It turns out that Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money is upping the stakes for the most vacuous left-wing machismo on the web. Campos has a piece up at the Wall Street Journal. See, "Undressing the Terror Threat: Running the Numbers on the Conflict With Terrorists Suggests That the Rules of the Game Should Change." Here's the gist of it:
It might be unrealistic to expect the average citizen to have a nuanced grasp of statistically based risk analysis, but there is nothing nuanced about two basic facts:Campos, at LGM, then adds an obligatory disclaimer denying "relativism":
(1) America is a country of 310 million people, in which thousands of horrible things happen every single day; and
(2) The chances that one of those horrible things will be that you're subjected to a terrorist attack can, for all practical purposes, be calculated as zero.
Consider that on this very day about 6,700 Americans will die. When confronted with this statistic almost everyone reverts to the mindset of the title character's acquaintances in Tolstoy's great novella "The Death of Ivan Ilyich," and indulges in the complacent thought that "it is he who is dead and not I."
Consider then that around 1,900 of the Americans who die today will be less than 65, and that indeed about 140 will be children. Approximately 50 Americans will be murdered today, including several women killed by their husbands or boyfriends, and several children who will die from abuse and neglect. Around 85 of us will commit suicide, and another 120 will die in traffic accidents.
No amount of statistical evidence, however, will make any difference to those who give themselves over to almost completely irrational fears. Such people, and there are apparently a lot of them in America right now, are in fact real victims of terrorism. They also make possible the current ascendancy of the politics of cowardice—the cynical exploitation of fear for political gain.
Unfortunately, the politics of cowardice can also make it rational to spend otherwise irrational amounts of resources on further minimizing already minimal risks. Given the current climate of fear, any terrorist incident involving Islamic radicals generates huge social costs, so it may make more economic sense, in the short term, to spend X dollars to avoid 10 deaths caused by terrorism than it does to spend X dollars to avoid 1,000 ordinary homicides. Any long-term acceptance of such trade-offs hands terrorists the only real victory they can ever achieve.
It's a remarkable fact that a nation founded, fought for, built by, and transformed through the extraordinary courage of figures such as George Washington, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. now often seems reduced to a pitiful whimpering giant by a handful of mostly incompetent criminals, whose main weapons consist of scary-sounding Web sites and shoe- and underwear-concealed bombs that fail to detonate.
The notion that terrorists want to kill "us" -- me and you specifically, or even Americans as a class -- because they hate us personally, or if you prefer "hate our freedoms," is pure narcissism. It's very much like imagining the the US military actually wants to kill Iraqi or Afghani civilians. From a logistical and political standpoint killing civilians is a pain in the ass for the US military and I'm quite sure they would very much prefer to avoid it altogether if they could, all ethical considerations aside. From a logistical and political standpoint trying to kill US civilians by blowing yourself and the plane you're on is a pain in the ass (sometimes literally) for terrorists and they no doubt would prefer to pursue their goals in a less unpleasant manner, again all ethical considerations aside ....Get that? "Essentially random." I'm not wishing the worst or anything, but hypothetically, perhaps some randomness will place Campos on the subway platform for the next Madrid-style bombing. No doubt his family would take comfort in his WSJ op-ed pieces:
I'm not drawing a moral equivalence here between terrorism and "collateral damage" in arguably legitimate military operations. What I'd like to insist on is that both kinds of death are highly impersonal and essentially random.
And note that Campos' link abvoe goes to Glenn Greenwald, which is of course huge confirmation of how far out this line of thinking is. And recall that I've addressed these arguments before, which are actually a prelude to leftist totalitarianism.
The fact, of course, is that it's impossible to apply simple, economistic cost/benefit analysis to the phenomenon of global jihad. It's not just "wingnuts" fanning the flames of some alleged fearmongering hysteria. Americans aren't likely to declare war on earthquakes and hurricanes because they know natural disasters happen and we deal with them through preparedness. But global jihad and Islamist terrorism is not random, and of course it's the same folks who tell us we should take a law enforcement approach to terrorism who are the quickest to downplay any evidence of total ideological war against the West. And this is what it looks like with these idiots in charge:
RELATED: If you can stomach more from these fools, here's useful idiot Frank Rich at NYT, "The Other Plot to Wreck America" (via Memeorandum).