If terrorism doesn’t work because we mistake the motives, should we change our stance?

If terrorism doesn’t work because we mistake the motives, should we change our stance?

Bruce Schneier pointed to this article in his latest post.  I am in the process of reading the article, so there may something I am missing here, but I have to ask this question: Bruce, can you clearly state your ultimate point?

Here’s the basics.  The article is saying that most terrorist groups rarely achieve their goals because people falsely believe that terrorists are attacking them to destroy them, when in reality the terrorists are killing people to achieve their political objectives.  So Bruce says:

This certainly explains a great deal about the U.S.’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Many people — along with our politicians and press — believe that al Qaeda terrorism is different, and they’re just out to kill us all. (In fact, I’m sure I’ll get blog comments along those lines.) The paper examines this belief: where it came from, how it manifested itself, and why it is wrong.

This is why I am asking Bruce to explain his ultimate point.  How exactly should we attack terrorism?  Sleestack made this comment on Bruce’s blog:

So how should civilized societies respond to terrorist attacks where innocent civilians are killed, throw buckets of fairy dust at the perpetrators? Rarified, introspective academic discussions are fine and the understanding that can come of it may be useful. But idiots with car bombs are hardly swayed by elegant arguments.

This is what Bruce does not answer.  Should we just give into these groups?  Should we let Bin Laden have his Islamic state in which women will be essentially owned and there is little to no freedom for anyone except those in power?  If how we view the motivations of these groups is wrong (which I don’t believe it is) but is keeping them from achieving their goals, do we change how we react to them by just rolling over and showing our belly in the hopes that they will stop trying to blow us up?

My comment on Bruce’s post says:

Bin Laden can say anything he wants about his motivations, but I tend to distrust someone who kills people to reach their goals. Anyone who gets into power by whatever means tends to want to keep that power. Having people running out with bombs attached to themselves at your command tends to go to your head, and that is what has happened to any of these terrorist leaders. They are essentially worshipped, and they know it, and they don’t want it to stop.

Come one Bruce.  If you want us to give in, at least don’t beat around the bush.  Just come out and say it.


3 Replies to “If terrorism doesn’t work because we mistake the motives, should we change our stance?”

  1. Bruce is missing the boat big time on this one and needs to go back and study history.

    One cannot negotiate with the terrorists because it is their religious belief that it is okay to lie and make false promises to infidels. Look at what has happend to Israel — the land for peace appeasement proces has not decreased the hatred towards Israel one bit.

    Great Britain has committed to reducing troops and will probably accelerate the process now that the anti-war Gordon Brown is Prime Minister. Have the terrorists rewarded Britain for withdrawing? No, they’ve tried to bomb the country 3 times in the past week. Their goal is not to live peacably among themselves but rather to conquer territory and destroy those who resist them.

    These people have long memories, too. It’s no accident that 9/11 took place on the anniversary of the beginning of the war at the Gates of Vienna in 1683. That battle prevented the invaders from conquering Europe. Bin Laden spoke of regaining Andalusia (Spain). Bin Laden also said that pulling out of Somalia after “Blackhawk down” emboldened him to attack America. The World Trade Center was first bombed in 1993 but we treated it as crime rather than an act of war. Carter was ineffectual when Iranian terrorists captured our embassy, Reagan pulled out of Beirut after a truck bomb went off, and Clinton did absolutely nothing when the terrorists destroyed several embassies and bombed the USS Cole. Oh, he did toss a few cruise missiles at camels, declare victory, then go back to status quo.

    The Democrats and the mainstream media are quickly re-writing history and the American people are gullible enough to believe them. in the 1990s and in the couple of years after 9/11. They now say that Bush lied us into war yet they all claimed that Saddam had WMDs in the 1990s. If Bush lied about WMDs, then so did Clinton. If the mainstream media weren’t so partisan, they should be asking where the WMDs went, because we know that Saddam had them and had used them.

    I like much of what Bush has done but he has failed to consider de-radicalizing the enemy instead of going through the de-Nazification process that we implemented in Germany and the de-militarization process that we implemented in Japan after WWII. We need to comb through Iraq and Afghanistan and arrest and jail any religious leader who speaks of hatred and violence.

    I feel like we’re in the late 1930s when everyone turned a blind eye toward Japan’s killings and pretended that they could negotiate with Hitler. Churchill was considered a has-been nutcase. Search the news. The Arab states are preparing for war and I fear that we will see a big, regional war — probably with nukes — before the summer is over. We have 4 carrier groups in or one the way to the Persian Gulf. Something big is about to happen.

  2. But I hope Bruce’s view DOES NOT become standard, because I think his view means we roll over and give up, which does not facilitate victory.

    I have no issue with talking about it, but talking and doing often end up being in two distinct arenas. The intellectuals take no action, and the fighters just want to shoot at something. We need a meeting of those two arenas. As long as the talkers constantly nay say the doers, then we have no progress. As long as the doers look down on the talkers, then we have no progress.

    People refuse to admit that terrorist leaders CRAVE more power, just like most leaders. They get that power by telling gullible teenagers that they need to run into crowds with bombs strapped to their torsos. Once you have created and set that monster free, it is VERY hard to stop it (if you have ever read any of the Dune series, you can see what I am talking about).


  3. Sir,

    Nobody has a good answer for terrorists. Certainly killing them is an immediate solution but these people have friends and family who sometimes pick up the torch.

    Education can only go so far because we are trying to teach other people how we think. This is often interpreted as meddling which many people (ourselves included) do not appreciate.

    The best course of action is to sit down with respected people and intellectuals from these societies and work with them to determine the best way forward. Unfortunately, many of these people get kill by terrorists for collaboration with the enemy.

    So, in the end, we have to move forward on all three fronts. Integrating them so that they balance and benefit the other. This takes political and military savvy. It also takes a realization that it is not an overnight solution. These issues will take years to resolve.

    There are two major threats to these types of plans. The first (as I already mentioned) is time. The terrorists realize it is on their side. Western people want quick or even immediate results and do not deal well with long term projects where the return on investment will not be realized for generations. Second, the terrorists are not stupid. They know how to manage and implement terrorism. They know how to recruit, educate, manipulate, and adapt.

    I’m willing to bet that Bruce does not have a solution. But, facilitating conversation allows us to consider multiple facts as we are making decisions. We need people like Bruce who can helps us look at varying aspects of situations. Of course, over time, Bruce’s view will become standard and we will need somebody else to help point out new and important issues of a situation. That new person will suddenly find themselves as a well respected writer and speaker and probably sitting next to Bruce as some of these events. Until then, we have Bruce.

    Go forth and do good things,

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