Archive for Sunday, October 7, 2001

Terrorism not new

October 7, 2001


To the editor:

Some misconceptions about terrorism have appeared in the media. First, terrorism is not a new form of warfare. It is as old as history. Only the weapons are new.

The war against terrorism (if encompassingly defined) will not be over in 10 years. We are probably entering a second "100-year" war. There are at least two reasons supporting this conclusion.

Scarcity can be a sufficient condition for violence (and terrorism). For two reasons scarcity is unlikely to decrease for the remainder of this century. First, we have managed our environment (which would not have been technically impossible and expensive to manage well) extremely badly. Second, two individuals have calculated the comfortably sustainable population of this planet to be about 2 billion people. We shall have to wait for at least (since population is still growing) 4 billion people to die beyond normal deaths for the pressure of shortages on violence to substantially decrease. That will take awhile.

A humanistic civilization, which is the dominant one today, is a very ineffective one because of the many reality-irrelevant beliefs that intrude upon policy. This ineffectiveness will give the terrorists advantages that they do not intrinsically possess.

Violence (or its equivalent) is a necessary feature of human existence. If we don't experience wars, then terrorism is the next most likely alternative.

The importance of HUMIT (on-the-ground intelligence gained by humans) has been exaggerated. Even if you know what is planned, you have to react. We need, as we did in World War II (where we clobbered German U-boats using the theory of games and won the war in the Pacific with the atomic bomb), to look to human brain-power, science and technology if a decisive advantage is to be gained over terrorism.

Maynard W. Shelly,


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