Democrats & Liberals Archives

Terminating Terrorism

Terrorism is the scourge of the world. However, we can not rid the world of terrorism by means of war. As I have said previously there is no “war on terror.” So I was happy to see that Timothy Garton Ash, an Oxford professor and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, agrees with me.

Ash wrote an op-ed piece for the L.A. Times which said:

Apart from anything else, to use this language [war on terror] dignified the terrorists with the status of belligerents when they should have been treated as criminals. In a backhanded way, the coinage was itself a kind of glorification of terrorism.

Ash thinks it is important to find new language with which to talk about terrorism. He offers the word "struggle," but hopes more appropriate language can be found.

Ash is on to something. Language affects our thinking in many ways. The word "war" has set us off primarily on a militaristic path. It is clear now, however, that there are many other ways to fight terrorism besides engaging in war.

After some thought, I have come up with the phrase "terminating terrorism." Maybe you have better language. If so, I'd like to hear about it.

Terminating terrorism is our goal. Like crime, maybe we cannot terminate it entirely, but we can come close. To terminate terrorism, we must do 2 things:

  • Root out and bring to justice the terrorists living today
  • Remove root causes that grow terrorists for tomorrow
If we do not work on both simultaneously, terrorism will remain and likely grow.

The worst way to accomplish the termination of terrorism is the way Bush is doing it: attacking states with abandon. The best way to approach the task is to get all countries, or at least the vast majority of countries in the world thoroughly involved. The UN is the best vehicle for this purpose.

When I mention the UN, many Americans begin listing all the UN faults. We know the UN, like any other public institution, has faults. But this should not stop us from using its powers to advance the most important endeavor for reaching a peaceful world. We can do it. All that is required is strong American leadership.

Basically, 3 steps are required:

  1. Produce a definition of terrorism agreed to by a UN majority
  2. Catch terrorists and bring them to justice
  3. Determine root causes of terrorism and help prevent them

I hope that President George W. Bush can be influenced to mount such an effort. However, I have strong doubts; he seems wedded to militarism. Perhaps if we elect a Democratic House and a Democratic senate we may be able to persuade him in this broader task of Terminating Terrorism.

Posted by Paul Siegel at November 2, 2006 5:24 PM
Comment #192891

Terminating Terrorism will be a failure if we elect a democrat House and Senate. When the mindset of democrat Senators like John Kerry who has the desire to divide and separate our college students and our military men and woman will end up a disaster.

It is the accent Greeks that said “When we separate our intellectuals form our warriors we will have cowards fighting for us and fools thinking for us”.

That is exactly what Senator Kerry was doing. Telling our college students you are of one class and our military people are of another class.

Posted by: Mr. Right at November 2, 2006 6:43 PM
Comment #192899


I agree. You can defeat a state because it has structures, offices, means of production, etc. that an enemy can take over. Or threaten to take over, because, historically, a state may capitulate in order to keep its structures and simply pay tribute, donate troops in war, etc. But when we fight terrorists, we are not fighting states, we are fighting an idea, an ideology. Some will say that we defeated the Soviet Union, which was an ideological state. In a way that is true, but we didn’t do it through force of arms. It’s more accurate to say the threat and the cost of countering our threat contributed to its downfall, but what that really means is that internal forces within concluded the ideology could not succeed and gave up the fight.

With terrorists, though, we are not talking about states. In a curious way, if they did have a state, they would be susceptible to some of the tactics, including war, that we employ against states. Terrorists are fighting an ideological war, and success counts as those things that can help spread the ideology. When the leak came out that a consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies said the Iraq War was helping terrorist organizations gain more adherents, it was a surprise to no one.

I also agree with the writer of the article you cited. By proclaiming a War on Terrorism, we did dignify what we should consider as common criminals — criminals with an ideological mindset, but criminals — heck, let’s call them what they are — murderers anyway.

Saddam was an asshole who tortured and murdered untold thousands, and I have no sympathy for him. But we have confused two separate things — a war against a state and the fight against terrorists — and because of that, we are paying a heavy price.

Posted by: Trent at November 2, 2006 7:01 PM
Comment #192903

I forget where I heard it but …

Have you ever noticed when politicians actually want more of something they declare “War” on it?

The “War on Drugs” (While the CIA is selling drugs.)

The “War on poverty” (How do Democrats use that as a wedge issue if you get rid of it?)

The “War on terrorism” (How do Republicans use that as a wedge issue if you get rid of it?)

There are other examples.

Posted by: me at November 2, 2006 7:07 PM
Comment #192919

Paul, Terrorism the scourge of the world? Nonsense! Starvation, disease, war, ignorance, poverty. These are the worlds scourges. How many have died in world since 2001 from terrorism? I don’t know, but I do know its vastly less than from the above list. I’m practically certain that the figure in the Western world would not amount to 10,000 deaths from terrorism since 9/11.

“Fully one third of all human deaths are due to poverty-related causes, such as starvation, diarrhea, pneumonia, measles, and malaria, which could be prevented or cured cheaply through food, safe drinking water, vaccinations, rehydration packs, or medicines. One quarter of all five to 14-year-olds work outside their family for wages, often under harsh conditions, in mining, textile and carpet production, prostitution, factories, and in agriculture.”

The death toll from road traffic accidents in the western countries would make terrorism deaths pale into insignificance. So why are people so exercised by the flea bite of terrorism? No doubt 9/11 was traumatic for the US, but the answer, apart from Afghanistan, was not a global actual war on terrorism. It lay in good policing internationally, and the will was there to do it. The fact is that the neo cons used 9/11 to advance their project for a new American century and to shape the mid east to their liking. Well I wonder how well they like how it looks now? As for a new American century? With dizzyingly high twin deficits, exporting jobs around the globe and too many people too lazy and smug to challenge their own prejudices, I don’t think so! It seems to me that your politics have been hijacked by three card trick con artists. All to distract the attention of the people from the plunder that is being done to them in the interests of the rich. It reminds me of a cynical description of marketing:- distracting peoples attention long enough to get your hands into their pockets.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at November 2, 2006 7:39 PM
Comment #192934

Excellent posts from both Pauls. Couldn’t agree with you guys more.

Paul Siegel, you are correct that terrorism cannot be fought effectively by military means alone. That is an unending battle. Not to sound harsh, but they make ‘em faster than we can capture or kill ‘em. More importantly, these terrorists are not afraid to die. They want to die. It is an honor for them to go oout as martyrs. Problem is, too many in this Administration really fail to understand that this is a holy war - and are unwilling to find ways to use that to our advantage. Instead, we are only increasing the terrorists’ religious fervor.

Paul in Euroland, your point is most excellent. The true scourges of the world remain locked in the closet, away from sight. Sometimes, I think that’s because this country has become so selfish, that we’re happy to mortgage the needs of the many for the privileges of the few.

Posted by: Darth Independent at November 2, 2006 8:13 PM
Comment #192950

All I want to know is, what will Democrats do about keeping Iraqi’s oil revenues out of the hands of terrorists, and what will they do to end deficits and begin paying down this enormous debt?

I am not the only one, either! 100 million inquiring minds want to know. These are the two greatest dangers facing America. We know Republicans don’t have an answer. And Democrats are mute on these topics.

That only leaves voting out the incumbents, Democrat and Republican in the hopes that some fresh minds and new energy will come up with some answers we can agree upon.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 2, 2006 9:02 PM
Comment #192955


I think we are in a world of hurt politically. How can leaders solve complex problems while calling each other “satan himself/herself”?

Listening to the tone I see a couple of problems.

One is that if liberals run on ideas they loose nationwide. (I know they win regionally). Nationally we are right of center.

Conservatives are corrupt. (Or republican leaders).

For instance on drudge right now is a question about where is Nancy Pelosi? Hiding of course. It is in the Democratic best interest not to have her seen between now and the election day. (At least that is what I believe).

So politically we are in a world of hurt. I sense especially in the house. I do see a democratic majority in the house having a few positive effects. Maybe democrat corrupt leaders in the house will nuetralize the republican corrupt leaders in the Senate.


Posted by: Craig Holmes at November 2, 2006 9:29 PM
Comment #192956


I do not believe that Iraq’s oil supplies or revenues are any of our concern. They belong to the Iraqi nation. Of course everyone knows that oil interests had nothing to do with our reasons for occupation. (Yeah right)

Once we are gone from Iraq there will no longer be any reason for insurgents to filter into the country. I believe the insurgents issues are with us and our occupation. Once we leave there will no longer be any need for them to fuel the fires between the various factions fighting for control of the oil. Iraq for all intent and purposes is in a civil war and the outcome of that will determine which faction gets controlling interests.

I guess my point is that since oil supposedly did not figure into our invasion agenda it should not matter to us who controls those revenues once we leave. If I remember correctly before we invaded Saddam had control. The country was under sanctions by the US and other nations. They were only allowed to sell oil to collect currency for things like medicine, food etc. Let them have their oil. If they do not have the money or means to rebuild their infrastucture they will have no oil to sell and possibly nobody to sell it too if sanctions are imposed once again.

Of course this is only speculation at this point. But we must not forget that the oil is not ours to do with as we please.

Posted by: Ric at November 2, 2006 9:29 PM
Comment #192959


I think that the hundred billion dollars per year being spent in Iraq and Afqhanistan is a good start on paying down that debt. Providing of course we can find a way out.

Posted by: Ric at November 2, 2006 9:38 PM
Comment #192961


I like to think of terrorism as a fire feeding on hatred. So perhaps “Extinguishing Terrorism” would be appropriate.

I am not so sure that it can be so easily contained as you describe. I think the main root cause stems from hatred and disdain for western culture, capitalism and lifestyle. So long as there is a culture suffering, in need or just plain wishing for their fair share, there will always be hatred for those who have more. Especially when those who have more attempt to impose their ideals on them.

Posted by: Ric at November 2, 2006 9:55 PM
Comment #193001

lots of comments, none about the roots of terrorism, anybody can list the reasons?
We can always fight terrorism, we will never win if we do not delete the causes.

Posted by: goby at November 3, 2006 2:27 AM
Comment #193008

Craig, I agree, we are in a world of hurt, politically, and economically as the years forge forward, and culturally as crime far exceeds our law enforcement and prison capacity, and socially as new armies of blue and gray form up over issues like abortion, stem cell research, immigration, death penalty, separation of church and state, and educational curricula.

I also agree a divided party government is a short term blessing, but, grid lock only exacerbates our longer term looming crises. My daughter is learning Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese at her parents urging and with our support. We want her to have options in her life. Options we never saw the need for in our lives until these last 10 years or so.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 3, 2006 4:24 AM
Comment #193009

Ric said: “I do not believe that Iraq’s oil supplies or revenues are any of our concern.”

I just can’t agree with that position, Ric. al-Queda infiltrated the Taliban government of Afghanistan. It provided them political protection. They can, and will do the same in Iraq, if it is left to decay in civil war without a capable guard stopping al-Queda at the door of the Iraqi capitol. There are a number of ways in which Iraq’s oil revenues can be funneled to al-Queda, and an al-Queda with money IS a very real threat toward America, western European nations, and many Middle Eastern nations.

I am all for removing our troops from Iraq’s civil war. But, with Bush having let the genie out of the bottle, we now have no choice but, to guard Iraq’s borders from external threats while they wage their civil war.

There really isn’t any rational alternative unless a coalition of Europe and Middle Eastern nations will take up that post. I just don’t see that happening though since, they rightly believe it was the British and Americans who opened this can of worms and we are obligated to the costs of containment, not they.

Now the Neo-Cons have plans, (No I haven’t seen them, but, mark my words), to attach Iran opening up a threat to Europe and the Middle East as a result, on the bet that Europe and Middle Eastern nations will HAVE to take on the guardian role over Iraq if the U.S. is to be freed up to resolve the can of worms opened by attacking Iraq.

If you follow the money and bases being built, the logistics for attacking Iran are being laid as I type. This is the insane logic of the neo-cons, in which lives and deficits are merely toys for their use and sense of purpose.

And if Democrats take the House or Senate, or both, it makes no difference. Remember, the Congress gave Bush a blank check to engage the enemy whenever, and wherever he deems necessary. A democratic Congress will not alter the neo-con’s plans. In fact, it may play right into them. Bush attacks Iran, and Democrats vote to withhold funding for further military action in Iran. It is a neo-con wet dream.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 3, 2006 4:41 AM
Comment #193010

Ric, a hundred billion a year is just going to cover the interest on our debt in a couple years. We need a lot heavier lifting than that to start paying down the debt. A lot heavier.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 3, 2006 4:43 AM
Comment #193012

goby, the reasons for Islamic fundamentalist terrorism are varied and many. But, one of the most basic is a resentment toward the westernization of their Middle Eastern cultures. Every McDonalds, every caterpillar machine, every book translated from western culture, all threaten the paternalistic order of Islamic culture and the righteous manhood of young Muslim men. At least that is how many fundamentalists view it.

It is a fight against globalization. And that fight is spreading, and will ebb and flow with the tides of global recessions and growth peaks. And it will be undertaken by many others beyond the Islamic fundamentalists. This fight has been seething amongst Europeans for more than a decade now. France is getting hot into the fight.

And with the fight for and against globalization comes the exploiters of it like Russia and the U.S. as the two largest arms dealers in the world. Both are making billions hand over fist supplying arms to the global camps gearing up. Japan has been gearing up for 25 years, and is about to go nuclear. Indonesia is gearing up under its black markets. Chechnya is fully engaged.

And Africa is a well spring for new arms sales if only more financial aid would enter their economies, which is inevitable with the growing droughts and famine. When was the last time you saw any hearings or investigation of the arms manufacturer’s role in world politics? Have you seen the power of their lobbyists in our Congress?

Sometimes it is what you don’t see that gets you in the end. There is good reason to fear the shadows and dark cloaks drawn over such relationships and interactions hiding from the light of day. They lurk in the halls of our Congress and White House, and in black markets all around the world, and in the halls of the Kremlin, and N. Korea’s capitol, in the politburo of China, and the slippery interaction between Musharraf’s military and the Taliban.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 3, 2006 5:01 AM
Comment #193021

I also agree a divided party government is a short term blessing, but, grid lock only exacerbates our longer term looming crises. My daughter is learning Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese at her parents urging and with our support. We want her to have options in her life. Options we never saw the need for in our lives until these last 10 years or so.

Posted by: Article XP at November 3, 2006 8:29 AM
Comment #193037


Good morning, I am just having my morning coffee and am not as sharp as I can be yet (very limitied to begin with) so please understand if I am not totally clear.

I am new to these forums and find them intriguing and highly educational in regards to world and national politics. Even though they are sometimes a bit juvenile and over the top. It is a pleasure to read your insightful and concerned views on these very serious matters at hand.

I can not profess to haveing the anserws. I think we can only speculate and hope that once this current administration and its rubber stamping congress is crippled the rest of the world will look at us in a new light and say perhaps we can work something out now. That is, in regards to containing Iraq’s borders until they can work their problems out. Lets face it if it were not for the disdain and loathing of the arrogance and impatience of this administration to make a sensible approach in Iraq, we may have had support to approach the matter on a sensible and well planned level. Granted the damage is done. But I have to believe that the rest of the worlds powers do understand that we are all in this thing together whether they wish to be or not. Terrorism is a global issue, not just here at home and Iraq.

I understand your concern about protecting the oil reserves while they work out their issues. The problem is that a civil war could take decades. There is no way the American people will allow such a thing to continue for so long. My guess is that Iraq before they can build any kind of effective national army will be consumed by nieghboring countries over time. That is unless the rest of the world sees the light and decideds that maybe they are willing to work with a new Amercan congress which may be willing to work with them in return.

Another plausible fix is alternative energy sources and sensible conservation of energy. If there is no longer a demand for oil it will no longer be an issue. We all know the technology is there. It is just a matter of coming to our senses and redirecting proper funding to seriously perpetuate the process. But until we can remove the corrupt influences of the oil industry out of our nations capitol that will be virtually impossible. So I guess that means we have to start at the root of the problem. Clean up government so that we can take a fresh, clear headed, sensible approach to this and many other vital world issues. The anserws really are in the hands of the voters of this country. We have to let politicians know that if they are not properly representing OUR needs and wants then they will no longer be allowed to collect a check at our expense.

As far as Al-queda is concerned my gusess is that they are getting funding and will continue to get funding no matter who controls the oil. I do believe that I have heard or read that they are not currently a part of the terrorism and infiltration of insurgents in Iraq. (please correct me if I am wrong) Our best defense against them is probably right here at home. That is in keeping them out of our country and investing more into securing our ports and borders.

They may be laying down groundwork for Iran. But the fact is we simply do not have the forces to do anything there so long as we are deployed in Iraq. I would guess that the fact that we are so thinly spread around the world is a contributing factor to their bravado. Unless we are directly threatend or attacked by Iran I can not believe that our government no matter how corrupt and ignorant is willing to jump into another battle in the middle east in lieu of the current debaucle. The people of this nation are finally coming to their senses and paying attention to the real issues, and are no longer willing allow the greedy wants and desires of a politically corrupt party.

As for the four hundred billion, I realize it is only a drop in the bucket. But it is money that could be well spent elsewhere and it is a place to start. I would imagine that just by cleaning up government and relocating the money that is lost to corruption back into our nation would make up a good sum of that deficit. It would be interesting to see an approximate figure as to how much money is lost to corruption. Perhaps an item of interest in another post.

Posted by: Ric at November 3, 2006 9:42 AM
Comment #193043

The answer in getting rid of terrorism is not a matter of brining those that have committed these acts to justice. It might have been during the Cold War when the act was more political than it was religious. Those that were arrested had a chance to become martyrs but today during the era of fundamentalism this is their goal, to become martyrs. The model to stop terrorism is rooting out the cause of it. In the early 21st century it is in fact based in religion, more so in fundamentalism. Fundamentalism should be the target of stopping terrorism.

But, is this at all possible. How do you stop someone who believes that their killing hundreds of innocent men, women and children is going to bring them to paradise? Someone who believes this as much as we know the sun will rise. Religious dogma is always wrapped in political agenda. And the one thing most islamic fundamentalists want is the American presence removed from their holy sites: Medina and Mecca. Is this something that can be done while retaining security an stability in a region that has been violent for over ten centuries.

Any quelling of terrorist activity in the Middle East, our main concern at the moment, will be in getting Sunni and Shia to share Baghdad. For Jews and Arabs to share Jerusalem. While removal of an American presence in the region may not be coming for quite awhile. We need new models, not the ones that we used during the Cold War when governments were afraid of the superpowers interceding and unleashing the nuclear dogs of war.

Posted by: Rob at November 3, 2006 9:55 AM
Comment #193044


I read your post to Craig. We can only hope that grid lock is a non issue in the immeadiate future. If there ever was a time when our politicians ever needed to put their philosophical differnces aside and work for together for the good of us all it is now.

Isn’t it amazing how quickly three people with the right to control a militay can change the course of the world. It is a whole new ballgame. And the fact that you are teaching your daughter different langauges says it all. The next decade should be very very interesting.

Posted by: Ric at November 3, 2006 9:55 AM
Comment #193298

The answer in getting rid of terrorism is not a matter of brining those that have committed these acts to justice.

Posted by: Rob at November 3, 2006 09:55 AM

Rob, fanaticism is fanaticism. Doesn’t matter whether it is political or religious. Back in the ‘70 and ‘80 we had the Bader Meinhof and Brigate Rosse gangs. They were eventually defanged through proper police action and no doubt intelligence services input. These people by themselves, while highly dangerous, do not constitute a major threat to the societies they attack. The danger they represent and the reason for their actions, is that the response to them may be so extreme, that it can cause a wider backlash in the public mind and even violent division in the wider society. That is their true objective and can be simply frustrated by pursuing them by normal policing means.

The US invasion of Iraq, using as a cover the dishonest claims that Iraq was behind 9/11, played right into the hands of Arab and Muslim extremists. Claims that Saddam had or was seeking WMD’s were used also to justify the invasion. To the Arab street, this contrasted sharply with Western attitudes towards Israel, which we all know already has WMD’s. These kinds of hypocrisies give the wedge to the extremists to obtain leverage in the Arab and Muslim street. As we know in Ireland, as long as terrorists have a wedge of justification, often well founded, enough people will look the other way to give them sufficient hiding places and support to remain effective. It is usually not that terrorists do not have a case because they often do. It is the means they choose to pursue their case. And when there is an arguable case that they can make, some people will allow that violence is justified in pursuit of it. We have to take that cover away. And you can’t do that by pre emptive invasions and regime change. That gave a huge boost to the extremists. And the irony is that they are immeasurably boosted by the sight of American power humbled in Iraq. For all of American investment in military power and nominally awesome untouchability, it cannot defeat vastly inferior forces there. The damage that this may have already done to the US’s ability to encourage compliance with its wishes could well be significant. Power, no matter how strong, can only be effective if applied wisely.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at November 4, 2006 3:16 PM
Comment #193351


I think we are “in a world of hurt” simply by listening to the tone. How in the world can complex problems be solved when calling the other side satan himself/herself?

(Thinking on a national scale)


Posted by: Craig Holmes at November 4, 2006 9:29 PM
Comment #193382

I know the exact remedy to control terrorism, simple. Let’s elect someone that will make Islamic fundamentalism our national religion and as our first move we destroy Israel, then heck, they couldn’t be mad at us anymore. This is sarcasm if you didn’t recognise it but, everyone seems to think that there is a way out of this that is easy and can be put into an after school special to teach us how to get along, I don’t think that is going to happen. We have to treat this as a WAR not like somebody in a skirmish at band camp.

Posted by: DoughBall at November 5, 2006 1:41 AM
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