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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/5/17

Terrorism and Authoritarianism

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If aspiring right-wing authoritarians have nothing else to offer citizens of the countries they hope to lead, they always have fear of terror.

"Terrorism," as it is conveniently defined by today's Western governments, is actually a phenomenon that dates back to at least ancient Rome.

Interestingly, many historians cite an act of terrorism and subsequent embrace of military rule by the Roman Republic as the event that put the Roman Republic on the path to becoming the Roman Empire.

The current plague of attacks on civilians in Western countries is a bit more complicated, but may well presage the decline of the American Republic and the rise of our own empire. Or not. The matter is unsettled.

In any case, nothing makes free citizens hurl their rights at the feet of authoritarians faster than an act of terrorism -- real, imagined, or made inevitable through colonialist aggression.

One significant complicating factor is the ideology of the Islamists. Al-Qaeda and ISIS do agree on one strategic point: they see a US drawn into a broader Middle Eastern conflict as desirable. In much the same way as the Soviet Union was drawn into Afghanistan, the Islamists see the US defeated as well. An epic oversimplification to be sure.

With Donald Trump at the American helm, obviously anything is possible. However Trump's newfound solidarity with the UK in the wake of recent bloodletting there, while reeking of rank political opportunism, also illustrates his and America's own dependence on the Western democratic order. The pond grows ever smaller regardless, it seems.

Trump's departure from the Paris Accord evoked the image of a child threatening to run away from home, only to realize that he has nowhere to go. But of course that wasn't the point -- rallying his base on the advice of Steve Bannon and by proxy Bannon's stakehorse Rebekah Mercer was the motivating factor in that decision. A recurring phenomenon at the Trump White House.

It will be more difficult for the US Republic to reinvent itself as an empire with post-World War Europe positioned in the middle of the equation. However, in the end, all that democracy guarantees its citizens are the tools to preserve it. The tools must be used. How badly do you want a republic?

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Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, now the founder, editor and publisher of Reader Supported News:

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