Betting on terrorists and mayhem has its merits

The terror futures market, although suffering a major setback from the Pentagon, will nonetheless open in March of 2004. The Pentagon initially abandoned the project due to much criticism over ethical issues related to essentially gambling on the incidence of horrifying events. Yet the Pentagon’s outsourced Internet development team, Net Exchange, had decided to finish the Web site on its own.

This Web site will feature the ability to buy and sell contracts based on the occurrence of events such as assassinations of major leaders, political instability or certain terrorist attacks. Although the idea for this Web site may seem atrocious at first glance, the terror futures market should be supported for its potential for predicting terrorist attacks. The Pentagon should once again involve itself in the Web site in order to use analysis of the trends within the Web site’s trades as warnings for terrorist attacks.

The notion of profiting off of the misfortune and misery of others is an ethically unsound and appalling idea. It is not surprising that the Pentagon was pressured into abandoning the project when it received criticism not only from citizens but also from many politicians. However, some safeguards can be instituted to ensure that terrorists or other nefarious elements won’t benefit from the terror futures market.

For instance, Net Exchange, the company developing the Web site, has expressed that it will limit the amount available per contract to assure that, “people won’t be profiting from violence or upheaval in the region (the Middle East).” However, the positive contributions of the terror futures market vastly outweigh any ethical concerns. This Web site may very well be able to predict terrorist attacks on U.S. assets, soldiers or even world leaders.

Other futures markets, such as the Iowa Electronics Market, have been quite accurate in predicting the outcome of presidential elections. The terror futures market could also provide a degree of accuracy in predicting events related to terror, which would give authorities the time or location of such intended incidents. People possibly could be evacuated, or terrorist plots may be foiled based on the information gleaned from this market. Although the terror futures market may be macabre, it is possible that it will save and protect lives.

However, the presence of the Pentagon in this market is essential in interpreting the information from the futures contract trades. It must be assumed that accurate information will come from traders who have some knowledge of planned attacks that will occur, and are therefore making relatively safe investments. Simply put, without the Pentagon, the information that the trading patterns of these futures contracts may reveal will not be properly deciphered. Or, for that matter, fully understood without the cooperation of the Pentagon, the State Department and possibly even the Central Intelligence Agency.

The terror futures market is being created and implemented regardless of the complaints of the public or the politicians. Although the essence of the ethical dilemmas surrounding this project remains, the Pentagon should realign itself with Net Exchange, and become a part of the terror futures market. With such an alliance, the Pentagon would become the beneficiary of information regarding trades and trading volume having to do with potential world events. Even if the Pentagon rejoins the project and receives the same moral outcry as when it was initially proposed, the Pentagon should ignore the demands of politicians and the public.

The terror futures market offers an additional opportunity, even if it may not be the most reliable, to predict when an attack against a U.S. soldier, asset or ally may take place. Any lives saved or terrorist acts averted are worth the negativity derived from the ethical issues regarding the terror futures market. The Pentagon should rejoin the terror futures market project.

Alex Rosemblat, Cavalier Daily, University of Virginia.