Skip to comments.Lee Harris: Inviting the Vampire
Posted on 03/18/2004 9:22:51 PM PST by quidnunc
According to legend, it is impossible for a vampire to enter your house unless you have invited him in. Last Sunday, the Spanish people invited a vampire to enter their house, and the question that now looms before them and the rest of Europe as well is how to get him back out.
The vampire is terror but not just the old homespun terrorism of the European past, but the radically new form of terror that came to the world's attention on 9/11, namely catastrophic terror.
Once upon a time, back in the nineteenth century, terrorism was used to assassinate harmless members of royal families, which meant that unless you were close to the throne, you had nothing to worry about. During the late 1950's, small scale terror attacks were used both in Algeria and in metropolitan France, first of the Algerian Muslims to achieve independence from France, and then by the Algerian Europeans the so call pied noirs in order to prevent independence.
Here, for the first time, the threat of terror was felt at the personal level by the average guy. Yet as Alistair Horne writes in his history of the Algerian revolution, A Savage War of Peace, the terrorist bombs were designed more to shock and frighten the general public rather than to kill or maim them on a large scale. Two or three people might die in an explosion, but not two thousand or even two hundred.
Yet even these small scale terror attacks were sufficient to divide France into two bitterly opposed factions and to bring an end to the Fourth Republic a fact that should wake us up to the vastly greater potential for political de-stabilization posed by the systematic use of catastrophic terror.
Catastrophic terror, unlike ordinary terror, it is not intended to take a few token lives; it is deliberately designed to take so many lives at once that it induces an immediate visceral fear in the entire community that they too are under attack. This effect was clear in the days immediately after 9/11. Back then everything spooked us; and people, hearing the backfire of a truck, jumped out of their skin. At that point it was conceivable that "they" could be anywhere, and that another catastrophic event was right around the corner.
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