Cynicism helped the terrorists carry out the September 11 Terrorist Attacks nine years ago. Militant Muslims engaged in jihad have continued to rely upon cynicism for their holy war. However, cynics are usually susceptible to the negative consequences of their own cynicism. These jihadis are no exception.
The terrorists who perpetrated the September 11 attacks relied upon cynicism in order to carry out the massacre successfully. Before September 11, 2001, there had not been a hijacking of an American commercial airliner in ten years, but public confidence in airline security remained low.
Contrary to the conclusions of most observers, the attacks suggested that airline safety was adequate at the time. The terrorists were unable to get guns or bombs aboard the planes. Indeed, the hijackers did not even try to get past the airline security measures that were in place at the time, as the terrorists concluded that the risk was unacceptable of trying to smuggle guns or bombs onto the planes. Instead, they feigned having bombs and used boxcutters, martial arts and ruthlessness in order to terrorize the crew and passengers into submission. The terrorists correctly believed that the crew and passengers would accept as true the hijackers’ claims to have managed to get explosives aboard the planes by assuming that airline security had failed – an assumption based upon a cynical lack of confidence in airline security.
Militant Muslims have continued to benefit from cynicism in the West that has caused a loss of public support for the War on Terrorism in a number of ways: 1) Westerners have dropped their security guard to a degree because of a cynical belief that the threat of terrorism was exaggerated in the first place (e.g. that it was the fault of the airlines or United States intelligence agencies or the Administration of President George W. Bush, all of which are based upon a cynical lack of confidence in U.S. and other Western governments and suggest that the terrorist attacks could be thwarted with minimal effort -- i.e. without a war of resistance to militant Islam), 2) Many Westerners have developed cynical conspiracy theories that the U.S. either knew about the September 11 attacks ahead of time and allowed them to occur because of political expedience or that the U.S. or its ally Israel actually perpetrated the attacks themselves; these theories have been used to justify opposition to the War on Terrorism and 3) A majority of Westerners lost confidence in the ability to win both the War on Afghanistan and the Liberation of Iraq, which has caused a loss of public support for these battles in the War on Terrorism, which, in turn, encouraged the enemy to continue to kill Western soldiers for the sake of turning public opinion further against the war; this loss of confidence of victory in these wars is in addition to those who opposed them from the beginning as unnecessary because of various cynical theories about ulterior American motives for the stated goal of removing state sponsors of terrorism from power. The loss of public support for the War on Terrorism attributable to cynicism has made the West more vulnerable to attacks by militant Muslims and encouraged new attempts, despite all of the successes achieved against terrorism because of the war.
On the other hand, cynicism has also hampered the terrorists’ cause, as cynics tend to project evil intent onto others. For example, some of the terrorists detained by the U.S. were made to believe that they were going to be extradited to foreign states that practice torture, or that the Americans themselves would torture them, which gave the terrorists the incentive to reveal intelligence secrets. One example where the U.S. exploited the enemy’s cynicism effectively was the case of a terrorist detainee who had a fear of stinging insects; the Americans put a harmless caterpillar in his cell and told him that it was a stinging insect, which encouraged him to reveal intelligence secrets. The U.S. has been able to take advantage of the cynicism of its terrorist foes who, after all, have been using cynicism to their advantage since September 11.
In general, we Westerners should test our own thoughts for cynicism and be open to the possibility of explanations for the motives of others besides malevolent ones, a practice which would be of particularly beneficial application to the War on Terrorism. As Christians, we especially should avoid being truly judgmental by assuming other people’s willful incompetence or bad intent. A better understanding of the nature of the threat of militant Islam would reduce cynicism about those whose responsibility it is to prevent terrorist attacks and lead to greater public support for effective counterterrorism measures, as well as necessary strategies in the War on Terrorism. Meanwhile, we should creatively find legitimate ways to turn the enemy’s cynicism against it.