Same shop as yesterday. You wouldn’t have guessed 🙂
We already have a devil in this post, so let’s talk about devils, shall we? The beginning of the twentieth century was the age of the rise of socialism. The old order in Europe broke, and while socialists rose everywhere, in Russia even a communist revolution succeeded – in a way. We shall return to that.
The 1920’s/1930’s were the time of the big backlash. Fascist movements fetched power in Italy, Spain, Germany and a few other countries. It all culminated in World War II, the defeat of the Nazis, the breakdown of the British Empire, the rise of the United States and the stalemate situation of the Cold War.
Then, around 1990, the Soviet Union died a surprising death, Reagan’s “Evil Empire” fell, the US were the only superpower left and … we had peace since?
No. It couldn’t be. Peace is bad for business. Terrorism had to be invented.
Terrorism is the new devil. Terrorism is the rectification for everything now, terrorism is the evil enemy, and only a vast array of measures can save us from terrorism. May the sum of these measures even look vaguely totalitarian, they are all necessary to save poor children and kittens from the dirty fangs of terrorism.
Well, here we are, this is the age of terrorism.
Now, without any sympathy for terrorism, it may still be interesting to analyze what terrorism is. The “official” definitions generally go along these lines: Terrorism is the use of force or the threat of the use of force against a state’s institutions or its general public, with the intention to influence or change the politics of that state. And here’s the problem: With a definition as vague as this, everything could be considered terrorism that is against the interests of a government or the lobbies behind that government. And worse, it becomes even difficult to see a difference between what acclaimed terrorists do and what states do in “defence of terrorism”. It’s a mess.
Whenever your analysis arrives at such a mess, it’s time to reconsider your concepts.
Terrorism is just war fought with different weapons.
Often it happens in an extremely asymmetric conflict. If you can’t force the Austrians out of your developing Yugoslavian empire, just murder their heir to the throne. If you don’t have a state for your Jewish people, bomb the English occupants and the Arab competition to statehood alike. If you can’t force Israel out of your country and into the Mediterranean, high-jack some airplanes and suddenly the world will listen. In the long run you may even get a state of your own. If you can’t force the troops of a foreign country out of your Holy Land, fly some airplanes into the symbols of their power. You see what I mean.
By the way, in reality there is nothing like a symmetric conflict. Not even the Cold War was. The Cold War was just a situation where the US could not exercise their technological advantages, because in the end it is irrelevant whether you have enough for 30 Armageddons or for 120. You can’t risk a single one.
Terrorism is not always used from a position of weakness though. Hitler’s Germany was not weak when they bombed Coventry to ashes. The US were already winning and they still bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Burning Dresden served no strategic purpose at all. The whole second Iraq war did not eradicate terrorism, much to the contrary, and this must have been clear from the beginning. All that was intended to “shock and awe”.
Terrorism is war. In the case of being the small guy, it may even be the only viable way to fight your war. In the case of being the big guy, it is a calculated, barbarian act.
Are my sympathies with the small guy? Sometimes, yes, most of the time no. They are certainly not with the fanatic Holy Warriers, because if I believe in any holiness, then I believe in the holiness of life, the holiness of the individual, the holiness of humanity. War is not compatible with either of them.
What can we take away from that?
Maybe we should stop believing in buzz-words. Stop believing in the dichotomy of a Good War against Bad Terrorism. It’s both plain war and sometimes plain war is just large-scale terrorism.
Maybe we should stop acting in other people’s interest. Stop fighting wars. Those who want wars never fight them. We do.