I watched the first part of a three-part documentary series titled The Power of Nightmares on BBC 2 early tonight.
This series shows dramatically how the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organised terrorist network is an illusion. It is a myth that has spread unquestioned through politics, the security services and the international media. At the heart of the story are two groups: the American neoconservatives and the radical Islamists. Both were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world. These two groups have changed the world but not in the way either intended. Together they created today’s nightmare vision of an organised terror network. A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful.
I would urge everyone to see this if you get the chance as well as watching Errol Morris’s documentary film The Fog of War.
I’ve been saying this for a while but the concept of a War on Terror is nonsensical because not only is it a war on an abstract concept but you cannot defeat terrorists by waging war anyway. We are not at any greater risk of terrorism since 9/11 than we were before, that’s not to say that there is no danger but that it is of the same level as it ever was.
To really combat terrorism requires the typical cloak and dagger stuff that the security services do such as surveillance, wiretapping and infiltration of suspect groups. Plus increasing the security of likely targets of terrorist attacks in a manner that not only appears like you are doing something to improve security but actually does improve security.
But it isn’t easy to sell to the public that you are doing everything possible to combat terrorism if nothing is appears to be happening. Foiling a terrorist attack isn’t something that can revealed to the public in many cases at it could hamper future operations. So for the governments to appear to their citizens that they are effective in this they need to go and wage war in the name of combating terrorism even if the enemy in these wars are only tangentially connected to terrorism if at all.