How To Beat Terrorism
by L. Neil Smith
Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Away, way back in 1977, when I began writing my first novel, _The Probability Broach_ (still in print, after four decades), I was regarded as something of a nutcase because I argued that American society would be a much better, safer place if everybody who wanted to, carried a gun. I was by no means the first to do so, nor was I the only one at the time, but, except for Robert A. Heinlein, Elmer Keith, and the ghost of H. Beam Piper, I often felt very much alone in my simple, straightforward, common-sense advocacy of exercising one’s natural rights under the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Now, of course, forty years later, armed self-defense has become a social movement. The degree to which I share responsibility for that is debatable, but I am proud of any part I may have had in it.
Last weekend (no, I am not changing the subject) was a pretty lousy one for peace and civil order in the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Egged on by various evil shamans (one of them in the States), Islamic terrorists employed an automobile and big knives to wound and murder dozens of innocent individuals who were trying to enjoy a warm summer evening—in a near-Arctic climate that doesn’t offer many of them—and whose only “crime” was that they did not choose to follow the benighted religious precepts of a 7th century Arab merchant-trader.
For Britain, this was the third violent terrorist incident in as many months, and Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May’s televised response to it was completely inadequate—it may be the reason her side lost the election.. Traditionally. governments “fight” crime by limiting the freedom of the non-criminals (they’re easier to control than the criminals) they rule and stealing their possessions. Decades ago, a stated objective of terrorist groups like the Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhof Gang was to goad politicians into making life so miserable for ordinary people that they would eventually revolt. The only difference is that secular terrorists in the 60s and 70s wanted a communist revolution, while terrorists today wish to establish a Caliphate, under Shariah law. May was nothing, if not traditionally conservative, promising to hire and arm more uniforms, and even more stupidly, to attempt to cut off communications among jihadis by limiting everybody’s freedom on the Internet.
Her worthless words were echoed and amplified by countless empty-skulled Hollywood types who used the occasion of slaughter to lecture potential victims that guns in private hands are naughty and unfashionable. It won’t work, of course. That sort of nonsense never does. And it accomplishes the terrorists’ objective for them by reducing the quality of everybody’s life (except for rich Hollywood types) and increasing their hatred for the government. The killers will go on scheming and hatching their plots—by carrier pigeon, if need be—until the next atrocity gives Leviathan a credible excuse to reduce freedom even further.
Some careful thought is required, instead of the usual government knee-jerky bluster and Beverly Hills blather. I commend you attention to Eric Frank Russell’s great work, _W.A.S.P,_. Terrorism’s great advantage it that it is diffuse in nature. It can happen any time, anywhere. It can manifest itself in a huge explosion, or simply a lit match. It can be carried out by two dozen jihadis or by a single individual. It is waged, not against the state directly, but against everyday, individual people. Vast armies and equipment like tanks and fighter planes are of no use against it, it is too diffuse to fight that way. A diffuse threat calls for a diffuse response.
I’ll repeat that, because it’s what this essay is really all about. A diffuse threat calls for a diffuse response.
In the United States, at about the same time that communist gangs were kidnapping, murdering, and blowing things up, good old American disorganized crime was running rampant. When I was a Reserve police officer in the early 1970s, it was estimated that, sometime in their lives, one out of three people would become a victim of mugging, burglary, or rape. Despite the “advice” of established authority, people began arming themselves. In a mostly face-saving effort, concealed carry permits became available. Crime began to diminish in double digits. States are being pressed now to eliminate the requirement for a permit, the Feds are considering national reciprocity, and the trend toward domestic tranquility continues. Violent crime is a diffuse problem, much the same as religious or political terrorism. Universal (some say “Constitutional”) weapons carry is the diffuse solution called for.
At bottom, violent criminals are cowardly bullies, looking for a soft mark and an easy victory. If the “average” terrorist faced a high-percentage probability that his intended victims—especially females—were prepared to humiliate him by fighting back, it wouldn’t matter how many imaginary virgins he was offered, he’d find other means to express his divine fervor. On the other hand, tf the average citizen carried only a small .38 revolver or .380 automatic in purse or pocket, easily hidden, lightweight, handlble, the shape of the world we live in would change. It wouldn’t solve every problem associated with terrorism, it would just solve most of them.
Somebody once wisely observed that you can’t fight an idea with guns and bombs, but only with a better idea. One reason we are still having problems with communism—in North Korea, China, Venezuela, and our college campuses—is that we have been trying to fight it, since 1917, with guns and bombs. There are many better ideas than communism, but its strongest advocates, the American mass media, won’t permit them to be discussed.
Much the same is true of Islam, only moreso. It is a belief-system almost entirely rooted in fear and ignorance, and has many vulnerabilities. A full, open, and public discussion of it would destroy it utterly, but its advocates are afraid to permit that, turning instead to Molotov cocktails, submachine guns, and large knives. Failing that full, open, and public discussion, a book should be produced that could change the course of history.
When I was a young man, classified ads in Reason magazine and elsewhere offered a publication called “100 Biblical Contradictions”. The book I have in mind for Islam would be similar to that, short, plain paragraphs mostly asking dangerous questions. It would be small enough to fit into a jacket or jeans pocket, and durable, like a Langenscheidt’s foreign language dictionary. It could be air-dropped by the hundreds of thousands where it would do the most good—Syria, Iran, Michigan—and audio recordings could be made available to the many—especially Muslim women—who can’t read.
I would borrow a leaf from Heinlein and call it by the Arabic word for Doubt. It would be more powerful than the Father of the “Mother Of All Bombs”.
The trouble with it, and the reason such a book will likely never be produced, is that it would be fully as destructive to other mystical and irrational belief systems, to Christianity and Judaism, among others—all of which are based on faith (which Mark Twain or someone once said means “believing in something you know damn well ain’t so”) as it would be to Islam. Joseph Farah and Glenn Beck and Franklin Graham would all freak out. Of course, there are individuals I’ve known—Christians, Jews, Muslims, and quite a few Buddhists—whose belief is gentle and strong enough to withstand what should be in Doubt, but not a majority.
It would appear that most human beings believe, without examination, whatever their parents and leaders and Hollywood balloon-heads want them to believe. So much for advancing the human condition.
Publisher and Senior Columnist L. Neil Smith is the author of over thirty books, mostly science fiction novels, He has been a libertarian activist since 1962. His many books and those of other pro-gun libertarians may be found (and ordered) at _L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE_ “Free Radical Book Store” The preceding essay was originally prepared for and appeared i n _L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE_. Use it to fight the continuing war against tyranny.