THE BLOG
05/11/2010 06:29 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What's Terrorism and What's Not?

A question or two. Don't get mad. They're just questions.

Why is it "terrorism" to place a crude, homemade bomb in New York's Times Square and it "isn't terrorism" to fire a high-tech missile at a tiny village of a few thousand people in the wilderness mountains of Northern Pakistan? Why "terror" when the bomb in a car in New York didn't - and probably couldn't - blow up, but "not terror" when, after hovering silently for as long as fourteen hours, the drones' eleven missiles strike with pinpoint accuracy - fired from halfway around the world - killing dozens of people in Pakistan? And then - a bomb in the middle of Times Square. Was there any way we might have seen this coming?

There seems general agreement that acts which we refer to as "terrorism" have been attempted, are being attempted, and will continue to be attempted against us here in the United States, in retaliation for the drone attacks we have been conducting, are conducting right now and will continue to conduct in Northern Pakistan. Seriously now, what do we expect? If we are attacking and killing people in their own country, do we not even consider that some of those people might think to do the same to us?

There's a great problem with the American Mind Set. It's based on poor reasoning and false assumptions. We seem to take for granted that the United States could use force against anyone, anywhere, at anytime, for any reason and nobody will seek to avenge their own dead. How have we come to such dangerous and foolish thinking? Our history leads us to all the wrong conclusions.

In the 65 years since World War II the United States has used military force - either directly through our uniformed troops, by dropping bombs and firing missiles, or by way of special CIA forces - against 28 different nations. What's more, we have done so more than once against 12 different countries. We've attacked, intervened or invaded 2 nations 3 times and one country 5 times. Since 1948 we have taken deadly military action 45 times. Here is an alphabetical list of countries with dates:

Afghanistan 1998, 2001- present
Cambodia 1969-1975
Columbia 2003- present
Cuba 1961
Dominican Republic 1965-1966
Grenada 1983-1984
Guatemala 1954, 1966-1967
Haiti 1994, 2004-2005
Indonesia 1965
Iran 1953, 1980
Iraq 1963, 1990-1991, 1992-2003, 1998, 2003- present
Korea 1951-1953
Kuwait 1991
Laos 1962, 1971-1973
Lebanon 1958, 1982-1984
Liberia 2003
Libya 1986, 1989
Nicaragua 1981-1990
Pakistan 2005- present
Panama 1958, 1964, 1989
Philippines 1948-1954, 1989
Saudi Arabia 1990-1991
Serbia 1999
Somalia 1992-1994, 2006, 2009
Sudan 1998
Syria 2008
Vietnam 1960-1975
Yemen 2002, 2009

The one common feature of the nations subjected to all these military actions has been their inability to retaliate against the United States on our home ground. While we have met armed opposition in some of the countries in which we have intervened, not since we fought the Germans and the Japanese have we met a foe willing and able to hit us where we hit them. As Americans, we've grown accustomed to slapping people about without giving a second thought that anyone might hit back. In fact, should anyone try, no matter how amateurish or incompetent they may be, we label them "terrorists" and recoil in irrational fear quickly abandoning our traditional freedoms in search of some elusive safety and security. We assume the "terrorists" hate us for our TVs and refrigerators, our dishwashers and Disney World, or because we are sure their religion fails to honor the One True God. But, when faced with violence we never really ask: Why?

We currently have US military contingents in more than 150 places around the world. In quite a few of these countries the people who live there don't like us. As you've seen, in many nations we have killed people and claimed that killing as righteous and honorable - certainly not "terrorism." In a changing world where deadly technology is becoming more and more easily available, perhaps we need to rethink the consequences of our foreign policy, especially when that policy reaches out to people in other countries at the tip of a missile or point of a gun.

There is a limit to how long you can get away with anything. There's a terrible price to be paid for being stupid. Some chickens do look homeward. A bomb in Times Square might be only the beginning. We have had 45 opportunities in 28 countries since 1948. Don't you think someone might have seen this coming?