9/11 Lesson on Terrorism

Through an accident of timing, I actually did teach on this today.

I hadn’t intended to.  The media is saturated with both the appropriate, and the biliously hypocritical, observances of the date.  Rather, I opened the lecture with Carnegie, and “Wealth.”  Worked through his prediction of the price we pay for the miracles of industrial society — the mutual suspicions and lack of understanding between the haves and have-nots.

Then, as counterpoint, the testimony of George Engel, about to be executed for his role in the Haymarket Square Riot.  They call him an anarchist, but what that actually means is “marxist terrorist.”  And why was he an Anarchist?  According to his own words, he became an anarchist when he got recruited in the factory by a man who had both a grievance, and an entirely new worldview to sell.  Once sold on the vocabulary of the proletarian, he was able to say with a straight face, without shame, that he didn’t throw the bomb on Haymarket…but that if more “workingmen” had bombs, the world would be a better place.

That’s all you need… it’s not the arguments, but how you frame them.  Not the issue, but how it’s defined.  And once you’re sold on the idea that the dude running a donut shop, or working as a lawyer, doesn’t fit within the “Working Class,” but is instead a class enemy… the bombs come next.

It’s surprising how many of my students get played by Engel.  It’s even more surprising, and somewhat gratifying, to see the horror on their faces once the lightbulbs come on.


The Great Freedom War

As many people pay attention to 9/11, I thought it might be worthwhile to look at the state of the world.

Russians are landing blackjacks in Venezuela.  They’re supposed to not be carrying nukes.  Are they?  Would you take Vladimir Putin’s word?

Is this a soundbite action meant to bolster Russia’s prestige?  Are the moves in South Ossetia a prelude to similar in Transnistria and the Crimea?  Is this a preface to using Venezuela as an outright proxy, just as Krushchev used Castro? Would the Russian government, whose recent moves make clear that it intends to keep its boot firmly planted on the necks of the Russian people, use those oil reserves to do so?

Iran has done so, but is rapidly discovering that exporting its wealth to support Hamas and Hizbollah creates serious problems at home.  Is it enough that Iran could conceivably fall to a “colored revolution?”  Or are their paid thus sufficient to cow a population that is now literally beginning to be unable to buy food?

We have seen that in China, no peoples’ revolution is forthcoming.  Even while trying to puts its best face forward (as if the regime has one), the PLA showed that it is fundamentally terrified of the thought of human beings not safely micromanaged at gunpoint.  Yet, will that change with the underground conversion of tens of millions of Chinese to Christianity, and the very different set of ethics that goes with that?

And how many of these problems should be addressed as one problem: the same problem?  Are the people at Freedom House right when the document the progress of the 1990s starting to be rolled back?  Does the startling cooperation of supposedly-unrelated tyrants  — Communist, Islamist, Narcokleptocratic, and other — mean that tyranny itself is the problem?  And what does that mean for us as Americans, if we decide otherwise?

The irony, as I was doing lesson-prep last night, is that even at the height of the Cold War, the brutality of a system of gangsterist tyranny that cost a hundred million lives had to be sold as an dream of freedom.  You probably can’t understand the song I just linked, but its most moving phrase in praising Lenin and the heroes of Communism is its (brutally ironic) assertion that one day the people will be free and happy.  The desire to be so is nearly universal.  So is the Cold War really over?  Or did it start not in 1946… but in 1918, when Woodrow Wilson declared that every nation has the fundamental right to chart its own destiny?

This needs to be talked about — as a nation, we need to decide where we stand on this issue.  Because both the tyrants, and those who wish not to be brutalized by them, are watching.

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