The futility of it all

Some folks go on and on about how it’s futile to try and fight “terrorism”. It’s futile to argue with them.

David Bernstein notes something Glenn Greenwald wrote.


Do you know of anyone who actually believes that at the end of this Israeli attack, there will be no more Hamas, or no more rockets?

Hey…what is that over there? Yeah, over there. I’m not sure, but it looks like a strawman.

Terrorism ends when the causes of it are addressed, typically via diplomatic means. That’s what history proves. I know that’s not as spectacular or exciting or blood-pumping as watching people you hate and their children get incinerated by bombs dropped from on high, but it’s still how it is.

Ah. It’s the “causes” which are to blame, and “causes” in this case mean something done by the victims of terrorism. This seems to be bordering dangerously close to “the United States deserved 9/11 because its foreign policies forced the hand of the terrorists.” (Okay, okay. It’s exactly like that.)

Convenience store owners who have been robbed at gunpoint should figure out a (different) way of getting some of their money into the hands of criminals? Is that how to address armed robbery?

How about serial killers? Rapists? Child abusers? Is there a diplomatic means available to end those horrors? Even if it’s less “spectacular or exciting or blood-pumping” than law enforcement and self-defense, I’d support it in the cases where it has a chance.

How about Nazi Germany? Should their “need” for more territory have been addressed diplomatically instead of with spectacular, exciting, blood-pumping bombs and guns? And, speaking of the Nazis, how about their attempted genocide of the Jews? What did armies and air forces do that a few kind words couldn’t have.

And, in case you weren’t paying attention, there go those Jews again. Why do they keep making people hate them so much?


According to Hamas itself, the “cause” of Hamas’s terrorism is the very existence of Israel. Hamas spokesmen will occasionally raise the possibility of a long-term “hudna,” but then they are usually contradicted by others in Hamas, and in any event they acknowledge that the hudna would only be a temporary step toward the ultimate “liberation of all of Palestine.” So, there is really only one pure “diplomatic” solution to the problem of Hamas terrorism, and that is for Israel to capitulate.

Well, that’s (Israeli surrender) exactly what the point is, but never mind.

I don’t think anyone thinks the Israelis are totally 100% without blame here. No more than anyone thinks American foreign policy is perfect. But terrorism instantly de-legitimatizes you and makes you a valid target.

Can some of the less extreme groups be negotiated with? Then do so. You don’t have to be friends, just come to an acceptable agreement and stick to it. That’s how grown-ups get things done. That’s how you get taken seriously. That’s how everyone can come out ahead. But “acceptable” means both sides.

Play otherwise, prepare to take some lumps.


  1. I guess propaganda politics and news wont keep themselves from F!#@$n each other before they circulate outside the news station

  2. we weren’t looking to go into WW2 before pearl harbor, the citizens of nagasaki and hiroshima didn’t need to be irridiated in the middle of the morning over a simple military hardware plant near their city, they both happened for a number of reasons being good or bad in how you look at it, but all actions related afterwards went towards averting similar occurrences, clinton starts poking through the middle east for terrorism and bad intelligence leads to civillian casualties unrelated to terrorists, bush doesn’t continue clintons efforts and a few thousand people get incenerated in plane crashes, bush gets most of the western world to try to avert any further terrorism, we get bombings in instanbul, spain, london, and india, but thousands of people dont die in 4 hours, but no, our government is unable to put a hold on such things as terrorism, so I guess maybe raegen should of just let the genocide of the human race as a whole by nuclear conflict be a threat forever, it was inevitable anyway

  3. It goes back way before Clinton, especially with India and Pakistan. Hell pretty much all the terrorist roots go back to the time of colonial conquest, probably earlier in many cases. I assume it’s a combination of copy-cat-ism and technology which has caused it to come to the forefront recently.

  4. What is annoying me is that I’m seeing the exact same letter to the editor whining about “proportionality” in newspapers all over the place.

  5. Now who’s doing a straw man? Greenwald isn’t doing a blame thing at all, he – rightly or wrongly – is treating it as a problem to be dealt with at the deeper level, like draining a swamp to deal with malaria even though you know perfectly well that malaria is caused by parasites. By all means criticise him for getting the approach wrong, if he is getting it wrong, but don’t start with the blame thing.

  6. “But terrorism instantly de-legitimatizes you and makes you a valid target”.

    By that reckoning, Eire, the USA, and Israel itself – to name but three – are illegitimate and are valid targets, as all came into existence through terrorism (look up what the IRA, the Sons of Liberty, and the Stern Gang actually did). I still haven’t heard any apology for the murder of the British sergeants.

  7. :P.M. Lawrence: I’d wager you and I would quibble over the definition of “terrorism,” but I consider the IRA, the Sons of Liberty, and the Stern Gang (though I don’t know many details about the last) “legitimate targets.”

  8. One crucial difference between Israel and the other two is that Israel still endorses its past terrorists and maintains a continuity with them. I see it as illegitimate for that, quite apart from any other reasons, and yet more proof that in that part of the world there are no good guys. It would make sense for the rest of the world to isolate the lot of them.

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