How the US Plays Into Bin Laden’s Hands

Question: Since 9/11, has America adopted wise short-term and long-term policies in the war on terror?

\r\n

Robert Wright: Well I am much more pessimistic about the chances of our – I guess I’m more pessimistic about the outcome on the so-called war on terror now than I was shortly after 911. And I would say the mistake I think we’ve made is to overestimate the near term threat and underestimate the long-term threat. So, the big threat is still years off when you might have terrorist groups truly in possession of nuclear weapons, or truly devastating biological weapons. And I don’t mean anthrax, which is not – doesn’t leave anything contagious. But truly devastating biological weapons. That’s the thing to worry about. And the trouble is that if you get scared about the short term and start overreacting to that threat by doing thing like invading countries, what you wind up doing is making it more likely that the long-term threat will be realized because you increase the number of people who hate you and you kind of help do the job of terrorist recruiters for them. And just little things like reacting to a failed attempt to bomb an airplane by saying, “Well, maybe we should start doing ethnic profiling in airports and stuff.” I mean, if you don’t think Osama Bin Laden would love to see us do ethnic profiling, then I think you really don’t understand what he’s after. I mean, that’s exactly playing into his hands. And so, I just think that’s the sense in which – one of many in which being kind of panicked about the short term, when in truth, there aren’t any massive short-term threats out there, is making it more likely that the more apocalyptic scenario in the long-term could unfold. I think that’s the big mistake we’ve made is to just not realize that hatred will be increasingly lethal as time goes on, so it’s better to generate less of it than more.

\r\n

Question: If the US were to start over in its strategy in the war on terror, what would you advise?

\r\n

Robert Wright: I would say, first of all, think about establishing structures of international governance that would effectively police weapons of mass destruction. And we haven’t made any, if much, progress on that front since 911. And don’t be distracted from that by short-term adventures that are kind of focused on a single seeming manifestation of the same threat. Like in Iraq. I mean, we actually knew there were no – no one thought there were actual nuclear weapons, per se, in their – or truly contagious biological weapons for which we lacked a vaccine or anything like that. So, we should not have gotten sidetracked by these various things. And I think what that would call for is a president who really gave the “nothing to fear but fear itself” kind of sermon in an inspirational way. In other words, that irrational fear is the greatest enemy. It’s going to lead us to play into their hands.

Recorded on February 12, 2010

Interviewed by Austin Allen

Failed strategy decisions have left the "Nonzero" author pessimistic about the outcome of the war on terror. What’s needed, he says, is a reprise of FDR’s "fear itself" speech.

Hashtag politics: 4 key ways digital activism is inegalitarian

Many believe that the internet has made it easier for us to participate in political activism. But is that really true?

Videos
  • Protesting in person is costly in terms of money and resources; some people have children to take care of, jobs that can't be away from, or may not have time to attend a planning event.
  • The internet was supposed to be a way to sidestep this barrier to political activism. But this doesn't consider the other barriers preventing poor and working-class folks from participating in digital activism.
  • In particular, these people lack ASETs: access to computers, the skills to use them, the empowerment necessary to feel that using Twitter or other social media is for them, and the time to make use of digital platforms in an effective way.
Keep reading Show less

The 5 most intelligent video games and why you should play them

Some games are just for fun, others are for thought provoking statements on life, the universe, and everything.

(Photo from Flickr)
Culture & Religion
  • Video games are often dismissed as fun distractions, but some of them dive into deep issues.
  • Through their interactive play elements, these games approach big issues intelligently and leave you both entertained and enlightened.
  • These five games are certainly not the only games that cover these topics or do so well, but are a great starting point for somebody who wants to play something thought provoking.
Keep reading Show less

The Danish shoot down Trump's plan to buy Greenland, call the idea 'absurd'

The bid to buy Greenland is unlikely to become seriously considered.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Greenland and Danish officials alike think the idea is ridiculous.
  • The island is an autonomous state, and it's unlikely the Danish would sell it because of yearly subsidies costs.
  • After hearing the Danish Prime Minister call the idea absurd, Trump cancelled their forthcoming meeting.
Keep reading Show less