Monday, May 22, 2006

the best weapon against terrorism? scorn

Professor J. Michael Waller has an interesting suggestion on how to win the War on Terrorism. When engaging an enemy whose main weapon is fear, he writes, you must remove Al Qaeda's ability to inspire terror. In other words, you need to mock them, which the U.S. military did to great effect by releasing those humiliating outtakes from Abu Musab Zarqawi's latest video.

To most Americans, ridiculing terrorists might seem trivial, even sophomoric, as a weapon of war. But dictators and terrorists, being unable to function in the free market of ideas, need propagandists to control (not merely spin) their public images. They require obedience or acquiescence -- a fear factor that cannot long coexist with put-downs and snickering.
Intellectually, the argument makes a certain amount of sense. Of course, it also calls to mind this exchange from Woody Allen's Manhattan:

Isaac Davis: Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey? Y'know, I read this in the newspaper. We should go down there, get some guys together, y'know, get some bricks and baseball bats and really explain things to them.

Party Guest: There is this devastating satirical piece on that on the Op Ed page of the Times, it is devastating.

Isaac Davis: Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point.