Our stolen future
Newt Gingrich argues that if the next terrorist mega-attack destroys an American city, the first casualty will be the First Amendment, followed possibly by the Internet. It's important to realize that Gingrich isn't arguing that restrictions on free speech are good. He is arguing that restrictions on free speech are inevitable if millions of people are killed in another terrorist attack. The problem is how to prevent both.
And, my prediction to you is that ether before we lose a city, or if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us.
He suggests the way to preventing the loss of liberty to a future attack is by re-examining how we fight the war today.
This is a serious problem that will lead to a serious debate about the first amendment, but I think that the national security threat of losing an American city to a nuclear weapon, or losing several million Americans to a biological attack is so real that we need to proactively, now, develop the appropriate rules of engagement.
And, I further think that we should propose a Genève convention for fighting terrorism which makes very clear that those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction, and those who would target civilians are in fact subject to a totally different set of rules that allow us to protect civilization by defeating barbarism before it gains so much strength that it is truly horrendous.
This is a sober topic, but I think it is a topic we need a national dialogue about, and we need to get ahead of the curve rather than wait until actually we literary lose a city which could literally happen within the next decade if we are unfortunate.
Structurally Gingrich's argument sounds a lot like the Three Conjectures which argues that once terrorists acquire the ability to make WMDs no stable condition of deterrence can be achieved; and hence an annihilating nuclear exchange becomes the sole remaining option. In plain language it means that once the destruction of Western cities and the deaths of millions becomes a regularly repeatable event, necessity will compel societies to do very ugly things to put a stop to it. The solution in both Gingrich's argument and my own, is to prevent the fatal premise from eventuating in order to forestall the necessary yet unthinkable conclusion. That is, to do everything possible to defeat terrorism now rather than later, when the cost of doing so later will simply be inhumanly high. But let the situation get to the precipice and we will go over the cliff. Gingrich says the slide towards the loss of liberty has already begun in Europe, where antiterrorism laws authorize detentions of long duration without bringing formal charges. Hate speech codes have already been enacted effectively curtailing expression. And the video camera, once a device confined to sensitive installations, has begun its inexorable march toward ubiquity. Airline security procedures, bag searches, background checks -- all have now become a part of daily lives. How much worse will it get? The Left's proposal for phasing out these measures mollify terrorists to stop them from attacking us. But what if civilization's enemies have a limitless list of root causes or worse, what if they are prepared to kill without provocation?
However one chooses to regard Gingrich's argument one thing may fairly be conceded. It is important to talk about this issue now while the skies are blue and winds are soft rather than on a night of blood and darkness, stumbling through the cinders with our glass-lacerated eyes.