Boca Grande resident Harm de Blij (pronounced duh BLAY) is a constant world traveler so it's no surprise he rakes a dim view of the inconvenient and invasively rude tactics employed at U.S. airports in the name of preventing terrorists from striking an American target.
Unfortunately, said de Blij, the tactics don't really work and basically pose a stiff cost to the American economy while the terrorists laugh. Here are De Blij's takes on terrorism Jan. 8 before a near-sellout crowd of about 200 at the Boca Grande Community Centera (a Royal Palm Players benefit), which covered why Osama bin Laden's arrest is still crucial and what Americans should do to in response to terrorism post-9/11.
Question: Why should the United States and Canada relax their border diligence?
Boca Grande resident Harm de Blij
Answer: It is time for the United States and Canada to get together to agree the entire North American land mass is a collective security arena. This business of locking each other at the border that for decades has been congenial allies - what possible reason could there be to go through the fiasco that now is happening at the borders? It's embarrassing. Osama bin Laden must be laughing his head off.
Q: Why is Osama bin Laden so dead set on harming Americans?
A: You know the story of bin Laden's life. He was born in the 1950s and tried to overthrow the Saudi Arabian government (for working with America). He was ousted and his passport taken away. He went to Sudan, they threw him out of there, he went to Afghanistan where the rest, we know, is history. He infiltrated the Taliban after their success against the Russians and we faced, ultimately, the consequences.
What: Harm de Blij discussion of "Climate Change: Winners and Losers in a Never-Ending Contest"
When: 10:30 a.m. Feb. 1
Where: Boca Grande Community Center Auditorium
Contact: 964-0827, cell (941) 855-0707 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harm de Blij at a glance
Residence: Boca Grande
Family: Married 34 years to wife, Bonnie with daughter and son.
Occupation: John Hannah professor at Michigan State University
Degrees: Ph.D. Northwestern University, master's degree Northwestern, bachelor's degree University of Witwatersrand with six honorary degrees.
Career highlights: Seven years geography editor on ABC's "Good Morning America. In 1996 he joined NBC News as geography analyst. Writer and commentator for the original PBS Series "The Power of Place."
Author: More than 30 titles
Travel: More than 100 countries
Hobby: amateur violinist, Cubs fan.
Discovered Boca Grande: A Florida resident since 1964, de Blij moved to Boca Grande with his wife 15 years ago. "I bought a village home at the Boca Grande Club," he said. "Bonnie loved it and I usually do what she says."
Q: Would killing bin Laden still be a big deal after all this time?
A: We still have time to do this right. These terrorist organizations are so dependent on their leadership that decapitating the leadership has far greater consequences than trying to create the societal atmosphere of where the organization will have less of a market (to recruit believers).
Q: When has that worked?
A: Just one small piece of evidence on that. You will recall the Shining Path and its leader Abimael Guzmn in the 1980s had Peru on the verge of becoming a dysfunctional state with terrible consequences to that country. Its president took control, organized the army and police and spent tens of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives trying to bring the Shining Path under control. What is not generally know is the Shining Path was effective generally because of the charisma of one guy: Guzman. He would appear every place and people would ask how can he appear everywhere and do interviews and not be arrested. Peru organized a group of 70 trusted, skilled police and said find out about this guy. They arrested him and it was - overnight - the end of Shining Path. This is what should have happened with Osama bin Laden.
Q: Where are the U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan misguided?
A: All of our resources should have been devoted - not into going into Iraq, not into saving Afghanistan from itself - but to find and destroy him and whatever was around him. He had declared war on the United States. There was no reason not to do that.
Q: Does climate and geography affect the Muslim terrorist movement?
A: If you took a map of the world's climate, you will see the heart of Islam lies virtually in desert. Very tough environmental conditions. Historically, that has made it almost acceptable for a totalitarian rule. Democracy becomes a luxury. Islam becomes far more moderate and mild as you proceed into Malaysia, Indonesia and even the Philippines. The reason for that is this moderation seems to be associated with more salubrious climates.
Q: You have an example from when you were working with a group of Muslims in Indonesia?
A: We were doing some work on environmental change. We worked all day and at night we always had a case of beer. I would pop a top and have a glass of beer and they all had a nice glass of beer. One day, I said "Fellas, you're all Muslims. Doesn't the Koran say don't drink any alcohol?" And the leader of the group said I obviously had not read the Koran terribly carefully. He said the Koran instructs Muslims not to drink the first drop of alcohol. "Have you not noticed when you give us our glass we pour a little bit out?" the leader asked me. That kind of Islam you can live with.