Tuesday, July 27, 2010


So imagine this: Somewhere in the Rockies or Great Dismal Swamps, a group of heavily armed American men are planning terrorist activities to be carried out by other members of their persuasion throughout the world.  The men are religious fanatics whose interpretations of the Christian holy books are dubious at best and generally frowned upon by more mainline Christians. They call for an end to educating women; they disavow music, the arts, freedom of expression and faith. They use the Internet to make demands upon foreign governments and post videos of beheadings, stonings, and other brutal forms of execution. They kill with impunity. They take and slay hostages. They often use places of worship for recruiting purposes.

Carry this scenario a bit farther: Imagine that in the face of worldwide censure, the US government claims it is powerless to act against such a group because the men are too well hidden, too powerful, and too ready to visit violence on those who oppose them? Is this likely? Probably not. This is because in most nations, including this one, the government operates on the basis of national accountability—not always, of course, and one can find blatant examples of many governments’ disregard or contempt for national responsibility. But by and large, civilized governments respond to the acts of citizens. If a group—any group— threatens the well-being of its own country or other nations, then action is called for.

The concept of governmental accountability in many Third world nations is shaky at best. In places such as Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and to a lesser extent Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Sudan, and the horn of Africa, it is in effect non-existent. Essentially, these nations have abrogated their rights to play a useful role in the international community. They should be shunned but they’re not. They’re pariah states whose economies are rescued and bolstered by international aid, oil or other natural resources, and the business of other nations—supposedly more civilized or rational—who need to increase their spheres of influence.  As such, China is a friend of many outcast states. So is Russia. And so is the United States.

There are no simple answers to the terrorism issue. We are fighting two unsuccessful wars of vengeance which appear to have remarkably little effect on the habits of terrorists and Jihadists. Perhaps it’s time to make the countries breeding and training terrorists, and the nations directly supporting them, responsible for their actions. Blockades, embargos of all goods save food and health supplies, and trade interdictions would not be more expensive to enforce than is the waging of wars on two fronts. In the US, businesses that even indirectly deal with terrorist clients should be persuaded to do otherwise, investigated and if necessary charged and tried.

Alan Keyes, perennial presidential candidate and political activity, said it best in a 2002 speech.  “Every leader, and every regime, and every movement, and every organization that steps across the line to terrorism must be banished from the discourse of civilized human life.”

Amen to that.

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