(Interviewed by Louis James, Editor, International Speculator)
Almost exactly three years before the 9/11 attacks, Doug Casey had one of his famous Guru Moments, writing in the September 1998 edition of the International Speculator:
Terrorism is becoming a major force in the world, as evidenced by Clinton actually referring to the use of nuclear, biological, and chemical devices in the U.S. I've thought their use against U.S. targets was an inevitability for years. But with the U.S. government launching its own terror strikes against Third World targets, the inevitable is starting to look imminent. Let's put it this way: Living in Washington, New York or other population centers is not terribly prudent.
And again, the International Speculator that arrived in mailboxes mid-July, 2001 - rather good timing - had a feature article entitled "Waiting for World War III," which discussed, at great length, terrorism and Islam - and even mentioned Osama Bin Laden.
L: Tatich, we've touched on terrorism a number of times in our conversations, particularly when we discussed the military and in our conversation on the implications of the attack on the IRS building a few weeks ago. Let's stop beating around the bush and talk about terrorism.
Editor's Note: "Tatich" means "Big Chief" in the Mayan language.
Doug: Okay, but as with most areas where there's a lot of sloppy thinking, we should first start with a definition. If words are used too loosely, or inaccurately, then it's really impossible to know what is actually under discussion. "Terrorism" is a concept that everybody talks about, but almost nobody bothers to define. According to Webster's New World Dictionary, terrorism is "the use of force or threats to intimidate, especially as a political policy." This implies that all governments engage in terrorism daily against their own citizens - which is actually true, as anyone who's been audited by the IRS can tell you. A somewhat narrower definition of terrorism is: "an act of wholesale violence, for political ends, that deliberately targets civilians."
As we discussed in our conversation on the IRS attack and unintended consequences, the government's definition of terrorism is "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property, meant to intimidate or coerce a government or the civilian population as a means for achieving political or social goals."
L: What a great self-serving definition.
Doug: [Laughs] It really is funny. And more than a little Orwellian in the way the meaning is twisted. By the government's definition, it's perfectly all right to do these things - as long as it's legal.
L: Not even that - hence the dodge of sending prisoners accused of no crime in any court of law to Guantanamo, to get around the illegality of indefinite detention. The message is that terrorism, even torture - "waterboarding" - is just peachy, as long as it's the "authorities" doing it. Did you hear Karl Rove defending torture of the Guantanamo prisoners? He said he was proud of it, and that the intelligence gathered was invaluable. Apparently rights, and even right itself, is of no concern.
Doug: Last year, I debated Rove in New Orleans - you'd never know what a moral cripple he is from the pleasant and personable exterior. We should discuss the banality of evil at some point.
L: I heard that debate and was proud of you for telling him to his face that he ought to be ashamed for Guantanamo and other crimes committed by the administration he was part of. But back to terrorism. Given your definition of "an act of wholesale violence, for political ends, that deliberately targets civilians," why is this important to us in particular - other than as something to be avoided?
Doug: Because terrorism is the future of warfare. Far from going away, it's going to become the most common form of military conflict.
L: You don't think America can win the War on Terror?
Doug: [Sighs deeply] No. Not only is that impossible, the very idea is meaningless. Terrorism is not an enemy - it's a tactic. You can't have a war on terrorism any more than you can have a war on artillery barrages, cavalry charges - or a war on war, for that matter. The first step in winning a conflict is to identify the actual enemy. And the fools in DC can't even do that.
But before we look at the future, it's worth noting that terrorism has long been a favored tool of those in power, going all the way back to ancient times.
L: Sure. As with your IRS example; that's why they periodically crucify ordinary Joes - it keeps the rest in fear and hence quiescent. People don't pay taxes out of pure love for the homeland - it's plain terrorism that keeps them in line.
Doug: Of course. It's just not on the scale of Genghis Khan or Tamerlane, who used to stack skulls into pyramids. Or the Romans, who literally did crucify people to show what happens to those who go up against the state.
L: Agreed, but on a moral plane, it's equivalent; it's not about what's right, it's about enforcing submission.
Doug: Sure, you could say that "the state" is actually terrorism on a grand scale. It's bizarre how most people view the state as necessary or even benign. It may offend some of our readers who have been programmed into believing the military can do no wrong and that the U.S. always has God on its side, but logically, the bombings of Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo are prime examples of state-sponsored terrorism.
World War II, in effect, legitimized the concept of mass murder of civilians. As late as World War I, the concept of incinerating whole cities would have been totally beyond the pale; WWII turned the moral clock back to the Middle Ages, when the wholesale slaughter of civilians was considered acceptable.
I suspect the "Long 19th Century," from about 1776-1914, will be looked back on as a golden age, a peak of civilization, when the individual was ascendant, the state was under control, free-market capitalism was lauded, and progress seemed natural and inevitable. Technology has improved since then, but it's a mistake to conflate technological progress with moral progress.
[To read Doug's assessment why the U.S. can never win the "War on Terrorism" and the investment implications, click here.]