Anti-Terrorism for the Long Haul
some absurdly bellicose rhetoric and impossible goals I don't
know many people who think terrorism and evil can be wiped out once
and for all U.S. leaders have so far moved with a certain
amount of deftness in the wake of the September 11 atrocities. But
while some sort of military or paramilitary action is probably inevitable
in the coming months or years, it might be useful to come up with
a different word than war to describe what this country is about
war on terrorism? Terrorism is a tactic. It's intellectually incoherent
to declare war on a tactic. A war requires enemies, preferably of
the nation-state variety, along with a set of objectives to define
victory and an exit strategy once the objectives have been achieved.
One might argue that Osama bin Laden's organization (assuming it
really is responsible for the attacks) is something of a quasi-state
in that it relies on force and belief to sustain itself and uses
force and terror to get its way. But it's not quite the same as
a state and it will have to be countered in a different way.
leave "permanent war for permanent peace" to those who
thought George Orwell's dystopian vision in "1984" was
a Jim-dandy way to run a society. At least the administration abandoned
the code name "Operation Infinite Justice." But whoever
came up with that grandiose tribute to arrogance should be sent
to an agricultural station in Guam.
which some leaders have used, might not be a bad term. "Long-term-struggle"
might work. "Project" might be accurate but it doesn't
exactly make people stand at attention and salute. "Protracted
struggle?" "Long twilight struggle?" I'm not sure
what the proper term might be, and I'm trying to start discussions
here, not end them.
"war" is an unfortunate concept that brings with it unfortunate
consequences, from self-righteousness and calls for a bogus unity
on the part of leaders to justification of mass slaughter to loss
of liberty. And a war won't work against this particular problem,
although certain essentially military actions might be called for.
the goal understanding, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
remarked that it's unlikely we can change human nature in a fortnight
is to minimize or reduce terrorism by changing the conditions that
breed it, we need to be prepared to discuss some aspects of American
policy that contribute to creating terrorists. I don't think the
creation of terrorists is an intended consequence, but it's usually
the unintended consequences that come back to bite you.
things we can begin to do for ourselves. Radio talk show host Lowell
Ponte has argued that decentralization is not only the way a lot
of Americans prefer to live, it is something of a defense against
certain kinds of terrorism. His column appears on www.frontpagemagazine.com.
He did a rather nice one last week, analyzing Osama bin Laden's
place in the history of Islam and other topics.
resist centralizing initiatives in most instances to minimize attractive
ideas will be more controversial. In a paper
done for the Cato Institute some three years ago, defense policy
studies director Ivan Eland notes that a 1997 study by the National
Defense Panel on the importance of homeland defense "notes
that historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement
in international situations and terrorist attacks against the United
don't have to be a conspiratorialist or an America-hater to recognize
that the more we meddle in quarrels that are irrelevant or marginal
to our core national interests, the more terrorist incidents we
are likely to experience. (The Cato
main page features several thoughtful discussions of terrorism
past and present.)
doesn't call for complete American withdrawal from overseas involvement.
He thinks it is appropriate for the US to be ready for "safeguarding
US trade on the high seas and intervening in Western Europe or East
Asia as a 'balancer of last resort.'" But he argues that interventions
in places like Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti and to some extent in the
Middle East and, I would add, more recently Kosovo vitiate American
power and create unnecessary enemies.
United States should openly declare what limited set of interests
it considers vital instead of deliberately remaining vague in the
vain hope that ambiguity will deter all aggressive adversaries everywhere,"
Eland writes. He views the prescription not as appeasement but as
if we're serious about a long-term strategy to deter or reduce terrorism,
some changes in U.S. foreign policy should at least be on the table
for serious discussion.
AND TERRORIST FINANCING
major policy reorientation that should be up for discussion is the
drug war. It has been known for some time that many terrorist groups,
including the KLA in Kosovo, and guerrillas in Colombia, finance
much of their activity through illicit drug trafficking. In a recent
Gardner of the Ottawa Citizen in Canada summarizes much
of the more academic work that has been done on the topic in readily
interviewed John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute, a Canadian
think tank that studies terrorism and organized crime. Thompson
noted that it used to be mainly nation-states, like the former Soviet
Union, that financed and sponsored terrorist activities. "But
as the Soviet Union weakened in the 1980s, more and more insurgent
groups, terrorist groups, started to resort to organized criminal
activities to pay their bills," Thompson told Gardner.
there are still some state sponsors left, though most try to hide
their activities. And a few wealthy individuals like Osama bin Laden
finance terrorist activities and groups. But for the most part,
Thompson said, "The big money earner for most of them seems
to be narcotics. And as early as 1994 Interpol's chief drugs officer,
Iqbal Hussain Rizvi, said that "drugs have taken over as the
chief means of financing terrorism."
are as profitable as they are almost entirely because of prohibition.
If we're serious about reducing terrorism, or at least reducing
the resources terrorists have available for their dastardly activities,
we need to think about de-profitizing the drugs trade by ending
drug prohibition, or at least substantially altering the way the
government approaches the many aspects of drug use.
isn't just the money that drives terrorists and drug traffickers
into one another's arms. Terrorists and drug traffickers have similar
needs untraceable cash, weapons, safe hiding places, secure infiltration
routes, ruthless associates who have little incentive to help authorities and
thus have been and are natural allies.
terrorism is to be the main focus of the Bush administration's attention
for the next few years, it is reasonable to argue that resources
devoted to the drug war should be reoriented toward the main goal,
Trinward has argued in a recent issue of SierraTimes. And the
national debate on drug decriminalization, which would carry myriad
benefits in the realms of restoration of freedom, reduction of corruption,
sensible priorities in law enforcement and reduction of violent
crime, should be intensified.
drugs to fight terrorism? It might be the single most effective
step that could be taken.
the goal is to reduce terrorism understanding that there
is no utopia on this earth and complete elimination is unlikely
to be in the cards these and other policy proposals need
to be on the table. If the real goal is to increase state power
and government control over our lives, of course, discussion of
the full range of conditions and incentives that feed terrorism
will be resisted.
societies in which most people most of the time are able to move
around pretty much at will and have commerce with whatever partners
are willing will always be vulnerable to terrorist thugs. As we
should have learned from the failure of the Soviet Union, however,
free societies also have qualities of resiliency and flexibility
that promote long-term stability and remarkable staying power. Looking
at immigration patterns, it seems free societies are attractive
to a wide range of people born into a staggering array of cultures.
very fact that freedom is so attractive to so many human beings
is one of the reasons terrorists who long to impose their narrow
views on others by force find America so threatening. We shouldn't
give up the freedoms that have made this country such a beacon to
liberty lovers the world over especially given the strong likelihood
that while expanding freedom might still feed resentment, it could
make it more difficult to recruit people willing and able to commit
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