Saturday, January 12, 2002
Pins, rattlesnakes and prophecy

Sometimes foresight is strange. Two years ago today Pat Buchanan wrote an article citing a Cato institute report claiming that "Americans are the principal targets of terrorists because of our constant meddling in foreign wars." What was worse was the claim "If we do not abandon our compulsive interventionism, we will one day be subjected to an act of cataclysmic terror, with a weapon of mass destruction, perhaps nuclear."

The point is that anti-interventionist authors agreed on very little indeed, but the one prediction that almost every one made was that this would lead to increased terror. Now anti-interventionists are told that we do not have the answers, because we were proved right.

Now terrorism is not in itself a reason not to do something, it is part of the price that one pays for certain courses of action. If the action is not seen as worth the price paid, then the action should not be carried out. If it is worth the price paid then we should accept the price. What is childish is to deny that the price is to be paid at all.

(Almost) everyone accepts that it was Al-Qaeda terrorists who carried out the attrocity. Al-Qaeda has said that it will target American life and property until the Americans:

1) Stop supporting Israel
2) Stop the Iraqi embargo
3) Take troops out of Saudi Arabia

This is plainly not a protest about Western values, but about American actions. The case must be made by the supporters of these actions as to why they are worth thousands of civilian deaths, and possibly thousands more.

Al Qaeda has also mentioned Britain because of its steadfast support of the United States, something the Home Secretary alluded to. The case must be made as to why "shoulder to shoulder" support for the United States is a greater national interest than the safety of our civilians, rather than the simple assumption that "we must". If the case is not good enough, then we should let America persue its own national interest in its own way.

We obviously can't run our foreign policy with the sole object of avoiding terrorism, but we have to consider the consequances of our actions abroad. As Hoover said after Pearl Harbour "You and I know that this continuous putting pins in rattlesnakes finally got this country bitten."


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