Look for the root, don’t just react

These two cogent posts address the same subject, we need to understand why terrorism happens, what their motivations are, and get it at the root, rather than flashy useless “security.”

Such security does little except scare people silly and boost state power. Which sometimes seems the point. If we’re serious about it, then understanding that the US is quite capable of terrorist acts is crucial in understanding motivations of suicide bombers. U.S. out of Iraq would seem a real good first step in reducing terrorist attacks. The imperialist designs of the U.S. creates blowback across the planet.

Fighting the war on whatever from Dave Winer

The answer to a distributed war is distributed defense. Instead of hiding from people with brown skin, people who speak funny, who look like terrorists, we need to work with them, because (key point) most of them aren’t terrorists, but they may come from communities that produce them. Do the communities have an inkling that there’s a bomber in the house? On the block? Have we asked? What are the warning signs that a young person has turned? We need to study this, understand it, and then distribute the knowledge, actively, quickly.

I don’t find reassurance in police commissioners talking on TV about new techniques of finding bombs on subways. We won’t find enough of the bombs to alter our psychology. People stayed home for months after 9/11. The airports, restaurants and shopping malls were deserted. The economy really suffered. It will suffer again. Now, while we have a measure of sanity, we need to make being brown and talking strangely interesting and listen. We need to feel that we can solve the problem, that the deaths are not totally in vain, that we’re getting better at preventing the bombing.

Rush Limbaugh and his idiots will want to fight this war with internment camps. Good luck. How big will the camps be? How will you feed the prisoners? And what comes next, when that doesn’t work? Even the dittoheads won’t want to go there, at least most of them won’t.

Let’s hope the families know when a kid turns into a bomber, and have the guts to turn him in. Let’s get them on our side, acknowledge that they want life to get better, not turn to shit. That’s what they’re saying. Now, do we have the guts to listen?

Security expert Bruce Schneier on  NYC searching bags on subways

It’s another “movie plot threat.” It’s another “public relations security system.” It’s a waste of money, it substantially reduces our liberties, and it won’t make us any safer.

Final note: I often get comments along the lines of “Stop criticizing stuff; tell us what we should do.” My answer is always the same. Counterterrorism is most effective when it doesn’t make arbitrary assumptions about the terrorists’ plans. Stop searching bags on the subways, and spend the money on 1) intelligence and investigation — stopping the terrorists regardless of what their plans are, and 2) emergency response — lessening the impact of a terrorist attack, regardless of what the plans are.

Countermeasures that defend against particular targets, or assume particular tactics, or cause the terrorists to make insignificant modifications in their plans, or that surveil the entire population looking for the few terrorists, are largely not worth it.