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For the Courage of the Founders
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A nation not aware of, or not accepting, the real truths (risks, threats, strengths, weaknesses, etc.) that are determining factors in the challenges of its future will necessarily create a flawed strategic plan. At very best, the plan will be based on incorrect information. At very worst, the plan will be based on deception and intentionally misleading information. Planning analysis conducted without an accurate understanding of the real forces at work and the relative powers of those forces will yield false results. Those false results will lead to solution sets for current challenges that are skewed. As those skewed solution sets are projected into the future, they determine the framework for a strategic national plan that is inherently inaccurate. The further into time those inaccuracies are extended, the greater the potential for irreparable and critical damage to a viable national strategic plan. The ancients put things "in God’s hands" because they did not have the technology, analytical capability, information gathering systems, and data to do otherwise. This is no longer the case.
We have been repeatedly attacked over the past few decades but our survival has never been threatened by terrorist. You could ask "So what? We were still attacked and we should protect ourselves; what difference does 'real' impact matter?" The Socratic answer to that question at the policy/strategic level, and to many, the personal level, is "how do you like being manipulated?" The terrorists are trying, successfully, to manipulate you. That is the asymmetric nature of the threat. Without a clear and accepted understanding of the "real" impact, capabilities, effects, etc., are of terrorists, the terrorists can be very successful. Unfortunately, without courage and adherence to law, leaders can also use the false data to manipulate you. They can abandon their sworn responsibility and allow themselves to hurriedly pass the U.S. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, knowing that the constituency is in a state of panic and unlikely to mount an effective challenge. They can use the baseless fear created by inaccurate perceptions and manipulate you into accepting clear breaches of constitutional guarantees. You can be manipulated into unnecessary and/or unwise action because without the truth, there is no basis for standing up and saying, "Wait, this is insignificant—it is horrible but insignificant." The chances of anyone in the US being subject to a terrorist attack are near zero; statistically they are zero7. We should not allow 19 zealots to change the course of America, which is precisely what we are doing. Without consideration in real terms we are allowing the actions of nineteen people to change the course of American democracy. The identification of the real impact—stripped of the psychological impact, stripped of the mental pictures—is critical to make the correct—hard but correct—decisions to move into the future. The truth of the matter, in real terms, is that in absence of any appreciable threat, the United States is spending an enormous amount of money to save itself from an inadequate foe. The asymmetric nature of the terrorist threat is that if we fail to continue to think in real terms—if we fall victim to the terrorist psychological operation and demonstrate the effect—the fear—that he needs to continue his campaign—then we stand a very real chance of losing. If the United States is reactive, instead of proactive (not pre-emptive) and ignores the system set up by the Constitution that led to America's robustness and wealth, the United States could very possible become the source of its own demise. By recognizing the true situation, the United States can develop an effective long and short-term strategy to counter the terrorists' efforts for the stability of our grandchildren's world8. By recognizing the real situation, we can stop reacting and start molding our future.
A renowned American psychologist and personality9 frequently gives relationship advice that basically purports "Your relationship is the way it is because that is the way you like/want it." Make no mistake; we are in a relationship with terrorists that we can influence. This concept would lead to the argument that the reason we have the relationship that we do with terrorists is because it is the relationship we want. We have a National psychological need to elevate an inconsequential enemy so that they represent a ubiquitous, omniscient threat. We can then terrify ourselves into a protectionist reaction. We want fear inculcated throughout our society so that we can justify aggression, single mindedness, an inability to take advice from long time friends, a willingness to give up the liberties that others died for: our cowardice. Unfortunately that relationship is not healthy—it is codependent. The sacrifice of Mr. Crispus Attucks10 was meaningful. It is disrespectful, disingenuous and cowardly to dismiss that sacrifice as inconsequential when considering today's citizens and attempting to provide their ultimate and 100% risk free safety. It is imperative to dig into the quantifiable numbers, and the real capabilities of all forces, conduct a thorough analysis and subsequently be able to confidently and truly say, "As a matter of national policy, terrorism and terrorists are inconsequential—it is insignificant given the many challenges we face and the previous sacrifices and National tradition that we hold as a higher duty. Terrorists can and will kill some of us but they can’t destroy US. Terrorism will be prioritized and treated accordingly." That is why it is so important—to actually look at the "real impact.". It is imperative to understand and accept that terrorism is insignificant, that terrorists are inept and that we are safe; that terrorists cannot win. We can then make rational, logical decisions with respect to the real threat, our duty as citizens and our responsibilities to those that have sacrificed before us instead of being falsely terrified into having a handful of extremists change the very fabric of our lives.
A slightly more tangible reason to look at the terrorist impact in real terms is so that we can make prudent decisions with regard to priority. The United States invested billions of dollars to improve airline security following the attacks of 9/11. In real terms the 9/11 attack was insignificant. The method of attack was immediately obsolete. New methods of attack are being devised to, and will, circumvent physical security. The vulnerability that the terrorists exploited on 9/11 was a policy vulnerability not a physical security shortfall. The decision to spend that money, in perpetuity, was illogical, cowardly, and shortsighted and provided no marginal benefit. In the reality of competing priorities the expenditure was a bad investment.
It is imperative that the terrorist problem is looked at in real terms—the psychological impact clearly identified and separated from the response while balancing it against our duty and national mores. If this is not done, then the Nation will never be able to accurately assess risk and determine priorities. The often-discussed "asymmetrical threat11" is NOT that two airplanes could destroy two buildings; that is simple physics. It is a linear line of thought and method of attack: steal a plane, crash it into a building, and make the building fall. The asymmetrical nature of terrorism is that if it is not carefully and dispassionately considered, 270 million are coerced by 20; 270 million forget the sacrifice of 1.5 million; the most powerful and safest nation on earth spends billions to make itself safe. In the process an oppressive government is formed, protectionism erodes trade and other international relations, the citizenry loses touch with tradition and priority is given to the present instead of the future.7Rounding up, the number resulting from dividing 5k by 270m is .000018 %. But the real statistic must consider time and would be something more along the line of a function of the total daily population of the United States since Independence + the total daily population of US citizens not residing in the United States since Independence as divided into the total daily number of terrorist casualties in United States since Independence.
8It is too late for a solution in our children’s time.
9Dr. Phil McGraw
10First person to die in the revolutionary war.
11Discussion to follow.
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Copyright ©2003-2007 by Thomas Rancich. Printing, copying, creating or transmitting of electronic copies of this transcript in whole or in part without the written consent of Mr. Rancich is expressly forbidden and will be construed as constituting copyright infringement.