During my two months teaching English in Tunisia, I developed a strong friendship with a fellow university student named Aladin. Unlike most of us in class, I had the lucky opportunity to sit in the cafe at least once a week with my friend and others to discuss a wide range of topics,including politics, terrorism, US foreign policy, Israel, Palestine, etc. Now, with Aladin as my pen pal, I once again am lucky enough to to continue those discussions… The time difference between Tempe, United States and Sfax, Tunisia does make it difficult to Skype or Gchat, but exchanging emails works well enough.

In our latest discussion, I talked with Aladin about the film Munich and asked him to share his thoughts on how to best counter terrorism given concerns about not compromising a civilization’s values.

Very early in his response, Aladin moved from commenting on fighting terrorism outside our borders to a discussion of what he calls “internal terrorism” and “Ammo Nation.” In Aladin’s words, this has “nothing to do with beardy suicidal bombers” but “gangs, day light street burglers, thieves and hit men.” While a few of the specific things (namely hit men) Aladin points out might not necessarily  be huge threats to America, his greater point is not lost. (Most likely, these were simply the most convenient phrases for this English as a third language speaker [behind Arabic and French].) The big picture point is that Americans face a much greater threat to their daily security from things like theft, murder, and other crime than terrorism. (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been stolen from in the class.) Despite that fact, terrorism is trumped up to be one of the greatest, most evil and dangerous threats to our society and dominates the public discourse. In my opinion this is largely a result of the way media presents terrorism to the public. I do admit that terrorism is a threat that deserves our attention and deserves serious efforts to prevent it, however I think that Aladin is right to suggest that to over-inflate the threat of terrorism while ignoring other threats is wrong.

With regard to intelligence, Aladin acknowledged that a nation’s power and ability to gather intelligence often go hand in hand. And in addition, a nation’s power relies on its intelligence capabilities. Specifically, Aladin says that Mossad is so important to Israel because Israel is a “land taken [illegally] by force and blood.” Therefore, “it needs some good intelligence systems that can reshape reality, assign  countries top leaders, assasinate uprising factors leaders, spreading spies and sometimes, announcing on fake spies. All of that to protect themselves and to protect what they did steal.”  This realist view of Mossad specifically seems to forgo any considerations of compromising a civilization’s values. Following this line of thought, values or morality aren’t even considered. What matters here is simply ensuring the survival of the nation.