a child molester. In point of fact, though, what can be presented as terrorism to the popular mind is often just a matter of imagery. Or, perhaps, the moral framework of the audience – which is why I’ll discuss terrorism’s moral character later. The old saw "I’m a freedom fighter, you’re a rebel, he’s a terrorist" is funny because it’s so true.
Let’s look at a couple out of over 100 definitions in use. One of the emptiest and most provincial comes, unsurprisingly, from FEMA: "The use of force or violence against persons or property, in violation of the criminal laws of the US, for the purpose of intimidation, coercion or ransom." This definition would encompass most common crimes; indeed, with more than 5,000 criminal laws on the US government’s books, almost anyone might qualify as a terrorist. Oddly, violating the laws of another country isn’t covered.
The FBI’s definition is much narrower: "The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government or a civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." The key word here is "unlawful," which would seem to imply that if something is lawful, it’s not terrorism. It also implies that if an action has financial motives, it’s not terrorism. So if the 9/11 hijackers had been in it for the money, they wouldn’t have qualified as terrorists.
As an aside, I might mention that of the 32 people on the FBI’s most-wanted terrorists list, 31 have Arabic names.
Almost all the definitions I’ve seen, however, are imprecise, incomplete and/or concocted to make a prosecutor’s life easy. I prefer this definition, which I created: "A tactic of using violence more for psychological purposes than for physical damage and that is intended primarily to delegitimize a regime by showing it to be ineffectual or by inciting it to overreact."
First of all, it’s critical to note that terrorism is a tactic. As such, the idea of a "War on Terror" is nonsensical and absurd. You can’t have a war on a tactic. That would be like a war against frontal assaults, cavalry charges or artillery barrages. Second, the tactic’s operation is mainly psychological. This is important because, as Napoleon observed, "In war, the moral is to the physical as three is to one." Third, terror has political motives – delegitimizing a regime – because it’s a variety of warfare.
Read the rest here.