Monday, August 14, 2006

How Afraid Should You Be?

I don't really like the title of the link, but the body of the text is a very important read. The study refrenced in the article is even more important.

The bottom line is, terrorism doesn't kill many people. Even in Israel, you're four times more likely to die in a car wreck than as a result of a terrorist attack. In the USA, you need to be more worried about lightning strikes than terrorism. The point of terrorism is to create terror, and by cynically convincing us that our very countries are at risk from terrorism, our politicians have delivered utter victory to the terrorists: we are terrified.
Hat tip to MSNBC's Clicked.

5 comments:

Dante said...

What, me worry? Are you really terrified? Is anyone really terrified? We're being inconvenienced at most. Terror is hardly the word. Annoyance would be a much better descriptor.

There was almost another terroriest attack and I think the governments in both the US and Britain did a good job here. Yes, their logic was flawed to a degree and it would seem they were hypersensitive to the situation. However, they made a big enough deal out of the situation that the remaining unaccounted-for terrorists backed down from following through with their plans (at least for now). I liked the melodramatic approach.

And yes you are very much more likely to die in a car accident than from terrorist attack, even in Israel but I just don't buy into the conclusion reached. Following the stated logic, perhaps we should've left Fen-Phen on the market. After all, very few people actually died from the diet medication. You're much more likely to get hit by a bus. And does lead paint really kill anyone? Let's just get over it and let them put what they want in paint. And don't get me started on asbestos. You just can't get good cheap brakes nowadays just because a few people here and there died of cancer. And how many people actually successfully detonate explosives they being with them on planes? Most of them just end up setting their shoes on fire. And that bomb could end up destroying the computer module that is sending you towards the sun so it may even be a good thing that someone brought it along. People are dying in droves in automobile accidents and here we are worried about all this little stuff.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Of course they agencies involved with the takedown of the London group did an excellent job. They identified the problem, got the proper warrants, initialized surveillance, infiltrated the group and judged the threat reasonably to maximize the effectiveness of the takedown.

But, I don't think the point of the article is 'don't worry, be happy' by any strech of the imagination. It is: "be vigilant, but don't hyperventilate."

The point of the article is to ratchet down the very real hysteria that some folks have developed in response to media sensationalism and government mouthpiece overreaction. The point is to look at terrorism as a real problem with real causes and real solutions and not as some boogeyman that makes us incapable of response.

RightOnPeachtree said...

True, but what concerns me most is the possibility of an apocalyptically suicidal Muslim freakazoid like Admadinejad getting nuclear weapons. That is a real concern. The other stuff is less of a threat.

A nuke, properly placed, could wipe out millions of people in a split-second.

Similary, I'm concerned about our country's ability to handle a nuke or a nuclear threat. Could we shoot down a nukified missile? Will our leaders be asleep at the switch? Would we overreact? Would we underreact (okay, that's not likely)? Also, how would other nuclear countries react? The chain reaction of responses could be catastrophic.

Also, the visceral feeling of anger/defiance that we get from something like a plane bombing or 9/11 is very powerful. I don't think it's as much about being afraid as it about being punked by punks or being made to change our way of life. And for me, it's mostly about anger that these cockroaches who live to die in order kill us even exist. And it is, in part, about my incredulity that others around the world don't recognize this threat and nip it in the bud (hat tip to Fife).

So, for me, it's more about anger and disgust than fear.

dadvocate said...

The primary time I think about terrorism, unless it's on the radio or TV, is when I go by the Federal Building in Cincinnati. And, then I'm thinking more about a Timothy McVeigh type.

I believe a lot of politicians like to talk it up because it gives them justification to increase the governments power and control over us. A lot of people go into politics because they like having power and control over others.

Aside from the nuclear potential rightonpeachtree mentions, the threat of terrorism in this country is probably overblown.

Patrick Armstrong said...

The possible nuclear threat from Iran.

1. They have the bomb. They still have no delivery vehicle that can strike us. They could hit Israel with it, but any nuclear strike against Israel would kill more Muslims than Israelis. That's not even taking into account the possibility of Western response, or a miss that destroys the Al-Asqua Mosque.

2. They have the bomb. But, the President wouldn't actually control the parts of the military responsible for nuclear control. Ahedminejad may be suicidal, but the Ayatollahs and Mullahs are not: they desperately want their Islamic Revolution to survive. They have not survived 1500 years of Sunni opression to give it up because 'the Beard' is crazy. Even the high percentage of the Iranian population that wouldn't mind the annihilation of Israel would definitely mind the annihilation of Iran at the hands of a Western response. Never underestimate the spectre of MAD that comes along with playing with nuclear weapons. If 'The Beard' mysteriously dies, we should be concerned because they have the bomb, but we should not freak out because it would be in the hands of rational actors. (The more irrational actor is still, and will always be, Pakistan)

3. They have the bomb. Doomsday Scenario, They get it into the US somehow, through all the barriers we have in place, and over the objection of conservative members of the Islamic Republic who do not want to die. (If the news begins to report mysterious deaths of the Ayatollahs, we should worry about this seriously) They detonate in our most crowded population center, New York City, vaporizing up to 15-20 million Americans instantly. The result is devestating, but America survives.

NATO activates Chapeter 7(?) "an attack on one is an attack on all." The entire nation of Iran is eliminated from remote, killing all 65 million in a half hour. Russia, China & India, having recieved word of both the attack on the US, and the response from NATO, do nothing because Iran crossed the line first. The world begins picking up the pieces, and no one messes with the US for a generation, and never again with NBC's.

4. We survived Stalin with the bomb, and he killed what? 50 million of his own people. He weren't exactly the model of sanity. We survived Mao with the bomb, and he killed all his professionals in the Cultural Revolution, again, not a good case for sanity. We survived the most dangerous nuclear situation when the old Soviet Union broke up, and no one actually had control of the weapons.

Iran with the bomb ain't a good thing, but neither is it the end of the world. And I still think they aren't close, as the internal strife will uptick significantly once weapons are actually developed. I think the biggest nuclear problem is Pakistan, who's government control is shaky, and actually could get taken over by suicidal people.