Why assert that defending against terrorism or stopping government fascism is an either or proposition? Because in some cases it is. Read the PATRIOT act? Or it’s sequel? Aware of what has been revealed about U.S. interrogation methods during the last year? It may well be the case that being able to conduct secret arrests, hold suspects indefinitely without charge or trial, torture suspects for information, torture suspects just cause we feel like it, spy on political groups without just cause, order banks and other institutions to do the some spying for the government, etc… may help the government corral some number of terrorists. However, I think that anyone would agree that *if *a fascist takeover of the country was attempted, then all of these powers and others that have been pushed in the name of fighting terrorism, would come in quite handy for the fascists. I’m trying to give us a logical framework for weighing respective dangers, and thus setting priorities. In cases where we can fight both threats, great. In cases where lowering one threat level raises the other, we need to know the relative levels of danger.
Why am I not calculating based on the threat of China going back to hardline communism, or Al Queda striking elsewhere in the world? Because the U.S. government’s duty is the protection of the American people from threats including crime, outside attack, and the government itself. For better or worse, the Constitution doesn’t include “in order to secure the blessings of liberty for the people of China” in the preamble.
My numbers are just guesswork. Not kidding. All government policy, all setting of priorities, is based on guesswork. The best we can hope for is intelligent guesses, and that’s what I’m trying to provide. And I was very clear about this in my OP.
In choosing my numbers, I tried to always be generous in my estimates, generous in the direction that works against my argument. Let’s see.
Death toll from a terrorist attack. Can’t be said for sure, but we know this much: Al Queda leaders are currently hiding in caves. A recent intelligence report said that there are no sleeper cells in the United States or plots to attack the United States that we know of. The cell that carried out the 9/11 attacks left a trail a mile wide, and could have been stopped if only the government agencies responsible for stopping terrorism had been more alert. All told, the chances of them successfully carrying out an attack larger and more complicated than 9/11, when our security agencies are now alert and are cooperating with those in other countries, looks not very high. How not very high? Can’t say. It’s intelligent guesswork, not precise numbers.
Probability of a terrorist attack. We have no solid evidence of any specific plans by terrorist organizations for such, in the United States, in the last three years. All rumored reports have been based on “chatter” and other vague notions, and frequently urgent warnings of impending attacks have been issued, only to be later withdrawn.
Probability of America “going Nazi”. Some people have high faith in human nature. I’m not one of them. When I look at the history of the 20th century, I see clear evidence that when people are desparate enough, they will turn to any leader who vows to fix there problems. And one of the most common “fixes” is to turn the people’s wrath against a scapegoat, usually resulting in mass violence. There are possibilities for desperate situations developing in the United States: economic collapse, massive natural disaster, disease epidemic. If we estimate a one in a thousand chance of such a total disaster occuring within the next ten years, and a one in ten chance of the people responding to such a disaster by choosing fascism, then there you go: one in ten thousand chance of fascism.