Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Better Terrorist Mantrap

Very likely the answer to Islamic terrorism, when it arrives, will have a spiritual component. Terrorists in Syria, Iran and Iraq are driven by a vision of conquest and glory, as was Mohammad in the 10th century. The West, outwardly materialistic and secular, is driven by a different vision. As Islamic purists might see it, we are the flesh, they are the spirit, and the two are at war with each other.

Profound secularists in the West and terrorists in the East do not understand that for much of human history the two have commingled and informed each other. A war between the flesh and the spirit in which one of the two permanently vanquished the other would lead to a tyranny of angels or devils. The struggle before us in the 21st century occurs in a theatre of thought and action in which lions may lay down with lambs, provided there is no final victory between, to put it in modern terms, the claims of science and the claims of religion.

But in the mean time, terrorists are roving the world blowing things up; they must be answered effectively and rendered harmless. Faced with such life and death issues, it is not at all unusual for intensely practical Americans to reach for technological solutions. It is part of the American secular faith, sometimes misapplied, that there is no problem on earth to which there is not at least one sufficient technological solution.

Car bomb terrorists may be surprised to learn that their worst enemies are American engineers who developed in the 1940's a technology called "fluidizing solids" to crack petroleum. Over a period of 40 years, the application has been updated by Procedyne Corporation, a New Jersey company. Using Fluidized Bed Technology, the company has developed applications that well may revolutionize Homeland Security.

The concept of floating beds, used by potato farmers in the 40's to clean and process their product, was explained recently by Mike Kopec, the company"s lobbyist in Washington D.C.

"See this floor," he said tapping his toe on the solid surface, "the technology can instantly transform a solid surface like this into a kind of quicksand."

The technology, which fluidizes carefully designed solid sand roads and pathways through the distribution of compressed air, transforms a solid surface bearing a terrorist with a car bomb into a viscous mass that renders the bomber and his bomb harmless.

The viscosity of the pseudo-fluidized medium can be designed so that terrorist's car would be subject to rapid deceleration at a rate that would not seriously injure the occupant; and if the vehicle is outfitted with an explosive devise, the volume and arrangement of the viscous matter can be designed to neutralize the energy release of the bomb. A terrorist in a car intending to destroy a building would find himself apprehended and partially buried in a defluidized medium, as would a pedestrian terrorist.

Security applications of Fluidized Bed Technology could replace inefficient and outmoded concrete barriers and eventually change the whole nature and thrust of Homeland Security.

And them ain't no small potatoes.

Within Islam, there is a fruitful controversy under way concerning the connection between terrorists and Wahibism, a reformist practice of Islam prevalent in Saudi Arabia that appears to have been hijacked by terrorists to give religious unction to their violence.

Respected Islamic leaders, such as sheikh Abdul-Aziz Bin Baz, the former Mufti or "verdict giver" of Saudi Arabia, have been unsparing in their condemnation of terrorists. "Anyone who has the slightest bit of common sense," said the sheikh, understands that hijacking airplanes and kidnapping children and the like are extremely great crimes, the world over. Their evil effects are far and wide, as is the great harm and inconvenience caused to the innocent; the total effect of which none can comprehend except Allah."

The terrorists have placed before their fiery-eyed followers a dream that cannot be realized. Refusing to step into the 21st century, they are condemned to repeat the errors of their past. Islam, following the conquests of Mohammed, was an absorbent culture. But the culture and the false religion of the terrorists are brittle and full of dead ends. Cultures caught in the amber of the past cannot survive. "To become perfect," the aim of all fundamentalists, "is to have changed often."

The words are those of Ralph Waldo Emerson, but they easily might be the credo of Kopec, who got his idea for a better terrorist trap from watching potato farmers clean their produce when he was working for John Deere, has helped to develop drones presently in use in Iraq, and was responsible for the development of the first electric vehicles for the military.

When Islam is able to produce a Kopec, we shall have much to fear from it. Presently we can learn from true Islam what virtues flow from obedience to God. As a famous critic of materialism once said, man does not live by technology alone.

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