Analogies to Terror

John Kerry is rightly being battered for characterizing terrorism, in a best-case scenario, as a “nuisance” like prostitution and gambling, which law enforcement (significantly, not the armed forces) tries to suppress to a reasonable level, but which never entirely goes away. Kerry’s characterization is, on its face, repugnant: internet spam is a “nuisance;” terrorism is something far worse, even when it is rare.
One point that I don’t think has been emphasized sufficiently, however, is what a terrible analogy prostitution and gambling are to terrorism. The reason why those crimes are notoriously hard to eliminate is that they are victimless. They are consensual acts in which a great many people voluntarily engage. How can Kerry possibly see an analogy to terrorism? Does anyone consent to be murdered by terrorists? Is the relationship between terrorist and victim remotely comparable to that between a gambler and his bookie? Kerry’s analogy is insensitive to a degree that is almost unfathomable.
The analogy suggested by Paul Pillar, as quoted by Deacon below, is a little better, but still far off the mark. Paul has compared terrorism to automobile accidents. Terrorism, like car accidents, is a terrible thing that we should try to minimize; but, realistically, we’ll never be able to eliminate either terrorism or auto accidents entirely.
But car accidents are an unintended by-product of a constructive activity. The automobile has revolutionized and improved life for billions of people. If we, as individuals, were determined to avoid the risk of automobile accidents, we would avoid riding in cars. But the small risk of accident is one that we voluntarily take, in exchange for the extraordinary mobility and freedom we enjoy, unparalleled in the history of the human race.
Terrorism is not the accidental by-product of a life-enhancing activity. It is a manifestation of pure evil. It may be true that, no matter how strenuous our efforts, someone, somewhere on the globe, will find a way to saw an innocent man’s head off with a knife, or blow up a restaurant or night club. But to tolerate such cruelty, as a matter of policy, in the way that we tolerate prostitution or car accidents, should be viewed as utterly unacceptable. The only proper response to the cruel, inhuman terrorist acts that we have witnessed in recent years is white-hot fury. Our goal must be the utter destruction of the bottomless evil of terrorism, not the bureaucratic management of a “nuisance.” That John Kerry cannot understand this basic moral fact disqualifies him from a position of leadership in our government.

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