We’ve been lucky so far, because the bad guys have usually been stupid. But they probably won’t be stupid forever, so our luck probably won’t last. When it finally runs out, we need to make sure we don’t do the bad guys’ work for them.
Are there deep economic, social, political, or psychological causes of terrorism — things such as economic inequality, militant religious fundamentalism, or feelings of alienation and humiliation — and, if so, should we discuss them, analyze them, and then try to address them through our domestic and foreign policies?
Modern societies face a cruel paradox: Fast-paced technological and economic innovations may deliver unrivalled prosperity, but they also render rich nations vulnerable to crippling, unanticipated attacks. By relying on intricate networks and concentrating vital assets in small geographic clusters, advanced Western nations only amplify the destructive power of terrorists and the psychological and financial damage they can inflict.
The debate surrounding the events of September 11 is being clouded by sloppy logic and analysis in the haste to say something — anything — that makes sense of the situation. One issue that has become clouded is whether it’s reasonable to talk about terrorism’s “root causes.”
Some events shatter the order of things — the routines and regularities of our lives that we rely upon for our sense of safety and our sense, most importantly, of who we are and where we are going. Some events change our perceptions forever. The world never looks the same again afterward. Suddenly, the reliable landmarks of life seem strange and distorted — recognizable, yet simultaneously weirdly unrecognizable.