Political vs. Military Solutions to Terrorism [4 of 4]



By John Maszka
Richard Jackson argues that the Bush administration’s approach to terrorism as actually perpetuating the violence rather than stemming it; and mirroring the terrorists tactics more than countering them. Jackson contends that clearly a more sophisticated approach is needed:

By failing to understand the history and context of terrorism, the actual nature and cause of terrorism, and the real motivations and aims of the terrorists (who are most certainly not sacrificing their lives in suicidal attacks simply for the sake of “evil”), we may seriously damage the search for more effective and long-term policy solutions (Jackson, 2005:166).
Rohan Gunaratna (2006:134) agrees:

Because of perceived injustices attributed to the West in general, particularly in Pakistan and Iraq, there will be significant support for the new generation of mujahideen in Iraq. Groups that were dying are making a comeback, and several new groups have emerged in Iraq, Indonesia, Pakistan, and even in Europe.
Audrey Kurth Cronin (2006:67) also agrees:

 The current wave of international terrorism, characterized by unpredictable and unprecedented threats from non-state actors, not only is a reaction to globalization but is facilitated by it; the U.S. response to this reality has been reactive and anachronistic… There has been little creative thinking, however, about how to confront the growing terrorist backlash that has been unleashed.

The main thrust of Lefebvre and Farley’s (2007:644) recent article is that while terrorism presents a grave challenge to the West, many of our present counter terrorism measures (particularly torture) threatens the very fabric of Western civilization. The authors conclude that an ethical system that allows for torture would “nourish terrorism.” The United States has no viable options but to find a more sophisticated approach to terrorism. “Enthusiasm for martyrdom persists as long as there is a reasonable chance that it will lead to victory. Sacrifice must have a purpose” (Laqueur, 2003:97). Given that enthusiasm for suicide attacks does not appear to be waning, but has in fact “become part of the popular culture” one can surmise that terrorist organizations must still have reason to believe that suicide attacks are a successful means to a victorious end (Stern, 2003:53) .

 According to FBI Director Robert Mueller, “future suicide attacks on US soil” are “inevitable.” Regardless how much President Bush (2001a) assures us that “we will prevail,” we are far too vulnerable to win in a game of chicken with terrorists. As a statement issued by Qa’idat al-Jihad [4] remarks: “We are really puzzled to see Americans and their followers in the Western world think that they are able to confront people who wish to die more than they [the Americans] want to live” (Paz, 2003:2). 

Children are the Worst Sufferers

Children are the Worst Sufferers

Alexander Evans (2006:9-10) explores the potential threat of madrasahs, and concludes that the “majority of madrasahs actually present an opportunity, not a threat.” Not only are they often the only defense between children and a hopeless existence of hunger, homelessness, forced labor camps and sex traffickers, madrasahs offer American policymakers a foot in the door to a crucial Muslim institution. Evans demonstrates that while it may be true that a relatively small number of jihadists came out of the madrasah system, most of which were in Pakistan in the 1980s during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the vast majority of madrasahs are centers of learning, moderation and “host to a quiet debate about reform.

 Evans insists that the answer, rather than to oppose the madrasahs, attempt to close, burn or bomb the madrasahs, is to join the quiet debate…quietly, and facilitate trust and reform from within the institution, rather than continue the brute, feudal attempt to force change from without.

Douglas McCready (2006) offers a solution to terrorism grounded in the just war tradition. According to McCready, fighting terrorism with more acts of terrorism is not only counterproductive, it’s immoral. In fact, one of the main reasons it is so counterproductive is because by resorting to terrorist tactics, a state loses its moral superiority, and hence its popular support. While McCready admits that war “is never a desirable thing” it is often necessary to confront tyranny. Just war theory offers guidelines in how to conduct war without becoming a tyrant as well. The concept of just war began with Ambrose and Augustine, and was further developed by Aquinas. Grotius made it law. The concept was “to establish a just peace-not simply the absence of war-and to allow non-combatants to live free of strife.” Jessica Stern (2004:1122) reveals that while interviewing with terrorists, they have told her that “they see themselves as exempt from ordinary moral rules because the population they claim to protect is so abused, and because God is on their side.” Stern insists that this is precisely the position that the Bush administration has taken in fighting the war on terror. “In assuming itself to be above the law…the Bush administration has made a serious moral error.”

When we consider that “the continental US has 95,000 miles of coastline, 429 commercial airports with 30,000 daily flights, serviced by a fleet of 6,800 US commercial aircraft…200,000 private aircraft, 361 commercial seaports, and 104 nuclear power plants” (Winkates, 2006:88), it becomes a little bit clearer just exactly what our task really is: How do we defend our country against the threat of terrorism? Alone, that question is difficult enough. When combined with the statement above, one realizes that it is truly the challenge of the 21st Century.

Common sense suggests that the last thing we want to do is provoke attacks on American soil, because we can’t possible secure all of our borders and railroads and sea ports and highway and airports. The majority of the experts tell us that “waging physical war against militant jihadis-by itself- will only enhance their recruitment efforts,” thereby generating more terrorists and most likely directing their anger toward America (Crocker, 2005:54). Yet our government continues to provoke away, as if it were daring terrorists to attack us again. With only perhaps the rarest exception, every security professional, regardless of their political orientation, their stance on the war in Iraq or the war on terror, all agree that we are waging a war of ideas, and the Bush administration “must devise a better way to win the war of ideas involved in the fight against terrorism” (Holmes, 2007:22).[1]

 Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed on June 7, 2006, along with his wife and child when the US dropped two 500-pound guided bombs, a laser-guided GBU-12, and GPS-guided GBU-38 on their home.

[2]Obviously one could digress in many directions from this point. There are no doubt noble “Robin Hood” type criminals, criminals who break the law for revenge, and a host of other possible types of criminals. There are also, as Jessica Stern (2003) points out, terrorists that are motivated by profit (although one could argue that they are actually criminals by nature of their motive). 
[3]This is not to suggest that terrorism does not have its own costs and challenges. For an excellent overview of the extensive costs and challenges associated with terrorism, see: Paul R. Pillar, (2006). The Dimensions of Terrorism and Counterterrorism. In Russell D. Howard & Reid L. Sawyer (Eds.), Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Understanding the New Security Environment, Second Edition (24-45). Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill.
 [4]Has the Global Crusader Alliance learned the lessons of the Mujahideen?”


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Published in: on 27/08/2008 at 10:04 pm  Comments (1)  

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