Academic journal article Military Review

Cashiering Freedom for Security: Lessons in Modern Terrorism

Academic journal article Military Review

Cashiering Freedom for Security: Lessons in Modern Terrorism

Article excerpt

Reflecting on the indispensability of the terrorist technique in 1920, Leon Trotsky, the first Soviet Commissar for War, wrote about the issue while on a military train during Russia's bloody civil war (19181922). Trotsky's pamphlet, Terrorism and Communism, still speaks to those on either side of the ramparts of a "new" kind of war-one with a long, tortured past.1 "War, like revolution, is founded upon intimidation. A victorious war, generally speaking, destroys only an insignificant part of the conquered army, intimidating the remainder and breaking their will. The Red Terror... kills individuals and intimidates thousands."2 The United States is now engaged in just such a war of intimidation-as victim and as avenging angel for the terrorist events of 11 September 2001.

Trotsky knew how to deal with terrorism-take terror to the terrorists. As the price of security, albeit with trepidation and reluctance, U.S. citizens must cashier some freedoms, much treasure, and many lives. Since terrorists have declared a perpetual war on America, America must place itself on a permanent war footing against them.

As a result of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, America is an awakened giant. But even Gulliver was helpless until the Lilliputians released him. Today's Lilliputian terrorists are quite possibly creating the rules of engagement, setting timetables, and doubtless anticipating unifying action from a wounded nation. Attacking foreign and religiously similar civilian populations and their infrastructures only serves the terrorists' agenda.

Civilians, both rich and poor, are hostages to terrorists committing their macabre, cowardly crimes before an appalled global audience. Terrorist groups are also the wellspring of radicalism. Unbridled killing only augments the cadre of martyrs and martyrs-in-waiting. In preventing the coalescing of Islamic forces, who are themselves divided unless united by indiscriminate attack, we may yet act with fury-but not with blind fury.

Sadly, the most savage countermeasures are required for the short term, given that terrorists have access to the means, if not immediately the weapons, of mass destruction. To deter future terrorist aggression and to cut off the head of the focus of terrorist evil in the modern world, we must deliver justice to Osama bin Laden.

To bin Laden's sponsors and followers-those who view Western life as an abomination-thousands of killed and wounded are but a dress rehearsal. Chemical, biological, and possibly tactical nuclear weapons use could be the next logical step. Similarly, even as a coalition unites to face the menace of terrorism, indefensible prey to terrorist cells abounds: water supplies; fragile infrastructure; landmarks; refineries; communications; and ultimately, large, urban population centers. For the terrorist, all means to harm the public are within the Pale.

Thousands of people were killed in the September attacks, but tens and hundreds of thousands of lives are forfeit absent bold (but measured) visionary (but timely) action. Anticipating the retaliation to inevitable military action, the West must be prepared to institutionalize a passport society, suffer racial profiling, possibly federalize security for airlines or regulate them entirely, expand search and seizure, and permit extremes when interrogating suspected terrorists. …

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