Brian Jenkins on terror, liberty, and courage

Brian Jenkins on how to deal with terrorism, from his new book Unconquerable Nation:
As the United States faces a new array of threats that arose at the end of the Cold War and were so stunningly clarified on September 11, 2001, Americans are again summoned to demonstrate courage, to draw on deep traditions of determination in the face of risk, to show self-reliance and resiliency. There has been too much fear-mongering since 9/11. We are not a nation of victims cowering under the kitchen table. We cannot expect protection against all risk. Too many Americans have died defending liberty for us to easily surrender it now to terror.

Brian Jenkins could easily be the leading character in a Ross Thomas novel: ex-Special Forces, years doing the sharp end of “corporate security” in touchy places for Kroll International, and now RAND’s senior expert on terrorism. He even looks the part.

I’m just back from hearing him give a couple of splendid talks at a week-long seminar (of which more anon). I’m only just starting to read Jenkins’s book Unconquerable Nation: Knowing Our Enemy, Strengthening Ourselves, which is about to come out from RAND.

I’m pretty sure most of his advice on how to handle terrorism is sound. But I’m dead certain his tone is the tone Democratic candidates need to adopt. Here’s a sample:

As the United States faces a new array of threats that arose at the end of the Cold War and were so stunningly clarified on September 11, 2001, Americans are again summoned to demonstrate courage, to draw on deep traditions of determination in the face of risk, to show self-reliance and resiliency. There has been too much fear-mongering since 9/11. We are not a nation of victims cowering under the kitchen table. We cannot expect protection against all risk. Too many Americans have died defending liberty for us to easily surrender it now to terror.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

4 thoughts on “Brian Jenkins on terror, liberty, and courage”

  1. More to the point I think is "We are not a nation of victims cowering under the kitchen table." Or restated as 'We have been made into a nation of victims by Republicans and the administration' or 'Republicans want us to behave like…'
    This is one of the major ways the administration's response to 9/11 has actually paid Osama back for the attack that could otherwise have been reviled as overstepping.
    Mr. Jenkins has been in the counter terror business for decades. I can remember reading his reports in the '80s.

  2. "The first reaction, of course, of Hezbollah and its supporters is, declare victory," Bush said. "I guess I would have done the same thing if I were them, but sometimes it takes people a while to come to the sober realization of what forces create stability and which don't."
    Priceless Bush quote
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060819/ap_on_go_pr_w

  3. "We cannot expect protection against all risk."
    It is not coincidental that the Bush Administration seems, at times, to want to repeal the Enlightenment.
    Civilization depends on the ability of at least some people to come to grips with their own fragile mortality and competence, and still go ahead, and try, in a rational way, to make the world better. The alternative is ritualism and superstition — religion at its worst: literal witchhunts and ritual sacrifice, "strategies" founded not on realistic analysis, but on dramatic narratives.
    An acknowledgment of the limits of human competence in the face of threats to life is the founding psychological step toward secular achievement. Those, who take that step, still divide politically, between progressives, who favor incremental progress by reform, and conservatives, who argue for the impotence of unintended consequences. Those, who refuse the limits of competence, become authoritarians or radicals: the authoritarians deny the inevitability of error and corruption among those invested with authority, while the radicals embrace rationalized ideals as a means to ignore the limits of knowledge and man's perfectibility.
    Bush in a mad grab at power, has pushed heavily on the fear button, and aroused a political atavism, transforming a conservative Party into an authoritarian Party. Authoritarianism now threatens the very foundation of constitutional Democracy.
    A rhetoric from Democrats, which celebrated the courage to be rational, would be a good first step in righting our politics, and bringing sanity back to our politics.

  4. "cowering under the kitchen table"
    Yeah, for all we Americans bag on the English, they managed to stick it to the IRA by simply going on with their lives in the face of a constant threat.

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