Tag Archives: Foreign Policy

Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban - Foreign Policy 20120518

Propaganda that was supposed to target foreigners could now be aimed at Americans, reversing a longstanding policy.

“Disconcerting and dangerous,” says Shank.

An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill, BuzzFeed has learned.

The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the independent Broadcasting Board of Governors, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee’s official website.

The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.

The bi-partisan amendment is sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State.

In a little noticed press release earlier in the week — buried beneath the other high-profile issues in the $642 billion defense bill, including indefinite detention and a prohibition on gay marriage at military installations — Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”

The bill’s supporters say the informational material used overseas to influence foreign audiences is too good to not use at home, and that new techniques are needed to help fight Al-Qaeda, a borderless enemy whose own propaganda reaches Americans online.

Critics of the bill say there are ways to keep America safe without turning the massive information operations apparatus within the federal government against American citizens.

“Clearly there are ways to modernize for the information age without wiping out the distinction between domestic and foreign audiences,” says Michael Shank, Vice President at the Institute for Economics and Peace in Washington D.C. “That Reps Adam Smith and Mac Thornberry want to roll back protections put in place by previously-serving Senators – who, in their wisdom, ensured limits to taxpayer–funded propaganda promulgated by the US government – is disconcerting and dangerous.”

“I just don’t want to see something this significant – whatever the pros and cons – go through without anyone noticing,”
“ says one source on the Hill, who is disturbed by the law. According to this source, the law would allow “U.S. propaganda intended to influence foreign audiences to be used on the domestic population.”

The new law would give sweeping powers to the government to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

According to this official, “senior public affairs” officers within the Department of Defense want to “get rid” of Smith-Mundt and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to prop up unpopular policies—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Critics of the bill point out that there was rigorous debate when Smith Mundt passed, and the fact that this is so “under the radar,” as the Pentagon official puts it, is troubling.

The Pentagon spends some $4 billion a year to sway public opinion already, and it was recently revealed by USA Today the DoD spent $202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.

In an apparent retaliation to the USA Today investigation, the two reporters working on the story appear to have been targeted by Pentagon contractors, who created fake Facebook pages and Twitter accounts in an attempt to discredit them.

(In fact, a second amendment to the authorization bill — in reaction to the USA Today report — seeks cuts to the Pentagon’s propaganda budget overseas, while this amendment will make it easier for the propaganda to spread at home.)

The evaporation of Smith-Mundt and other provisions to safeguard U.S. citizens against government propaganda campaigns is part of a larger trend within the diplomatic and military establishment.

In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.

A U.S. Army whistleblower, Lieutenant Col. Daniel Davis, noted recently in his scathing 84-page unclassified report on Afghanistan that there remains a strong desire within the defense establishment “to enable Public Affairs officers to influence American public opinion when they deem it necessary to “protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will,” he wrote, quoting a well-regarded general.

The defense bill passed the House Friday afternoon.

CORRECTION: The amendment under consideration would not apply to the Department of Defense, though the it is attached to a defense authorization bill.

Much ado about State Department ‘propaganda’: Much ado about State Department ‘propaganda’ - Foreign Policy 20120523

Much ado about State Department ‘propaganda’: Much ado about State Department ‘propaganda’ - Foreign Policy 20120523

The congressional drive to update a 1948 law on how the U.S. government manages its public diplomacy has kicked off a heated debate over whether Congress is about to allow the State Department to propagandize Americans. But the actual impact of the change is less sinister than it might seem.

On May 18, Buzzfeed published a story by reporter Michael Hastings about the bipartisan congressional effort to change the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 (as amended by the Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987). The story was entitled, "Congressmen seek to lift propaganda ban," and focuses on the successful effort by Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA) to add their Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 as an amendment to the House version of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

The new legislation would "authorize the domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences." The Buzzfeed article outlines concerns inside the defense community that the Pentagon might now be allowed to use information operations and propaganda operations against U.S. citizens. A correction added to the story notes that Smith-Mundt doesn’t apply to the Pentagon in the first place.

In fact, the Smith-Mundt act (as amended in 1987) only covers the select parts of the State Department that are engaged in public diplomacy efforts abroad, such as the public diplomacy section of the "R" bureau, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the body that oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other U.S. government-funded media organizations.

Implementation of the law over the years has been selective, haphazard, and at times confusing, because even State Department bureaus often aren’t sure if they have to abide by it. The Thornberry-Smith language is meant to fix that by applying Smith-Mundt to the entire State Department and USAID.

The Defense Department, meanwhile, has its own "no propaganda" rider, enshrined in the part of U.S. code that covers the Pentagon, and that is not affected in any way by either Smith-Mundt as it stands or by the proposed update now found in the defense bill. The only reason the Smith-Mundt modernization bill was attached to the defense bill was because that bill is one that’s sure to move and Congress hasn’t actually passed a foreign affairs authorization bill in years.

"To me, it’s a fascinating case study in how one blogger was pretty sloppy, not understanding the issue and then it got picked up by Politico‘s Playbook, and you had one level of sloppiness on top of another. And once something sensational gets out there, it just spreads like wildfire," Thornberry told The Cable in an interview today.

He said the update for Smith-Mundt was intended to recognize that U.S. public diplomacy needs to compete on the Internet and through satellite channels and therefore the law preventing this information from being available to U.S. citizens was simply obsolete.

"It should be completely obvious that a law first passed in 1948 might need to be updated to reflect a world of the Internet and satellite [TV]," he said. "If you want the State Department to engage on the war of ideas, it has to do it over the Internet and satellite channels, which don’t have geographical borders."

Salon writer Glenn Greenwald interviewed Smith Tuesday and wrote a storyquestioning whether the law would allow the State Department to try to influence American public opinion though "propaganda." He noted a press release on the Thornberry-Smith legislation which complained that Smith-Mundt had prevented a Minneapolis radio station from replaying VOA broadcasts to Somali-Americans to rebut terrorist propaganda.

Thornberry’s response was to say that the 21st century media environment is already so diverse and open that opening Americans’ access to one more source of information, State Department-produced news and information, was not likely to propagandize American citizens.

"It makes me chuckle. This is not 1948 when everybody was tuned to a few radio stations and the fear was that the information we were sending to Eastern Bloc countries was going to affect American politics," he said. "The idea that the State Department could be so effective as to impact domestic politics is just silly. This gives Americans the chance to see what the State Department is saying to people all over the world."

In fact, advocates of the bill tout the issue of transparency and oversight of U.S. public diplomacy as one of the main benefits of the new bill. Previously, oversight of State Department public diplomacy efforts abroad was done by an advisory commission inside the State Department that was shut down last year, while Congress and the media has little to no direct access to the material.

Thornberry said that domestic dissemination of the material will actually increase the transparency and oversight of U.S. public diplomacy by laying it bare for Americans to chew over.

"If all these bloggers see the State Department trying to influence something domestically, they will be the first to raise the alarm," he said. "It is always going to be true that you have to look at the effectiveness and truthfulness of the content of the information. But it would no longer be against the law that the American people can see it."

Matt Armstrong, who was the executive director of the State Department’s advisory commission on public diplomacy before it got shut down because Congress declined to reauthorize it, explained on his Mountainrunner blogthat Smith-Mundt was designed by a Cold War U.S. government that simply didn’t trust the State Department to talk directly to the American people.

"The Smith-Mundt Act is misunderstood and often mistaken for ‘anti-propaganda’ legislation intended to censor the Government. The reality is the original prohibition on the State Department disseminating inside the U.S. its own information products designed for audiences abroad was, first, to protect the Government from the State Department and, second, to protect commercial media," he wrote.

In an interview today, Armstrong pointed out that the Thornberry-Smith bill explicitly notes that two existing provisions of Smith-Mundt, both of which would remain intact, address concerns that the State Department might overreach in trying to influence Americans. Section 1437 of the existing legislation requires the State Department to defer to private media whenever possible and Section 1462 requires State to withdraw from a government information activity whenever a private media source is found as an adequate replacement.

He said the law as it stands is just not working and doesn’t make a lot of sense. "When Cal Ripkin or Michele Kwan go to China, Americans aren’t supposed to know that they went or what they did there. In addition, virtually anything that’s on a U.S. embassy website is off limits," he said.

The discussion over Smith-Mundt is further distorted by a lack of understanding about what public diplomacy is and when it crosses over into "propaganda."

"Let’s face it, it is impossible to communicate and not influence.. The idea here is that U.S. public diplomacy is not based on lies," said Armstrong. "There’s this misconception that public diplomacy is propaganda. Propaganda is a lie, a deception, or intentional ambiguity, none of which can be lead to effective public diplomacy by any country, let alone the U.S."

Of course, the State Department’s Public Affairs bureaucracy, which speaks to Americans every day in various forms, is capable of "propaganda," but is not covered by Smith-Mundt. The Cable asked State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland at today’s press briefing if State supported the Thornberry-Smith legislation.

"We have long thought that aspects of Smith-Mundt need to be modernized, that in a 24-7 Internet age it’s hard to draw hard lines like the original Smith-Mundt [Act] did in the ‘40s," she said.

We then asked Nuland whether the State Department has any intent to propagandize American citizens.

"We do not and never have," she said with a smile.

U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans - Foreign Policy 20130714

U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans - Foreign Policy 20130714

For decades, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government’s mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came silently to an end with the implementation of a new reform passed in January. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts. So what just happened?

Until this month, a vast ocean of U.S. programming produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks could only be viewed or listened to at broadcast quality in foreign countries. The programming varies in tone and quality, but its breadth is vast: It’s viewed in more than 100 countries in 61 languages. The topics covered include human rights abuses in Iran, self-immolation in Tibet, human trafficking across Asia, and on-the-ground reporting in Egypt and Iraq.

The restriction of these broadcasts was due to the Smith-Mundt Act, a long-standing piece of legislation that has been amended numerous times over the years, perhaps most consequentially by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. In the 1970s, Fulbright was no friend of VOA and Radio Free Europe, and moved to restrict them from domestic distribution, saying they "should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics." Fulbright’s amendment to Smith-Mundt was bolstered in 1985 by Nebraska Senator Edward Zorinsky, who argued that such "propaganda" should be kept out of America as to distinguish the U.S. "from the Soviet Union where domestic propaganda is a principal government activity."

Zorinsky and Fulbright sold their amendments on sensible rhetoric: American taxpayers shouldn’t be funding propaganda for American audiences. So did Congress just tear down the American public’s last defense against domestic propaganda?

BBG spokeswoman Lynne Weil insists BBG is not a propaganda outlet, and its flagship services such as VOA "present fair and accurate news."

"They don’t shy away from stories that don’t shed the best light on the United States," she told The Cable. She pointed to the charters of VOA and RFE: "Our journalists provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate."

A former U.S. government source with knowledge of the BBG says the organization is no Pravda, but it does advance U.S. interests in more subtle ways. In Somalia, for instance, VOA serves as counterprogramming to outlets peddling anti-American or jihadist sentiment. "Somalis have three options for news," the source said, "word of mouth, al-Shabab, or VOA Somalia."

This partially explains the push to allow BBG broadcasts on local radio stations in the United States. The agency wants to reach diaspora communities, such as St. Paul, Minnesota’s significant Somali expat community. "Those people can get al-Shabab, they can get Russia Today, but they couldn’t get access to their taxpayer-funded news sources like VOA Somalia," the source said. "It was silly."

Lynne added that the reform has a transparency benefit as well. "Now Americans will be able to know more about what they are paying for with their tax dollars — greater transparency is a win-win for all involved," she said. And so with that we have the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which passed as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, and went into effect this month.

But if anyone needed a reminder of the dangers of domestic propaganda efforts, the past 12 months provided ample reasons. Last year, two USA Today journalists were ensnared in a propaganda campaign after reporting about millions of dollars in back taxes owed by the Pentagon’s top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan. Eventually, one of the co-owners of the firmconfessed to creating phony websites and Twitter accounts to smear the journalists anonymously. Additionally, just this month, the Washington Postexposed a counter-propaganda program by the Pentagon that recommended posting comments on a U.S. website run by a Somali expat with readers opposing al-Shabab. "Today, the military is more focused on manipulating news and commentary on the Internet, especially social media, by posting material and images without necessarily claiming ownership," reported thePost.

But for BBG officials, the references to Pentagon propaganda efforts are nauseating, particularly because the Smith-Mundt Act never had anything to do with regulating the Pentagon, a fact that was misunderstood in media reports in the run-up to the passage of new Smith-Mundt reforms in January.

One example included a report by the late BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings, who suggested that the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act would open the door to Pentagon propaganda of U.S. audiences. In fact, as amended in 1987, the act only covers portions of the State Department engaged in public diplomacy abroad (i.e. the public diplomacy section of the "R" bureau, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors.)

But the news circulated regardless, much to the displeasure of Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), a sponsor of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012. "To me, it’s a fascinating case study in how one blogger was pretty sloppy, not understanding the issue and then it got picked up by Politico‘s Playbook, and you had one level of sloppiness on top of another," Thornberry told The Cablelast May. "And once something sensational gets out there, it just spreads like wildfire."

That of course doesn’t leave the BBG off the hook if its content smacks of agitprop. But now that its materials are allowed to be broadcast by local radio stations and TV networks, they won’t be a complete mystery to Americans. "Previously, the legislation had the effect of clouding and hiding this stuff," the former U.S. official told The Cable. "Now we’ll have a better sense: Gee some of this stuff is really good. Or gee some of this stuff is really bad. At least we’ll know now."

Brooks, Rosa - The Threat Is Already Inside - Foreign Policy 20151120

Brooks, Rosa - The Threat Is Already Inside - Foreign Policy 20151120

And nine other truths about terrorism that nobody wants to hear.

The Threat Is Already Inside

By now, the script is familiar: Terrorists attack a Western target, and politicians compete to offer stunned and condemnatory adjectives. British, Chinese, and Japanese leaders thus proclaimed themselves “shocked” by the Paris attacks, which were described variously as “outrageous” and “horrific” by U.S. President Barack Obama; “terrible” and “cowardly” by French President François Hollande; “barbaric” by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; “despicable” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; and “heinous, evil, vile” by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who possesses a superior thesaurus.

The Paris attacks were all these things. One thing they were not, however, was surprising.

Occasional terrorist attacks in the West are virtually inevitable, and odds are, we’ll see more attacks in the coming decades, not fewer. If we want to reduce the long-term risk of terrorism — and reduce its ability to twist Western societies into unrecognizable caricatures of themselves — we need to stop viewing terrorism as shocking and aberrational, and instead recognize it as an ongoing problem to be managed, rather than “defeated.”

Politicians don’t like to say any of this. But we’re not politicians, so let’s look at 10 painful truths.

No. 1: We can’t keep the bad guys out.

Borders are permeable. The United States has more than 95,000 miles of shoreline. Greece has 6,000 islands and some 10,000 miles of coastline. You can walk from Iraq and Syria into Turkey and from Turkey into Bulgaria. Eight-hundred million people fly into U.S. airports each year, and 1.7 billion people fly into Europe’s airports. No wall can be long enough or high enough to keep out the truly desperate or determined, and there aren’t enough guards in the world to monitor every inch of coastline or border.

No. 2: Besides, the threat is already inside.

The 2005 terrorist attacks in London were carried out by British citizens, the Boston Marathon attack was perpetrated by a U.S. citizen and a U.S. permanent resident, and the Paris attacks appear to have been carried out mainly by French citizens. Every country on earth has its angry young men, and the Internet offers a dozen convenient ideologies to justify every kind of resentment. Adding more border guards — or keeping out refugees fleeing war and misery, as too many members of Congress seem eager to do — won’t help when the threat is already inside.

No. 3: More surveillance won’t get rid of terrorism, either.

As Edward Snowden’s 2013 leaks made clear, the United States is already surveilling the heck out of the entire planet and so are half the governments in Europe. The trouble is, the more data you collect — the more satellite imagery and drone footage and emails and phone calls and texts you monitor — the harder it gets to separate the signal from the noise. The U.S. National Security Agency intercepts billions of communications each day, according to a Washington Post investigation, but despite sophisticated computer programs designed to detect “suspicious” activity, not everything can be analyzed — and a lot of time gets wasted on false positives.

Sometimes, the authorities get lucky and stumble on a plot before it can be carried out. Data from electronic intercepts, surveillance cameras, and the like often end up being most useful after an attack, however: Once the authorities know who they’re looking for, they can backtrack to gain a better understanding of how an attack came about, and they can sometimes link attackers to previously unknown plotters. When attacks are thwarted before they can be carried out, it’s usually as a result of the same factors that keep ordinary crime rates from going through the roof: good investigative work, vigilant communities, and bad guys who often make dumb mistakes.

No. 4: Defeating the Islamic State won’t make terrorism go away.

Don’t kid yourself. The Islamic State isn’t even the most lethal terrorist group operating today: Nigeria’s Boko Haram wins that title. Regardless, before there was the Islamic State, there was al Qaeda, which brought us 9/11 and the Madrid and London bombings; before al Qaeda there was Hezbollah and Hamas; and before Hamas there was the Abu Nidal group, Black September, and various other PLO factions. Europe saw more terrorist attacks — and more deaths from terrorist attacks — in the 1970s and 1980s than it has seen since 9/11. The Islamic State may now be the flavor du jour for the world’s angry young men, but if every single Islamic State fighter in Syria and Iraq is obliterated, the Middle East will still seethe — and so will the banlieues of Paris.

And, no, it’s not just Islam. Right-wing extremists in the United States still kill more people than jihadis. The 2011 attacks in Norway — which left 77 people dead — were carried out by a single far-right terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik. Since 2006, more than half of all deaths in terrorist attacks in the West have been caused by non-Islamist “lone-wolf” attackers, most motivated by right-wing extremism or separatist sentiments. You can’t even count on Buddhists to be peaceful: On Oct. 23, 2012, for instance, Buddhists militants attacked the Burmese village of Yan Thei and massacred at least 70 people, including 28 children, most of whom were hacked to death.

No. 5: Terrorism still remains a relatively minor threat, statistically speaking.

That’s no consolation to the victims or their loved ones, but it might offer some solace to the rest of us. Those scary statistics you sometimes see about the alleged vast increase in global terrorism include attacks occurring in regions wracked by ongoing armed conflicts, such as Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. According to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, between 2000 and 2014, only 2.6 percent of victims of terrorism lived in Western countries. Stay away from active war zones, and the average American is far more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist. And gun violence in the United States? I won’t even go there.

No matter how you look at it, those of us who live in the West have it pretty easy. Gun violence in the United States notwithstanding, we live longer, we’re less likely to die of preventable diseases, and we’re far less likely to die violently than those in non-Western countries. If you live in Iraq, Libya, or Syria — or Nigeria, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Honduras, or South Sudan — violent death is a constant possibility. If you live in Paris or Boston or Ottawa, relax.

No. 6: But don’t relax too much, because things will probably get worse before they get better.

From a historical perspective, the relative safety and security currently enjoyed by those in the Western world is anomalous. Until about 1850, life expectancy at birth hovered around 40 years in most of Europe; today, it’s over 80. The history of the West is every bit as violent as the modern Middle East, with brief periods of relative peace punctuated by periods of bloody conflict.The history of the West is every bit as violent as the modern Middle East, with brief periods of relative peace punctuated by periods of bloody conflict.

Don’t count on this period of relative Western safety continuing. Someday, the political, ethnic, and religious turmoil roiling the Middle East may end, but that day probably won’t be soon — and probably won’t be hastened by a more aggressive Western military campaign against the Islamic State.

If anything, the world is likely to see an uptick in violent conflict in the coming decades, and the West is unlikely to be fully spared. The Syrian refugee crisis has given Europe a taste of what can happen when substantial populations flee one region and try to settle in another. European border controls, refugee assistance systems, and humanitarian instincts were quickly swamped by the sudden influx of more than 750,000 refugees, and though most of those refugees were exactly who they said they were, a handful were not. Imagine what will happen a few decades down the road, as climate change fuels new conflicts over resources and vast populations move in search of a better life. One recent study suggests that portions of the Middle East will become literally too hot for human habitation by century’s end. What then?

No. 7: Meanwhile, poorly planned Western actions can make things still worse.

So in the wake of the Paris attacks, the fat, happy, over-privileged West wants to turn away the hundreds of thousands of desperate Muslim families seeking shelter and peace, just because a tiny fraction of those refugees might be militants? Islamic militants couldn’t ask for a better recruiting gift.

The same goes for stepping up military action against the Islamic State. If we respond to the Paris attacks by sending a large number of ground combat troops into Syria and Iraq, we once again become foreign occupiers — and big fat targets. If we respond by bombing every Islamic State target we can find, odds are high we’ll end up bombing some people we never wanted or intended to bomb, and this won’t help us make new friends. Also, if we take out the Islamic State in Syria, we may just end up helping Syria’s other extremist rebels — or helping embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, though it was Assad and other brutal regional leaders whose actions helped inspire and strengthen the Islamic State in the first place. Besides, what happens next in Syria, do we get rid of the Islamic State or Assad? As Iraq should remind us, nature abhors a vacuum.

Military force can play a role in preventing and responding to terrorist attacks, but when we don’t know who to target and we don’t fully understand the regional dynamics, that role should be small.

No. 8: Terrorism is a problem to be managed.

I can’t believe it’s still necessary to repeat this, but — no, Fox News, we can’t “win” a “war” against terrorism or terror or terrorists anymore than we can “win” a war on crime or drugs or poverty. But though we can’t eliminate all risk of terrorism, we can adopt sensible policies to reduce the risk and damage caused by terrorist attacks. We can fund moderate Muslim organizations that offer alternatives to extremist interpretations of Islam, for instance, increase law enforcement outreach in communities that are targeted by terrorist recruiters, and look for ways to increase community incentives to report suspicious activity — perhaps by exploring rehabilitation approaches to dealing with misguided teens who are attracted by violent ideologies but haven’t yet taken decisive steps to harm anyone. We can also look for reasonable ways to give additional tools to law enforcement officials, as long as we also add safeguards to prevent abuses. If we’re creative in our approaches, we can find ways to make terrorist attacks a little harder to carry out successfully and make successful attacks less rewarding to those who carry them out.

No. 9: To do this, however, we need to move beyond the political posturing that characterizes most public debates about counterterrorism and instead speak honestly about the costs and benefits of different approaches.

We can throw more border guards and bombs and police and TSA and NSA agents at the problem of terrorism, and some or all of these things may well buy down short-term risk, reducing the odds that terrorists will engage in successful attacks. But each of these approaches has costs, too, some financial and some human and some political. More police might mean more thwarted terrorist plots, but ham-handed policing might mean more potential recruits for the Islamic State or its successor. More police will certainly mean higher public safety budgets, which, in a world of finite resources, means less money for something else. The same is true for airport security, NSA programs, and airstrikes: If implemented poorly, they can cause a backlash, and even if implemented thoughtfully, they cost money and take resources away from something else.

Fourteen years after 9/11, we still have astonishingly little empirical evidence about which counterterrorism techniques are effective and which aren’t. In large part, this is because governments haven’t made it a priority to fund or conduct evidence-based counterterrorism research. This needs to change.

We need to be hardheaded and unsentimental about this, just as we’re hardheaded about the prevention of crime, disease, car accidents, and a thousand other more run-of-the-mill risks. How much do we think more police (or border guards or NSA programs or bombs) will make a difference, and at what point will we see diminishing marginal returns? At what point do we say: Yes, we could reduce the risk of successful terrorist attacks by another 5 percent if we added 5,000 more border guards, but the costs are just too high? Or even: We could reduce the risk by 85 percent if we turn France or the United States into police states, but we’d rather accept the added short-term risk than abandon the values that make our countries what they are?

No. 10: We need to stop rewarding terrorism.

We can change the cost-benefit calculus for would-be terrorists by reducing terrorism’s benefits as well as by reducing its costs. Terrorism is used by states and non-state actors alike both because it’s relatively cheap and easy — and because it works. From al Qaeda’s perspective, the 9/11 attacks were a spectacular success. The attacks cost the United States billions of dollars: We closed stock exchanges, halted air travel, and started expensive and inconclusive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. From the Islamic State’s perspective, the Paris attacks are working, too: The anti-refugee backlash will aid Islamic State recruiting, and tourism is taking a hit even here in the United States, where fear alone has led schools to cancel class trips to Washington. The more the West flails around with talk of bombs and border guards and police, the happier the Islamic State becomes.

The cheapest and easiest way to reduce the benefits of terrorism is to stop overreacting. That 130 people were killed in the Paris attacks is a terrible tragedy and a vicious crime, but 16,000 people in the United States are murdered each year in “ordinary” homicides, 30,000 die in accidental falls, 35,000 die in car crashes, and 39,000 die of accidental poisoning. We should mourn each and every death, and we should take all reasonable steps to prevent more deaths from occurring and punish those responsible for intentionally inflicting harm.

But we need to stop viewing terrorism as unique and aberrational. The more we panic and posture and overreact, the more terrorism we’ll get.