Happy Martin Luther King Day!

The previous post briefly touched on the topic of national security as it affects the current generations of American youth. It may seem counter-intuitive to talk about terrorism on a day that commemorates a man who dedicated his life to nonviolent social change. It makes more sense when you realize that terrorism has been affecting the United States for a long time before the current conflict with Islamic extremism:

A poster from the 1920s depicting men waving American flags kicking around a liberty bond while being followed by Klansmen. The cartoon was published in the liberal journal /Good Morning/ to commemorate Warren G. Harding's inaugural parade. The purpose of the cartoon was to associate those who chose to profit from patriotism with extremists.

That’s right folks, the United States has been dealing with threats from non-nation-state actors for a lot longer than most people realize. Originally begun as a college fraternity, the Ku Klux Klan was comprised of former soldiers of the Confederate Army who resorted to violence against civilians to disrupt the abolitionist social order which was emerging in the American South during the years following the Civil War. Although solutions may have been developed for dealing with them, they would have been discontinued with federal troops were withdrawn from the South following the election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876:

Map depicting the readmission of Southern states into the Union during the Reconstruction period. This should provide readers with a clue as to where the current strategy of 'nation-building' comes from.

Likewise for US strategies developed for combating Viet Cong guerrillas during the 20th century. The reason why the American public appears to suffer from amnesia regarding our history of dealing with this type of threat is because our narrative of history likes to explain it away as part of some broader conflict against a conventional adversary: the Vietnam War was just a proxy war that took place during the Cold War against the Soviet Union; the struggle against the KKK was just unfinished business from the Civil War; our current problems with extremist violence are part of a struggle against “radical Islam”.

And the reason why we keep ignoring this threat is because of its very nature. It’s unpredictable, can strike at any time, and comes with little advance warning. Perhaps the best assurance that can be provided to the American public is to admit that no predefined strategy exists for solving this problem. It’s like having a heart attack– diet and exercise can prevent it from happening, but when it does occur, you can’t plan for it. You just have to deal with it as it happens using whatever resources you’ve got, including human beings:

The #1 killer of women in America.




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