[FOUNTAIN]Beware the 'Super Individual'On November 4, 1979, a gang of militant Islamic students loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini stormed the American embassy in Teheran, Iran's capital. They seized 66 Americans and held them hostage. The Ayatollah then took over the hostage situation.
President Jimmy Carter noted in his diary two days later that what his nation was dealing with were impossible lunatics, but lunatics with religious faith.
One of the lunatic referred to by President Carter was Khomeini, who, after a 15-year exile in Paris, returned to Iran and was instantly installed as the country's undisputed leader. Khomeini was, in effect, Iran.
The World Trade Center, which was ravaged by terrorist attacks Tuesday, was also the site of an earlier terrorist act, on February 26, 1993. Six persons died in that bombing and more than 1,000 were injured. The mastermind of the bombing, Ramzi Yousef, who was 25 at the time, said later that he had planned the explosion at one of the twin towers that would begin a domino effect and topple nearby buildings, killing at least 250,000 people. In a 17-minute diatribe before his sentencing, a defiant Yousef said, "Yes. I am a terrorist and I am proud of it."
The Americans were the first in history to practice terrorism, Yousef said in court. He mentioned the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed "tens of thousands of women and children." He then spoke of Agent Orange, a chemical used during the Vietnam War, and the economic sanctions that he said were killing Iraq and Cuba. "You are murderers and liars," he said.
Brushing aside Yousef's twisted logic, observers instead took notice of Yousef's actions, whereby with just a few people, he tried to take on a superpower that the United States is. Here, Yousef was an individual.
The author of the book on globalization "The Lexus and the Olive Tree," Thomas Friedman, would term individuals like Yousef as "super individuals." He noted that a super individual, filled with terrible anger and hatred, can single-handedly shake the foundation of a country's national security and disrupt the lives and wealth of people to the roots.
Hitler and Stalin had to take control of a regime before they were able to go around ravishing the world, Friedman said. But in today's world, that kind of absolute political and military control as a means is not necessary, he said.
Is Korea safe from acts of massive violence? Well, ours is a country in which bridges and large buildings have collapsed all on their own. We can perhaps put off worrying about "super individuals" for some time.
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun