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Wednesday, September 04, 2002

The End of the Nation State
Terrorism is nothing new. It's been used by the unpowerful for millenia. The Jews used terrorism against the Romans. The Helots used it against the Spartans. The Scots used it against the English. The examples are far too numerous to enumerate. It is still a successful method of attacking a superior civilization, but it has become even more lethal the past hundred years, escalating in its potency until people steeped in a dark ages culture have now used terrorism to attack the most powerful, civilized and graciously benevolent nation to ever exist. Why has this tactic become so successful now when it was only ever marginally effective in the past?
The potency of weapons has been a significant factor. Bombs are cheap, easy to conceal, and can cause a lot of bloodshed, noise, and resulting fear. It is the fear that makes terrorism effective, hence its name, and the ability to strike anywhere at anytime has made it the tactic of choice. But that is the simple answer. There's a more in-depth reason that it is successful. So far, the agents of terrorism are not held accountable by the civilizations that they live in.

For all the barbarity of war against other nations, there are reasons for it. War must be terrible, lest we take it too lightly. But it also must be terrible so that our enemies do not take it lightly. As the cold war claimed almost all nations on one side or another, there was a sort of discipline among us all to not provoke the other side, too much was at stake. Occasional hijackings, bombings, and other assaults were not sponsored by the Soviets or their vassal states and were thus poorly organized, executed, and rarely made much of an effect. However, with the disintegration of our enemy's power, other states have found that we still think in the cold war ways and they have used this to their advantage.

That is, we don't associate these attacks on our people as an act of war by a nation state. We naively claim that "Al Qaeda" is solely to blame. Yet, the truth is that the level of training, discipline, and funding needed to exist in such a large force is possible only through the power of a government. The Taliban was one such government, but those pitifully poor wretches were not capable of such an attack. This came from a highly developed nation state. Probably Saudi Arabia, or maybe even the current bugaboo, Iraq.

Since we act as though it is not a nation state that has committed this attack, they are free to continue developing the culture of hatred towards us. Our modern sensibilities restrain us from conducting the only viable response because we try to hard to disassociate the criminals from their nation. We look at Saudi Arabia and we see peaceful people who study and worship and conduct commerce with us daily. It is against our nature to kill these people.

Yet this is what is needed. The people of Saudi Arabia must know that if they don't stop the culture of hating us and aiding and abetting those who attack us, that they will die. It's not fair. It's patently unjust. But it is the only thing that works. We cannot convince them to stop supporting our enemies if we do not deliver a consequence more terrible than our enemies will provide. A people are responsible for their government, and their culture, and if that government or culture are our enemies, then it must be destroyed.

Yet, we won't do it. We will be mired in this war on terrorism for a long, long time, just as promised, not because it is necessary, but because a winning strategy is not being taken. We are absolving our enemies from blame. We divorce the culture and the nation from the blame for the attack, and thus the attacks will never end.

This means the end of the nation state. All crimes are committed by individuals, not by a nation. The nation, held blameless, will cease to exist as an entity. Non-governmental orgainizations (funny how that is a United Nations Term) will increase in influence and power as we helplessly flail to stop them.

Group punishment is a bad thing. It's very bad, if you're working with people who have something further to contribute. You don't use group punishment against your children. You don't use group punishment against your citizens. You don't use group punishment against civilized people. But terrorism, by definition is uncivilized. You cannot fight anti-civilization with civilization. Force cannot be overcome with good will. Wherever terrorism is practiced, the population must be made to suffer terribly. They must suffer at a scale that makes the terrorist acts pale in comparison. Most Germans are decent people and were in World War II. But they supported and allowed their government to remain in power, thus they were punished and they were the ones who finally were the ones who stopped the war by ending the fighting. Good Germans died ending that war.

The nation state as an organization in civilization has a purpose: That purpose is to limit the use of force to the nation state. The people in the nation state are held responsible for that use of force. We have now apparently decided that the nation state is no longer responsible, and now any one can use force against anyone else and hide from retribution.

We must return to holding people responsible for those they live among. Either they stop the terror and the cultural hatred of us, or we will.