Thursday, September 17, 2015

TED talk: David Rothkopf, "How Fear Drives American Politics"

I found this TED talk by David Rothkopf very interesting.  In it, he explains how the fear-driven reactionary response to 9/11 has led to more terrorism, a war on our fundamental rights, and attacks on science by the US government, replacing reason with emotion in decision-making, an inability to respond effectively to modern threats, and enormous costs to society, mostly from the fear-driven distraction from the most critical issues that we confront, terrorism not being one of those.

He begins the talk, like this ...

On September 11, 2001, 19 guys took over four airplanes and flew them into a couple of buildings. They exacted a horrible toll. It is not for us to minimize what that toll was. But  the response that we had was clearly disproportionate – disproportionate to the point of verging on the unhinged.

We rearranged our entire national security apparatus in the most sweeping way since the 2nd World War.We started two wars.  We spent trillions of dollars.  We suspended our values. We violated international law.  We embraced torture. We embraced the idea that if these 19 guys do this, anybody could do it.  Therefore, for the first time in history, we were seeing everybody as a threat.  And what was the result of that?  Surveillance programs that listened in on the emails and phone calls of entire countries, hundreds of millions of people, setting aside whether those countries were allies, setting aside what our interests were.

Despite the fact that, according to our intelligence services, on September 11, 2001, there were 100 members of core Al-Qaeda. There were just a few thousand terrorists. They posed an existential threat to no one.

I would argue that, 15 years later, since there are more terrorist attacks, more terrorist casualties, since the region from which those attacks emanate is more unstable than in any times in its history, we have not succeeded in our response.
David Rothkopf, CEO of the FP Group and editor of Foreign Policy Magazine
TED talk:  "How Fear Drives American Politics"   (18m00s)

It is very encouraging to me that Americans, as Mr. Rothkopf says, are finally emerging from a long "age of fear."  Americans are finally awakening (it seems to me) to the reality that not one of the seven wars they've launched since 9/11 have been successful in mitigating the threat of terrorism and, by making large regions of the planet politically unstable, they have increased the size of terrorist groups and their power and their reach.  America's fear-driven response to one single successful attack has made war more likely, perhaps inevitable, and possibly endless.

The fact that it took 15 years for Americans to even begin to deal with what was, essentially, a tiny threat, almost irrelevant to most people, is absolute evidence that the country is dysfunctional; not just in Washington, but from sea to shining sea.  The crisis facing Americans does not lie overseas; it never has.  Not even in the Cold War world that I grew up in.