The most effective weapon against long-term terrorism is this country's involvement in the world community; the most effective refutation of terrorists is the preservation of our civil liberties.
Any significant military action by the United States against Afghanistan might provide a Hollywood moment for American television audiences but would be counterproductive in the long run. This is not pacifist lamenting. On any level, winning the war against terrorism is rarely going to require a military show of strength. The reality of terrorism is that it is random and decentralized. Nineteen men can carry off a coordinated action, or one maniac with a loaded truck can take out a building. The war against terrorism is going to require long-term diplomatic maneuvering and an ongoing anti-terrorism intelligence effort. How cold-blooded that effort should be seems to me one of the main points of discussion. We should bring every reasonable pressure to bear on nations that harbor terrorists before resorting to unreasonable pressures (another point of discussion).
With the worst of you, I want to beat up the bad guys on this one. But any big, brash American effort is just going to help their cause. We should track terrorists down. But, by any scenario, this is going to be a long, drawn-out affair that is not very narrative-friendly. So we must resign ourselves to the ongoing, heartbreaking conflict. The most effective weapon against long-term terrorism is this country's involvement in the world community.
We must think of our own roles in this. I've already received many e-mails advocating restricting basic liberties in defense against terrorism. In the same way a nuke can't take out a flea, a war on civil liberties, ultimately, will not rule out terrorists. If the country becomes less the idea of freedom, and more just defined by bodies and land, then the terrorists, with one action, will have proved even more successful than they could have imagined. Security over freedom is a toxic equation.
So that's what I have to say. I couldn't disagree more with the people who criticize our decision to move forward. These tragic events inform every aspect of our community. All performance arts will take on a different tenor, politics will change subtly, movies and music will be affected. Everyone who works for this enterprise is totally conscious of the awesome consequence of recent events. It informs all our work. But our tribute to New York and D.C. is to move forward, to not be stopped, to not be turned around. In all our hearts we mourn. I found myself sobbing this morning reading a story in the Wall Street Journal about preschool teachers saving their kids. We will never stop paying our respect. We will do this by persevering, by being better, by moving on.
And this column will also move on; next week's will be about the redesign and our 20th anniversary events. In a fit of madness, as part of these events, we've scheduled a Chronicle Open House Brunch on Friday, Oct. 12, 11am-2pm. If you want to see how the beasts are slaughtered to make this particular sausage we call The Austin Chronicle, here's your chance. Given the demeanor of our office, the slaughterhouse metaphor isn't far off. But come find out for yourself.