Back in the 1980’s I was a counterintelligence officer for the Army, and early on in my career I developed an interest on the topic of terrorism. Working casual duty for a short time at Fort Huachuca, I helped pull together the first manual on anti-terrorism operations. Between 1985 – 1990, I had worked with police, intelligence, and security forces on terrorism related issues in Europe and Asia. I rounded out my ten-year career in the military with a stint as the Terrorism Analyst to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
Although it’s not the case in a post 9-11 world, at that time the field of terrorism was not considered a good career move. Many of the groups that had made headlines since the late 1960’s had been caught, simply dissipated, or were close to being rounded up. Being the curious type, I learned a lot about terrorist psychological profiles, tactics, and strategies.
In cases where terrorism was applied to foment revolution, the intent was to isolate a country’s leadership from the citizenry. Terrorist attacks on government leaders was a means to this end. It served the purpose of isolating the government from the people and allowing the revolutionaries the opportunity to sow dissent and carry out other forms of direct action. In the past governments that felt besieged would respond with increased military and police presence; and suspension of rights such as increased powers to search, seize, and detain citizens. These asymmetric responses often led to a further isolating of the government.
When Rep. Maxine Waters stated at a rally, “if you see anybody from that (Trump) Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” was she in a fashion attempting to isolate the government from the people? Not being a mind reader, I cannot tell you what Rep. Waters intentions were at the time she made the statement or are at this moment.
Now, there are those who may say I am making a mountain out of molehill in this instance. And, perhaps I am. But given the power of certain NGOs and scurrilous individuals to amp up the emotions of the populace, it may just be a matter of time before acts such as telling a government official they are not welcome in a public place take a turn for something far more serious. Perhaps someone does get “pushed” back physically. That would be assault, and is that anyone’s concept of what it means to live in a free and open society? Although not popular today, I tend to fall back on the words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall from 1906 when she stated, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
In a different time, Maxine’s comments might have met with universal derision. But today, despite her being distanced by several members of her party, there are many cheering and egging her on. To those that would take advantage of an open society wherein our political elites walk among us common folk as a license to assail them, I would caution you.
Perhaps this is symptomatic of our times. As I expounded on in a blog a few years ago, this is a time of a “Fourth Turning;” a cyclical event known historically for its foment and chaos. As Talcott Person’s aptly stated:
“A Fourth Turning is an era in which the availability of social order is low, but the demand for such order is high. Examples of earlier Fourth Turnings include the Civil War in the 1860s and the American Revolution in the 1770s—both periods of momentous crisis, when the identity of the nation hung in the balance.”
Our last Fourth turning was roughly 80 – 85 years ago, a time of economic stagnation and the world on the brink of total war. The stock market tanked, authoritarian regimes rose up and millions died in a world war. With that perspective, I think it would behoove our leaders to calm the waters. As on the 4thof July in 1776, there is a lot of tinder out there just waiting for a match to fuel the flames of revolution.