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Monday, November 16, 2015

Paul Krugman: Fearing Fear Itself

Don't give in to fear:

Fearing Fear Itself, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Like millions of people, I’ve been obsessively following the news from Paris, putting aside other things to focus on the horror. It’s the natural human reaction. But let’s be clear: it’s also the reaction the terrorists want. And that’s something not everyone seems to understand.
Take, for example, Jeb Bush’s declaration that “this is an organized attempt to destroy Western civilization.” No, it isn’t. It’s an organized attempt to sow panic, which isn’t at all the same thing. And remarks like that, which blur that distinction and make terrorists seem more powerful than they are, just help the jihadists’ cause. ...
So what was Friday’s attack about? Killing random people in restaurants and at concerts is a strategy that reflects its perpetrators’ fundamental weakness. It isn’t going to establish a caliphate in Paris. What it can do, however, is inspire fear — which is why we call it terrorism, and shouldn’t dignify it with the name of war.
The point is not to minimize the horror. It is, instead, to emphasize that the biggest danger terrorism poses ... comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire. ...
It would certainly be a very bad thing if France or other democracies ... try to achieve perfect security by eliminating every conceivable threat — a response that inevitably makes things worse... 9/11 ... was a disastrous war that actually empowered terrorists, and set the stage for the rise of ISIS. ...
So what can we say about how to respond to terrorism? Before the atrocities in Paris, the West’s general response involved a mix of policing, precaution, and military action. All involved difficult tradeoffs: surveillance versus privacy, protection versus freedom of movement, denying terrorists safe havens versus the costs and dangers of waging war abroad. And it was always obvious that sometimes a terrorist attack would slip through.
Paris may have changed that calculus a bit, especially when it comes to Europe’s handling of refugees, an agonizing issue... And there will have to be a post-mortem on why such an elaborate plot wasn’t spotted. But do you remember all the pronouncements that 9/11 would change everything? Well, it didn’t — and neither will this atrocity.
Again, the goal of terrorists is to inspire terror, because that’s all they’re capable of. And the most important thing our societies can do in response is to refuse to give in to fear.

    Posted by on Monday, November 16, 2015 at 01:08 AM in Economics, Terrorism | Permalink  Comments (74)


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