It is sometimes said that, since the United States successfully deterred the Soviet Union with the threat of nuclear annihilation in retaliation for an attack, we can do the same to avert mass murder by al Qaeda terrorists. Hence no need for an aggressive, forward-looking strategy to defeat them.
This overlooks the fact that the Soviet Union had a fixed address and al Qaeda doesn't. More importantly, it overlooks the fact that the Soviet Union was an imperialist state, while al Qaeda is, apparently to a significant degree, a radical and primitive religious movement bent on death to "infidels," defined as non-Muslims. As more than one al Qaeda adherent has said, they embrace death and martyrdom. This makes deterrence a mite problematic.
I have been more than a little skeptical that these people really embrace death, having noticed, among other things, that many of their suicide/murder bombers are teenaged or mentally challenged people at the lowest rung of the organization. But the following article from the Telegraph gives me pause. Maybe they really are out of their minds. If so, deterrence -- typically one of the central objectives of criminal punishment -- is not going to work. They will have to be destroyed.
This is how the article starts:
Abd al-Rahim Hussein Muhammad Abdah al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian, was said to have reported directly to Osama bin Laden. His interrogators reported: "Detainee is so dedicated to jihad that he reportedly received injections to promote impotence and recommended the injections to others."
He received the injections "so more time could be spent on jihad - rather than being distracted by women".
And no, I am not making this up.