A Philosopher's Blog


Posted in Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on September 11, 2012
English: New York, N.Y. (Sept. 14, 2001) – Wha...

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Today is, of course, the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. One impact is that the politicians and their proxies have toned down the political attacks for the day. This is, of course, smart politics-launching mean spirited attacks on this day is hardly a good way to score political points. It is, of course, also the right thing to do. This day gives us a reason to remember that despite our political differences we are still all Americans and we share many core values. In any case, it is clear that we were all American enough for the terrorists-they did not distinguish between Democrats and Republicans (or independents).

It would be a good thing if we remember our shared values and common nationality on days other than national tragedies or their anniversaries. While terrible events like 9/11 remind us that despite the venomous political rhetoric we are not actually enemies this is surely something we should remember on other days. It should not take deaths or remembrances of deaths to get us to be civil to one another. This so something we should do all the days of the year.

In terms of the impact of the war on terror that followed 9/11, we seem to be doing relatively well. In 2010 15 private U.S. citizens died in terrorist attacks. That same year 16 U.S. citizens were killed by falling televisions. Thus, a private citizen is marginally more likely to be killed by a TV set than a terrorist and this could be regarded as something of a win in the war on terror.

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16 Responses

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  1. WTP said, on September 12, 2012 at 8:35 am

    In 2010 15 private U.S. citizens died in terrorist attacks. That same year 16 U.S. citizens were killed by falling televisions.

    And the number of civilians in the U.S. killed by Germany in the 20th century was somewhat close to zero. One wonders why all that WWI/WWII hoopla was necessary.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 12, 2012 at 9:29 am

      In reply, what about the U Boat attacks on ships carrying US civilians?

      Also, there is the matter of whether or not the analogy holds-is the war on terror the same as a conventional war?

      Also, my point was that our actions have apparently reduced terrorist caused deaths of private US citizens to a level slightly under deaths caused by falling TVs.

  2. WTP said, on September 12, 2012 at 10:44 am

    American citizens killed by Uboat attacks were not in the U.S. at the time. Ships crossing the Atlantic were in many cases, like the Lusitania, carrying ammunition for the allies to use against the Germans. Thus they were legitimate war-time targets. The Germans warned U.S. civilians as such and the dangers were well known to those choosing to put themselves at risk.

    While it appears we agree that this is a victory, in the past you have used similar comparisons between the dangers from inanimate objects relative to terrorists as justification for dialing back the war on terror. My point is in addressing your analogy. Televisions do not fall out of the sky of their own volition, however terrorists are capable of making choices to attack or not and can choose their targets based on what they perceive as the greatest threat, civilians or the military that is engaged in fighting them.

    • T. J. Babson said, on September 12, 2012 at 10:49 am

      WTP, is this your blog?


      • WTP said, on September 12, 2012 at 11:40 am

        Yes…as you can see it’s been idle for quite some time. Too much real life getting in the way these days to maintain a blog.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 12, 2012 at 11:02 am

      I didn’t say that the deaths occurred on US soil.

      My point still remains. Statistically the terrorist threat is exceptionally low and our cost seems to vastly exceed what the threat warrants. We would be better off using some of those billions to counter threats that are statistically likely.

      It is not that I am against opposing terror. Rather, my assessments are based on basic strategy: when you have limited resources, use them for the best effect. We should be prepping more for internet based warfare, for example. There is also, of course, the concerns about China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.

      • T. J. Babson said, on September 12, 2012 at 11:12 am

        Mike is absolutely right, here. But we need to cut our politicians a little slack. Just as Bush should have been cut some slack in dealing with Katrina, which devastated an area the size of France.

        • T. J. Babson said, on September 12, 2012 at 11:17 am

          And the 9/11 attacks would have been averted if the government had warned against the possibility of suicide attacks. For years the government had told passengers not to resist hijackers. Having an alert populace is the best defense against terrorism. But again, we mustn’t accuse people of racism every time someone is suspicious of a Muslim who turns out to be innocent.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 12, 2012 at 11:36 am

            Perhaps. Counterfactually, if passengers had been warned that hijackers might crash a plane rather than just do what they had been doing for decades (such as taking the planes to Cuba), then things might have been different.

        • WTP said, on September 12, 2012 at 11:52 am

          The terrorist threat here at home is exceptionally low because we are engaging the terrorists on their own turf. The threat from radical Islam in general (which is what we really mean by “war on terror”), has not abated. Need I point out Cairo and Libya? Not that I favor staying any longer in Afghanistan, but we do need to maintain a formidable presence in the region and put more pressure on Pakistan.

      • WTP said, on September 12, 2012 at 11:45 am

        No, you were replying to my statement where I said that…And the number of civilians in the U.S. killed by Germany… Again with the semantics. As for China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia where is the philosopher’s faith in diplomacy? China and Russia have far more problems and vulnerabilities in the near term and on the horizon. Iran and NK are matters of will, not resources.

  3. T. J. Babson said, on September 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Mike, what is your theory about why the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi did not make the front page of the New York Times?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      No idea. They certainly dominated CNN this morning. Do you think the NYT is up to something nefarious?

    • WTP said, on September 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      I would think Benghazi was too late to make the press cut-off. It currently tops their web edition. Cairo is typical of the Gray Lady looking the other way. Especially since The One gave one of his most revered sermons there.

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