The Smell of Fear

I am reproducing this article in the Wall Street Journal by Caleb Carr, in its entirety, even though it is long, because the Wall Street Journal requires a subscription and I think everyone should read this very important article.

UPDATE: I have been informed that reproducing the article in its entirety is in violation of the copyright of the article, so I am removing it from this site. You can read the full article here.

Take a minute. You won’t read anything more important than the lessons you will learn from this article.


In all of these examples, then, the “trigger” for terrorist action was not any newly adopted Western posture of force and defiance. Rather, it was a deepening of the targeted public’s wish to deal with terrorism through avoidance and accommodation, a mass descent into the psychological belief, so often disproved by history, that if we only leave vicious attackers alone, they will leave us alone. It is hardly surprising that by actively trying — or merely indicating that they wished — to bury their collective heads in the sand, the societies were led not to peace but to more violent attacks. Al Qaeda and terrorist groups in general have tended to press their campaigns of violence against civilians in areas where they have sensed disunity and a lack of forceful opposition. In the manner of clinical sociopaths, they seem to “smell fear” — and to find in it, not any inspiration to show mercy or accept accommodation, but a compulsion to torment all the more vigorously those who exude it.

Mr. Carr is author of “The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians,” and “The Alienist.” He teaches military history at Bard.

America must show a united unwavering commitment to defeat the terrorists. We must not let them “smell fear” or sense a weakness of purpose.

* * * * * * *

Update: 7/20/2005 ShrinkWrapped, a blog written by a psychoanalyst, comments as follows on the Carr essay:

“I do believe that appeasement is disastrous in such a battle. This suggests how crucial the information front is in the war. The efforts of the MSM and the Democratic party, under the sway of BDS [Bush Derangement Syndrome], has been to give ammunition to our enemies, which they gleefully use to the fullest. A Pakistani-American on NPR this morning called in to comment on the recent Fatwa from the 300 Muslim Imams attacking terrorism as non-Islamic. He agreed that most American Muslims would agree with the Fatwa, but immediately added that when you see Americans abusing Muslims at Abu Graib and Guantanamo, it is so infuriating to Muslims that they naturally feel like taking such actions.

If Abu Graib was a one day story would it have been such a powerful weapon against us? If the New York Times had not done all in its power to invalidate the war effort and attack the President, by using the real, but minor, abuse at Abu Graib, and the faux abuse at Gitmo, to discredit our fight, would our effort be less constrained and strained? If Iraq is serving as a recruiting device and a training site for Islamists, we can thank our own MSM and select, foolish, politicians, for supplying them with the propaganda materials to keep up the flow.”

The American people know that the mainstream media (MSM) are so politically biased against Republicans and President Bush that they would do anything to embarrass the administration, even if it meant putting our own military and citizens at potential risk. The sad part of that is that they are so intent on embarrassing the administration that I suspect that in many cases they don’t even realize the harm they do to this country and its people.

2 thoughts on “The Smell of Fear

  1. Have you ever wondered about the phrase, “If you fight something, youmake it stronger” and maybe, justmaybe, we’re going at this all wrong?


  2. Yes. I know the mentality of the Middle East very well. A perceived weakness or hesitation will embolden the terrorists and cause them to feel confident to attack us. Read this essay again and consider the attacks of 9/11 and 7/7. They perceived a lack of resoluteness.These are not people you can sit down at the table and negotiate with. For more, read the comments by Amir Taheri in my post, Why do they Attack Us?


Comments are closed.