I've been reading "The 9/11 Commission Report". For $10 US, this is 567 pages of the scariest reading I've seen since Bram Stoker's "Dracula". I highly suggest you buy a copy and read it. The elections before us have made it a topical centerpiece, but without reading it, it is all too easy to drown in the punditry of the election and fail to grasp the long term implications beyond the November elections.
Although it may take some time to read, some things will be clear to Homer Simpson and his bespectacled neighbor.
1. The Federals blew it. From as far back as the Reagan years, they operated in an a fog of arrogance and back-biting competition with each other. When the ever so focused Islamic radicals decided to take on America as its number one target, America's agencies acted like a single skier on a slope unswervingly failing to miss the only other person on the slope.
2. We are still on the slope. The Bush administration cannot take the 'mote out of its own eye' and still continues to pursue policies that will keep us in this war for another two decades. Yet a new administration that fails to understand the history that created the opportunities for the Islamic fundamentalists will fail just as spectacularly.
3. Islamic fundamentalism is an old phenomenon. So is Christian fundamentalism. In different times in history, both have emerged as destructive forces. Their emergence simultaneously as movements that have seized power on opposite sides of a conflict are reinforcing elements that escalate tensions and ensure an ever escalating conflict. Yet even these are not the source of the conflict. If we are to reduce tension and conflict, we must reduce behaviors on our side that create the perceptions of conflict. It will take time to change these perceptions, but the sooner we start using effective means instead of Spy Vs Spy rhetoric which only makes the situtaion more incindiary, the sooner we will create a safer world.
4. Because we have fewer opportunities to modify the behaviors of other cultures, it is time to listen to what the fundamentalists are saying and begin to engineer systems to modify our own behaviors. In short, good forestry reduces tinder that accelerates fire. We must consider effective means.
In blogs that follow, I want to discuss means that have proven effective at modifying behaviors of large social systems without draconian or punitive measures. At the center of such means is the concept that it is not race or religion or profiling based on these characteristics that should dominate our selections, but the use of force in a world where feedback and agency can combine to amplify the effects of small forces over large communities.
Your comments are welcome.