Logic and Critical Thinking Term Paper

Pages: 6 (2108 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Terrorism

Logic and Critical Thinking

In the Terror Next Time, the author looks into the idea of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction. The author concludes that there are three obstacles facing terrorist who want to use weapons of mass destruction: finding a supply, turning that supply into a weapon, and delivering the weapon to the target. After investigating the obstacles, the author concludes that the threat of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction is not currently very large. Given that the United States is currently engaged in a war that began over the suspected presence of weapons of mass destruction in a terrorist-friendly country, this idea is interesting. However, even more interesting is that the author cautions that as availability increases, so does the threat that terrorists will be able to use weapons of mass destruction against the United States.

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The Terror Next Time was first published on October 4, 2001, less than one month after the 9-11 attacks. As a result, the audience for the article differed from an audience of today and from the audience of September 10, 2001. While most Americans have come down from the absolute terror that gripped the country in the first few weeks following 9-11, it is not difficult to remember the anxiety of those days. People were purchasing duct tape and rolls of plastic sheeting, ready to barricade themselves in their homes, in the event that terrorists chose to use weapons of mass destruction against the United States. Therefore, the audience for the article was composed of people with a very elevated, though legitimate, concern of terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction. The author acknowledges those fears, and then attempts to allay them by demonstrating that terrorists did not then have the capability to effectively use weapons of mass destruction.

Term Paper on Logic and Critical Thinking Assignment

One of the most interesting elements in the article is the fact that it is based largely upon an assumption. The assumption is stated; however, there does not appear to be any evidentiary support for the assumption. That assumption is that "were terrorists with so little calculation of restraint to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction-whether chemical, biological, or even nuclear-they would surely use them" ("The Terror Next Time"). If one removes that assumption, then there is much less of a reason to determine whether or not terrorists possess weapons of mass destruction and much more of a reason to determine whether or not terrorists would be willing to use those weapons.

In order to allay fears about weapons of mass destruction, the author systematically goes through the three elements that terrorists would need in order to successfully use weapons of mass destruction. He discusses whether or not terrorists have access to weapons of mass destruction or their components, whether terrorists are able to turn those supplies into weapons, and whether the terrorists would be able to effectively deliver their weapons of mass destruction. During his discussion, the author points out the hidden difficulties in each step of the way, and uses those stumbling blocks to conclude that the terrorists do not currently possess the ability to effectively use weapons of mass destruction. Because each premise is supported by its own arguments, each premise will be investigated to determine whether or not the author has provided adequate support for his claims.

First, the author states that "it's harder than you think," for terrorists to obtain weapons of mass destruction ("The Terror Next Time"). The author points out that getting hold of the supplies used to manufacture those weapons is not enough. First, the terrorists would "have to acquire or manufacture sufficient quantities of the lethal agent."

The author includes an assumption in his argument that chemical weapons are easier to acquire than biological weapons, which are easier to acquire than nuclear weapons ("The Terror Next Time"). However, the author then provides support for this assumption, because the ingredients for chemical weapons are widely available, while biological and nuclear agents are more difficult to acquire. The author then goes on to discuss some of the difficulties in developing or acquiring sufficient quantities of each type of weapon. For example, the author states that it is difficult to make chemical agents sufficiently pure, and sites the relatively unsuccessful sarin attack on the Tokyo subways as an example. The argument that it would be relatively difficult for terrorist to develop the raw materials necessary to create a weapon of mass destruction is relatively strong. However, in supporting his argument, the author relies on one unsuccessful attack by a non-terrorist cult group, rather than providing evidence of what terrorist groups have and what difficulties the terrorist groups face. By relying on the premise that a cult group, even one with considerable financial resources, matches the zeal, expertise, or financial power of a terrorist organization, the author exposes a flaw in his reasoning.

In addition, the author also cautions that terrorists may not have to develop the supplies to create a weapon of mass destruction on their own. Instead, terrorists could rely on those supplies already in existence. For example, the former Soviet Union contains a large amount of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and experts. It would be relatively easy for a terrorist group to either hire the experts to re-create the weapons or to purchase the weapons. However, the author assures the audience that police and customs officers have yet to seize from smugglers the type of nuclear devices that could be used to create a weapon of mass destruction. This is one area where the author's argument is weak; the fact that customs officers or police have not seized such weapons does not mean that they have not actually been smuggled out of the former Soviet Union. In fact, earlier in the article, the author acknowledges that there have been reports that Soviet nuclear devices have found their way into terrorist-friendly countries, such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. As a result, the author's conclusion that the terrorists do not possess a weapon of mass destruction is faulty. It is an assumption that is based upon the idea that if the terrorists had such weapons, the world would know about it. This goes back to the first assumption addressed in the paper, which is that if terrorist had weapons of mass destruction, they would use them. It ignores the fact that the terrorist attacks of 9-11 took many years of planning. Terrorists could very easily possess weapons of mass destruction and simply be considering the most effective way to use them. However, the author ignores that element of the issue completely.

The author then goes on to discuss the difficulties in turning supplies into actual weapons. To do this, the author relies on the premise that "the most effective way for a terrorist group to obtain one would be to find a sponsoring government that is willing to allow access to its laboratories or its arsenal" ("The Terror Next Time"). The author then goes on to discuss the efforts taken by the UN to make sure that countries such as Iraq are not developing weapons for terrorist groups. However, the author acknowledges that most of those countries considered "friendly" to terrorists, which include Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan, already have chemical weapons, and are developing biological or nuclear weapons ("The Terror Next Time"). The author then states that there is no evidence that these countries are willing to help terrorist acquire the weapons of mass destruction, whether because of moral revulsion or fear of retaliation. In this regard, the author delves further into his argument, and provides greater support than in his argument that it would be difficult for terrorists to obtain the raw materials necessary to build a weapon of mass destruction. First, the author acknowledges that the trials for the American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania revealed that Al Qaeda was involved in Sudan's development of chemical weapons. However, the author relies on the idea that states are deterrable to help support his conclusion that there is not currently a threat that the terrorists will use weapons of mass destruction. The deterrence argument is weak and relies on only one example: Saddam Hussein's reluctance to use weapons of mass destruction during the first Gulf War. However, this argument ignores the fact that there is a difference in using weapons of mass destruction against a foreign enemy located halfway across the world and in using those weapons close to your own home. In fact, the United States, as the only country to ever use nuclear weapons in a war, provides ample proof for this statement: atomic weapons were used in Japan, but not in Europe. Therefore, the deterrence argument did not take into account proximity to the location of the proposed weapon of mass destruction.

After coming to this conclusion, the author then introduces the evidence most likely to weaken his central argument; the fact that there are intelligence reports indicating that hostile countries have… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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