Something happened just now that I think we’re not paying enough attention to: the attack by one side in Yemen’s civil war on Saudi oil production facilities.
I don’t mean that we’re not paying enough attention to the fact that, since Iran sponsors one side of the civil war and Saudi Arabia another, and we are allies with Saudi Arabia (though they are not allies of ours) and enemies of Iran, that this could pull us in to a major conflict in the Middle East with the potential to ignite a world wide conflagration.
Although, now that I mention it, we’re probably not paying enough attention to that, either.
I mean, really, are we thinking about that enough?
But no, what I mean is: One side in a small regional civil war was able to use basic drones and explosives to cripple half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.
Are we getting that? How easy major industrial sabotage is with what is effectively over-the-counter technology?
Because I don’t think that’s really sinking in. Just how vulnerable whole nations are to people with an ax to grind.
Much in the way that we live in a country in which it is absurdly easy for someone who blames society for the state of his sex life to shoot up a church, school, or office, we are seeing now how easy it is for people who want to do mass damage to make it happen without the need for extensive resources.
This, of course, was also a lesson of Sept. 11 — when terrorists used box cutters and commercial flights to rattle a superpower and change the course of history. But we told ourselves that was a fluke.
It was not. We see that proven over and over again.
The modern world is such that people who want to do damage enough can do it, even against a hyperpower.
That’s obvious, but we have to look at it.
What’s also obvious is that many of the conventionally proposed solutions to this problem do not work.
There is evidence — from countries around the world — that gun control measures can reduce mass shootings, or almost eliminate them entirely. That’s a real thing. But the idea that a stricter security state and more active police state can reduce such attacks is has no evidence to support it at all. Take the most recent attack in Saudi Arabia: Are we really saying that the Saudi Arabian government isn’t repressive enough? That it needs to respect human rights less?
It’s one of the more repressive regimes in the world. Greater repression does not lead to greater security.
This is important enough to say again: Greater repression does not lead to greater security.
The extreme version of this is China, which is has built “re-education” centers meant to hold a million Muslims; has created a police state in Tibet because it fears Buddhists; throws Christians in jail; and is using Artificial Intelligence and “The Internet Of Things” to create a “big brother” style system in which everyone is monitored all the time, and their actions scored against what the government wants, and people are punished and rewarded accordingly.
And has all this repression made China feel more secure? More stable? No — it needs more guards, more sensors, more censorship. The more tightly it wraps its fist around its people, the more its fingers fear every breath the people take.
And it’s still vulnerable. Vulnerable to the people who hate it even more, now.
China’s example does not show us how to solve the problem — it only shows us how much repression you can put on people and still not have them be safer. Turning your own police into terrorists, who lawlessly assault ordinary citizens, does not deter actual terrorists.
We do not want to go that route.
The alternative, it seems to me, is to create society in which more people have more invested in it. Making sure more people have living wages, affordable health care,
Jobs that not only support their lives but let them work with dignity, a say in how their own communities are run, meaningful community connections … people who have these things are much less likely to try to blow a system up, with drones, guns, or cyber attacks.
It’s not a perfect solution — it won’t solve the problem of evil people, but it will do a great deal to get more people invested in supporting what we have. Besides — what’s the alternative? Trying to oppress people until you feel safe is crazy. We see that everywhere we look.
Benjamin Wachs archives his work at www.FascinatingStranger.com. com. Email him at Benjamin@FascinatingStranger.com.