Osama bin Laden must be laughing in his grave, as the saying goes.
Back in the day, wars were often just about land — well, about gaining more land and thus more money and more power. Name an area of the world and see if it wasn’t once a bloodbath for people fighting over land. Illegal immigrants who came to what is now the United States and mass murdered the rightful citizens of the land are now called our “founding fathers,” but they were basically just looking for more land and wealth for themselves. Oh yeah, there were a few noble reasons involved too … to some extent. Okay, it’s true — history is full of religious wars and ideological wars as well. I’ll come back to that topic later.
→ Related: How The Terrorists Won — Part 2, The Economy
As a 19-year-old in college, I didn’t need a deep knowledge of history to understand that the 9/11 terrorist attacks both were and weren’t related to land war. The terrorists weren’t attacking the US in an effort to invade the country and take our land. However, attacks on their land were surely part of the impetus for the mass murder and destruction.
Those 9/11 attacks were almost certainly stimulated by a hate for the United States, hate for the immoral drives that made the USA the most powerful country in the history of the world, and perhaps a pure ideological and religious hate for Christians and Jews as well.
Many of the loudest responses that have ensued since then have been illogical, counterproductive, and even precisely what the terrorists wanted. Many Americans may think we’re winning (or at least fighting in) some kind of moral war, while others of the same mindset think we’re losing because we aren’t fighting hard enough. As it turns out, we’re losing massively because we’ve fallen for the strategy behind the guerilla terrorism attacks and keep playing right into their traps.
We are marching our army off a cliff with the blind idea that we are marching into a battlefield that we can win if we simply march faster.
Before I get to why the whole “terror war” is an illusion, though, let me quite simply state how we are losing (which seems like it should be obvious to a teenager let alone “fully developed” humans, yet it isn’t for large portions of the population):
You don’t make a person less angry or less crazy by bombing his relatives.
That approach leads to two obvious things: 1) more extremism from that person; and 2) more of his friends, family, and cultural colleagues joining “his team.”
If you want to stop extremist terrorism, you don’t throw hate its way. Terrorism comes from fear. The desire to make others fearful comes from one’s own fear. Fighting hate with hate is about as useful as cutting off your leg to fix a broken shinbone. Working to “extinguish” terrorism by destroying nations, cities, communities, and families is about as counterproductive as foreign policy can get.
In simple terms, you don’t fight terrorism by terrorizing people.
The more we bomb and kill, the more anti-USA terrorism will sprout.
Naturally, religious bans and lack of compassion for the locals most heavily tortured by extremist terrorists doesn’t help either. Blocking immigration from 9 Muslim countries is not a good way to “fight” terrorism — it’s a great way to sprout more anti-American ISIS terrorists.
But this is not a blog about war & peace or immigration. It’s a blog about cleantech, about the economy as it relates to cleantech, and about why cleantech is so important. These are in fact keys to why we are losing the war on terrorism — and, if things don’t turn around rather quickly, why the “history books” (or whatever they are called in the future) will explain “how the terrorists won.”
Energy and power have been closely aligned since … well, probably since forever. In this modern age, power has been centralized a great deal by our dependence on oil, gas, nuclear, and coal. Much of the money and power that we forfeit has gone to feed the overflowing bank accounts of the people at the top of the world’s largest companies — Saudi Aramco, ExxonMobil, Chevron, etc. But the problem isn’t just the basic “free-market” flow of money to these companies — countless policies have been implemented to further fuel the transfer of consumer money to these industries, trillions and trillions have been spent by governments to subsidize these mega-rich corporations, and numerous wars have been fought over oil on behalf of these companies and our dependence on them.
Every adult in the United States should be aware by now that the United States has an outsized presence in the Middle East precisely because of our dependence on oil from that region and our dependence on a stable global oil market.
Now, with that in mind, can you imagine if Saudi Arabia or China or Russia had soldiers stationed in your neighborhood, had gone through long wars in states that neighbor yours, and had sent in troops who perhaps terrorized, raped, murdered, or taunted your family and friends? How would that affect you?
Clearly, there’s a lot of resentment for the United States in certain countries and regions. Clearly, some of the people whose lives have been ruined by US foreign oil policy have wished they could fight back. Clearly, some have actually taken up arms in order to leave their mark, to leave a scar of some size on the culture and history of the United States.
Given our European alliances and their own dependence on foreign oil, much of “the West” has been generalized as “the enemy” by such populations, just as certain members of the West brandish “Muslims” as the enemy. Indeed, the decision (conscious or simply subconsciously idiotic) to turn the ISIS terrorist problem into a simplistic, stereotype-focused, simple-minded “us versus Muslims”/”US versus Muslims” story is hugely counterproductive — for many reasons, but in part because it invites certain Muslims in dark stages of their lives or dark mindsets to not just be resentful … but to become terrorists. This is why the vast majority of the national security community in the United States became deeply disturbed about Donald Trump’s rhetoric and policy proposals on the campaign trail, and are surely as disturbed as ever right now while some of those proposals are being translated into policy.
The first thing we need to do in order to stop losing is we need to stop terrorizing people in other countries — and part of that is eliminating the insane oil dependency that has convinced our leaders to terrorize other communities, countries, and cultures for access to oil. Without cutting oil dependency and putting a halt to our own acts of terror, any other “solutions” to the terrorism problem are going to be superficial alleviation of symptoms instead of a cure for the core societal sickness.
Terrorism breeds terrorism. We will face retaliation terrorism as long as we are terrorizing others.
Simply pulling out of the places we’ve long had a military presence isn’t enough, though. We need to make amends with these communities to a greater extent — and, frankly, we need to make amends with the entire global community, which has been witness to (or accomplice to) our terrorism. There are various ways to pursue this. I won’t delve deeply into that matter here since it’s a massive topic of its own, but there are methods involving charity, policy support, economic/business partnerships, technology transfer, and so on. On the energy front, though, it’s worth highlighting that we could help these communities and countries to gain their own energy independence and self-sustainability via renewable energy and electric vehicle initiatives. Given the historical role of energy in our relationship, this seems like it must be part of the solutions package.
If we don’t want a chapter of our hypothetical history books to be titled “How The Terrorists Won,” we need to change course. We need to stop demonizing an entire (and gigantic) religion — which would fit pretty well with our whole “freedom of religion” ideology. We need to stop terrorizing other people and communities. We need to eliminate our dependence on oil. We need to offer apologies and compensation in the form of practical and genuinely helpful programs. And, basically, we need to become more compassionate and considerate humans.
Unfortunately, given the results of our last election and the top political news of the weekend, we aren’t headed in the right direction at the moment. Short-sighted, reactionary thinking has gotten the better of us. Furthermore, there are American politicians and puppet masters who I think are genuinely interested in launching a 21st century religious war — this is, indeed, about “Christianity vs Islam” to these people, who still haven’t learned that whole “thou shalt not kill” lesson. Many of us have also fallen prey to their justifications and hate-inducing rhetoric. Again, many Christians still haven’t learned that Jesus would not have let his face turn boiling red, let his mind turn to fire, and then start bombing people for having different religious views. Many have not been convinced that accepting torture and murder on a cross is more valiant than “falling to their level,” letting oneself be overcome with hate, and choosing revenge-filled war over love.
But we each have the opportunity every day of our lives to embrace compassion and foresight over fear and terrorism. Don’t fall into the fear and terrorism trap. The future is now — we are creating it.
Top image via John Pavlovitz article “I’m Saying Goodbye to White Jesus“
Note: This article was long in the works, not fully stimulated by this weekend’s news. I wrote the first half of it last year and then wrote the second half today after seeing the latest Trump news — the current version of the “Muslim ban” (… or refugee ban).
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