Millennials: Let’s You and Them Fight

English: Marines of Regimental Combat Team 5, ...
Marines of Regimental Combat Team 5, transport a non-ambulatory patient via litter, outside of Fallujah, Iraq in 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An October/November survey covering the midsection (adults between 18 and 29) of the “millennial” demographic  finds that after the November terror attacks in France (but before the December 2 attack in San Bernardino), that demographic’s support for deployment of US ground troops against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria jumped from 47% to 60%.

But when asked a followup question — “[i]f the United States needed additional troops to combat the Islamic State, how likely would you be to serve?” — 85% responded “probably won’t join” or “won’t join.”

Assuming that all or nearly all of the 40% who oppose a ground war answered “probably not” or “heck no,” it follows that the other 45% who answered that way support the idea as long as it doesn’t involve actually putting on uniforms, picking up rifles, and placing their own lives on the line.

I’m a war veteran myself, but I don’t count myself among the “if you haven’t served or won’t serve, you’re not entitled to an opinion” crowd. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion. Even those who don’t actually do the heavy lifting pick up some of the costs. They pay taxes. They support loved ones in uniform. And the risk of personal harm from blowback a la 9/11 and San Bernardino, while minimal so far, is real.

On the other hand, that differential/overlap bugs me. I wish I could get inside the heads of the three-quarters of military-age people in this survey who support the IDEA of a war enthusiastically enough to send OTHERS off to potentially die or return minus limbs or with traumatic brain injuries, but not enough to risk those things themselves.

As the late economist Milton Friedman pointed out, incentives change depending on whose money you’re spending, and on whom. If you’re spending your own money on yourself, you have a great incentive to get value for price. If you’re spending other people’s money on yourself, that incentive lessens; and a little more so if you’re spending your money on someone else. But if you’re spending other people’s money on other people, the incentive pretty much disappears. Why should you care? You’re neither paying the price nor gaining the benefit.

In this situation, what’s being spent by those who support a war but don’t plan to enlist is not money, but lives — the lives of other people (US troops), to be sacrificed for other people (Iraqis and Syrians).

They’re entitled to their opinions. But given the incentives, I’m not inclined to give those opinions too much weight. I’m a little older than the “millennials.” I’ve seen this movie before. In fact, I was one of the thousands of extras.  I’m against another remake.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Election 2016: Let’s Stop Negotiating With Terrorists

Guns used in San-Bernardino shooting.jpg
WordNet defines terrorism as “the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.”

When we think of terrorism, we usually envision a suicide bomber or a mass shooter or perhaps someone who hijacks a plane and flies it into a skyscraper. But there’s another, even more dangerous, kind of terrorist: The terrorist who exploits such acts for political gain.

Last week’s attack in San Bernardino is bringing the latter kind of terrorist out of the woodwork.

US president Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton agree that the 2nd Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms, and the 5th Amendment’s due process guarantee, have to go. They want Congress to forbid the sale of firearms to anyone whose name shows up on a secret US government enemies list (the “no fly” list).

Republican front-runner Donald Trump wants to prevent any and all adherents of a major world religion from entering the US. Yes, even if they were born here and are traveling abroad when his ban takes effect. No, he’s not kidding.

Clinton and Trump agree that the Internet is just too free and open and that something needs to be done about individual privacy and freedom of speech.

Clinton wants to crack down on the use of encryption, bitterly bemoaning the pesky ol’ Constitution that stands in her way: “You’re going to hear all of the usual complaints, you know, freedom of speech, et cetera …”

Trump seems to think he can just call up Bill Gates about “closing that Internet up in some way.” His one regret matches Clinton’s: “Somebody will say, ‘oh, freedom of speech, freedom of speech.'”

Darn right we will.

Let’s not mince words here: Clinton and Trump — as well as most of their fellow aspirants to the presidency — are terrorists.

They’re working overtime to instill fear in us, based on the use or threat of violence. They piggyback their demagoguery on the actions of other terrorists to intimidate us into giving up our freedoms and giving them unlimited power.

We shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists. And we certainly shouldn’t reward terrorists with the keys to the White House. If we can’t send Clinton and Trump to prison, let’s at least send them into retirement.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


An American Guilt Trip: This is How the Terrorists Win

Photo by William J. Grimes This is a picture o...
Photo by William J. Grimes (Wikipedia)

On December 2, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik burst into a meeting at San Bernardino, California’s Inland Regional Center and opened fire, killing 14 and wounding many more. The two were later killed in a shootout with the police.

In the wake of this horrific attack, media reports are emerging that the couple’s neighbors observed “suspicious activities” at their Redlands, California townhouse and Farook’s mother’s home, but didn’t report those activities for fear that they would be accused of racial profiling.

What were these “suspicious activities?” One was an apparent domestic dispute. The others were general in nature: They were observed “doing a lot of work out in the garage” and received “quite a few packages in a short amount of time.”

I’ve lived in America for 49 years. During that time, I’ve observed numerous domestic disputes (and had a few myself). I’ve done plenty of tinkering around in my garage (when I’ve had a garage to tinker around in). And the local mail carrier and UPS and FedEx drivers know my home well — my family members and I do a LOT of online shopping.

Unless the media reports are omitting significant details, the only “suspicious” aspect of the activities in question were that Farook and Malik “looked middle eastern.” Reporting them on the basis of those activities would indeed have been an instance of racial profiling.

The neighbors are beating up on themselves. That’s understandable. But they shouldn’t be doing that. That their suspicions turned out to have been well-founded does not retrospectively make those suspicions rational. Normal activities aren’t — or at least SHOULDN’T be — “suspicious” just because the people engaging in them don’t look like one of Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers circa 1940.

This is how the terrorists win, folks. The goal of terrorism is to terrorize us. What could possibly be a more effective means of that than getting us to live in fear not of some far-away foreign threat, but of our own neighbors?

It’s a numbers game, with hooks reaching down into one of the darkest and ugliest aspects of our history: Our racial and ethnic stereotypes and prejudices. For every active terror cell in the United States, there are almost certainly millions, maybe even tens of millions, of innocent Americans, native and immigrant alike, who look just like that cell’s members. “Suspicion” based on such appearances is a force multiplier for the bad guys.

It may well not be that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. But when it comes to terrorism, unfounded and unbounded fear is our main weakness. If we can beat that weakness, we will inevitably beat the terrorists along with it.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.