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For the Courage of the Founders

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For the Courage of the Founders

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Terrorists cannot destroy the United States of America:

That simple statement must be the foundation of all national policy decisions made by the United States with regard to future security and terrorism; if for no other reason than that it is a truth that should be the foundation of all strategic thought. Rhetorical speeches would seem to indicate otherwise. While it is true that terrorists may seek to destroy the United States of America, the point is moot. A child who builds a "rocket ship" in his backyard to travel to the moon does not actually stand a chance of making that trip; not at that time and not from that backyard. The same is true of terrorists' desire to destroy the United States. The terrorists' desire and their ability are grossly disparate. It is true that the terrorist may be a little smarter than that child in his back yard, and may know that he cannot destroy the United States as a whole. However, due to his observation of our reactions to his efforts he may believe that he can exert enough influence on the United States to have her destroy herself, or, over a period of time, create an environment of hate and oppression that favors the strengths of the terrorist's cause. The United States must understand this and demand that the government consciously, and as a matter of public record, acknowledge the terrorists' lack of ability to destroy the United States. If the United States continues to consistently react as if terrorists are an imminent threat to the survival of the nation than we may very well create the global and domestic environment that the terrorists need to succeed.

Terrorism is insignificant in any real terms: This is a difficult concept yet it is true. Terrorism simply does not matter in any real terms. In no way does this mean that terrorism is not horrific or that the loss suffered by people at the hands of terrorism isn't real—but in the aggregate, the damage done by terrorism is insignificant. In purely statistical terms the attacks of 9/11 took 3,000 plus lives (not all of which were American citizens but assuming they were), which amounts to less than 1/100 of 1% of the population. That is a number that the policy of the United States does not concern itself with in any other circumstance; it is minuscule! Fourteen times as many people are killed in car accidents a year and a hundred times more can have their deaths linked to obesity. Those casualty figures occur on an annual basis not in one-time events. A more accurate calculation would have to consider the statistic over an observed period. The total number of people who resided in the United States throughout her history (228 years) would become the divisor. That number is so small it approaches zero.

In terms of dollars the numbers are also insignificant. Although estimates vary widely, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) report of 29 May 2002 states, “Although it was not without some limitations—such as being based on some preliminary information that is now dated—we found that the study by the New York City Partnership provided the most comprehensive estimates, as follows: The attacks on the two World Trade Center buildings cost about $83 billion (in 2001 dollars) in total losses (including both direct and indirect costs); about $67 billion of the losses would most likely be covered by insurance, federal payments, or increased economic activity.” Due to the overestimated cost of the cleanup this number (83 billion) is known to be too high, and yet still represents less than 1% of GDP. The bigger problem, as shown in the GAO statement, is that “loss” is the wrong term for the 83B. Most of the loss, ~67B, is actually a transfer of funds—from the insurance companies to the insured companies; from investments to purchases. All of the money that was spent during the cleanup and subsequent rebuilding was not lost—it was cash that was being transferred back into the economy. It is certainly true that the insurance companies had to pay out money, that there was an opportunity cost to those payouts and the federal, state and city agencies had to spend cash, but that is part of their responsibilities/ business model. The point being that the actual amount lost was much less than 83B even without considering the offset in the form of additions to the GDP resulting from moving cash from investments back into mainstream economy. The loss—though catastrophic to some businesses—was minor overall.

But what if it was significant? The bastion of the amateur antiterrorist is the apocalyptic event—the simple ones are fairly easy to imagine (suitcase nuclear weapons, smallpox, dirty bombs), while more insidious events take a bit of time to conjure (manipulation of viruses that attack and kill people with certain genetic traits)—but the one thing that they all have in common is that even if the attacks worked, the attacks would still not approach threatening the survivability of the United States. The existence of a critical node within the United States is a fantasy. There are many vital areas but NONE are critical. (Lungs are vital organs; the heart is a critical organ) To test this concept, imagine a nightmare attack; eliminate a major city or a few cities. Nuke them or inflict a biological attack upon those cities; popular theory has it that in a highly mobile population a disease like of smallpox1 and other deadly diseases can sweep through the population, infecting hundreds of thousands before the first symptoms even appear. For this exercise, assume that the attack is successful—what happens to the United States? What happens to the United States if Chicago disappears? Chicago and New York and Los Angeles? Or 20% of each of the major metropolitan areas in the country is killed? Horrific yes, but the actual existence of the United States is not inherently placed in danger. The immediate survival of the United States is never in question. If Chicago is eliminated, New York, Boston, St Louis, Seattle, San Diego pick up the slack—or more to the point, they pick up the profit and carry on. Multiple cities destroyed results in the same outcome. The United States is simply too big, too robust and too good at making money during tragic circumstances to be vulnerable to a threat like terrorism. This does not mean that terrorists cannot kill people in the United States, or kill citizens of the United States abroad—it simply means that the killing of people has little real impact on the nation. This is not an easy idea to assimilate. Consider it this way. The attacks of 9/11, which have so enveloped our lives since that date, did not nearly topple or nearly destroy the United States. The attacks of 9/11 had no impact on the nation’s viability or ability to survive. The attack had an enormous impact on the psyche of the nation (which will be covered later)—but the bottom line is that the attacks did not threaten the survival of the nation. There are more than 300 million citizens functioning within the most robust system (agriculture, technological, business or otherwise) ever known to the world. Three hundred million is projected by census. It does not include all the "illegal" immigrants that are part of the functioning nation; it does not include all of the foreign business people who are in the United State tasked with succeeding for their parent corporations. For that matter it does not count all of the people who are embraced by the global reach of the United States, many more millions or hundreds of millions who have a real interest in the United States continuing to prosper. Those are numbers that terrorists can only sit in their backyards dreaming to defeat. In the current stable world environment, an environment that the terrorists seek to manipulate to their use, terrorists cannot inflict casualties of any significance.

1During the First Continental Congress there was a smallpox plague in Philadelphia—in a crowded city with nothing resembling the health care that we enjoy today the death toll ran into the "hundreds."

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