February 19, 2012, 7:32 AM —
"Terrorism has replaced Communism as the rationale for the militarization of [America], for military adventures abroad, and for the suppression of civil liberties at home. It serves the same purpose, serving to create hysteria." -- Howard Zinn, "Terrorism and War"
Some of the worst consequences of terrorism come not from the real dangers that terrorism poses but in our efforts to defend ourselves from something that is incredibly hard to define and predict.
Terrorism is not like dealing with an invading army or an attack by aircraft or missiles; it is a diffuse, random assault that can, theoretically, happen anywhere. The next person to get blown up could be some state official or it could be you, which is how terrorism works; the fear it generates is more powerful and culture-changing than the actual attacks themselves.
While our government quite rightly sees one of its may tasks as protecting us from such threats, the reality of efforts to do so is that we wind up ignoring pragmatic issues such as the cost and effectiveness of counter-terrorism measures, as well as the dangers of overreach that accompany those efforts.
As an example of overreach I offer you the latest in governmental insanity: The FBI and the Department of Justice produced a series of 25 fliers to encourage -- and I am not kidding -- the reporting of suspicious activities by local businesses in a variety of industries.