Some Thoughts On Dealing With The Terrorist ThreatAugust 1, 2007
The bulk of this post was actually taken from a comment I left on The Sophist’s entry “The Post 9/11 World” (which, incidentally, was a response to my post on that subject). My comment was relatively long, so I figured I might as well reprint it here. Besides, I’m not sure if I’ve posted any ideas on how to fight terrorism on my blog in the past (although plenty of times on other blogs). Anyway, it was mainly addressing this portion the The Sophist’s post:
With terror networks, this equation doesn’t work. The only possible response is one of the following three:
- hunt down and kill those who would attack us, before they could launch an attack;
- create a more tempting target for them elsewhere; and
There is no other alternative.
To me, that’s always been the scary area. I mean, in the general sense, how can you justify killing people for something they might do? Can you do it in a way that doesn’t make the overall problem worse?
And the notion of a more “tempting” target. I’ve seen posts on milblogs from troops that refer to this idea as the “live bait” or “flypaper” theory. It’s possible effectiveness aside, I wonder how history will judge us on this. After all, we’ve essentially invaded another country under the guise of disarming Saddam and are now an occupying force with the unintended benefit of attracting al Qaeda. Do the Iraqis appreciate us using their country as a “kill zone” in order to keep us safe at home? Never mind the fact that it is incredibly expensive, and it’s very hard to know if we’re creating more terrorists than we’re killing. It just doesn’t seem like a solution that we can sustain over the long term. Plus, there still isn’t much to stop them from hitting us here at home now. They’re not moths, after all.
I’ve always wondered what that meant exactly. If it means giving in to terrorist demands, I suppose that would mean abandoning our influence in the Middle East. We’d probably have no problem just throwing our hands in the air and declaring “These people are f*cking nuts!” and leaving if we didn’t have critical interests in the region. If it means abandoning America to Sharia, well, I think most Americans would agree that it would be a fight to the death before that was allowed to happen. It’s not as if Osama has an army of jihadis poised to march into downtown LA and start forced conversions to Islam or anything. Maybe not “surrendering” simply means being smarter about how we approach this whole thing.
My solution has always been centered around treating it more as a criminal act than as a war. Preemption should be used in moderation. Everything we do should be kept low profile and below the average American’s radar. Secure the borders, and take reasonable precautions to “terror-proof” our country (airports, ports, nuclear facilities, power grids, water supply, etc.). Do NOT treat it as an “epic struggle”, or at least do not try to create that impression publicly.
By calling it a “war” or a “clash of civilizations” you are inherently legitimizing the jihad these extremists are trying to wage. It serves as inspiration for them. Taken far enough, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, ie we really do have a “clash of civilizations” because we’ve managed to inspire the entire Muslim world to fight against us.
By treating it as a crime or a simply despicable acts of barbarism, you serve to alienate and marginalize the ideology. You’re essentially saying “This isn’t your great war, you guys are f*cking thugs”. They want a holy war. Don’t give them the satisfaction. They’re murderous bastards. Period.
If there is such a thing as “winning” a war on terrorism, it would be creating a world where there aren’t people who want to kill us at all. I just don’t see how bombing more people in the Middle East is going to accomplish that over the long term. Instead, if you can alienate the ideology and stop the spread of it with alliances, intelligence and responsible foreign policy you might get to the point where the threat is negligible (you’ll never completely eliminate it).