Terrorism in the Western World

After the attacks in London, the “War on Terror” and Terrorism in general has again taken center stage.

(Audio Podcast Available)

But what has changed?

Did the London bombings expose a permanent weakness, or was it only there because of a mistake or focus elsewhere? You simply can’t be prepared for everything. In a free and democratic society like those in the Western world, people base their security on the trust and common sense of others.

Terrorists know this… and they exploit it to the fullest.

So how do we stop terrorist attacks?

We don’t.

We can’t. We can only prepare for the worst while preserving the fundamental beliefs that make our socities so desirable, and so much the envy of others. Everytime that we change or tighten our own rules to squeeze our own freedoms and liberties, then these Islamofascist terrorists win.

Everytime that we create things like the Patriot Act and Security Certificates, the terrorists win. Everytime that we prop up or support or depend another repressive regime like Saudi Arabia or Jordan… the terrorists win.

We must not allow ourselves to take the easy route. We must think outside the box. Waging wars does not qualify as outside-the-box. Nor do no-fly-lists. Or biometrics.

These are all measures that limit our own freedom and do nothing to prevent terrorism.

Wars can be avoided or even used for recruiting.
No-fly-lists can be forged or incorrect.
Borders need not be crossed.

The terrorist attacks will continue. They will hit Barcelona, Paris and Rome. Washington, Seattle and Atlanta. Canada, Hong Kong, and Singapore. It will take years, even decades for these predictions to come true, but if we do not change our tactics then the result is inevitable. I will not predict what they will attack or the effect because the possibilities are simply too numerous, and too frightening.

Yes, some, even many, terrorists will be caught… but the odds are always against us when it only takes one person to detonate a device.

We are fighting a generational war. The terrorists understand this and are in it for the long haul. They are gathering their recruits and instilling in them the will to fight not for immediate power or fame, but rather for an abstract and twisted righteousness. It started in earnest 20 years ago in Afghanistan against the Soviets and now as the Wests’ ignorance, inaction and double standards in the Middle East has continued, the focus has shifted in our direction.

The only way we will stop the terrorists is by resolving the issues that make them so desperate. We must resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue. We must end our utter-dependance on Saudi Arabia and put democracy and freedom before oil and money.

In short, we must be true to our values at every turn. We must walk the walk. We are too often seduced by the easy route and reluctant to make the hard decisions.

We must be idealists, not capitalists. We must believe in our values for they are what make our lives better. But most of all, we must believe in ourselves.

16 thoughts on “Terrorism in the Western World”

  1. Your response boils down to “we can’t” and implies “we don’t even want to try”. What a defeatest, pathetic attitude. Just lay down Chris and let them roll over you. Maybe you would feel differntly if you had any expectation that your country will be a target of these viscious killers. I don’t think the Brits are reacting in your model.

    the truth is if we don’t go after terrorists, they will continue to attack us and if we do go after terrorists, they will continue to attack us. I’d rather go after them. Evil should be fought with all your might.

  2. More From Roger L Simon:

    July 12, 2005
    Patriot Act for Britain?
    Apparently attitudes really have changed in the UK since the London terror bombings last week. From the London Times:

    “The nature of the explosives appears to be military, which is very worrying,” said Superintendent Christophe Chaboud, the chief of the French anti-terrorist police, who was in London to help Scotland Yard.

    News of the breakthrough comes as a Times poll conducted in the aftermath of the bombings indicates that an overwhelming majority of the British public favours a tough approach to terrorist suspects. Almost 90 per cent of people want the police to be given new powers to arrest people suspected of planning terrorist acts, tighter immigration controls and strict baggage inspections.

    Tony Blair is reported to have a strong hand as he puts forth new anti-terrorist laws.

  3. from the Telegraph more opinion

    pollshttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=K3QDPIWRAOA5DQFIQMFCM5OAVCBQYJVC?xml=/news/2005/07/09/npoll09.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/07/09/ixportal.html

  4. Jane,

    Get a grip. Nice right-wing, two dimensional thinking. “We can’t” does not imply “we shouldnt try”, it implies that maybe the way we’ve been fighting them currently isn;t working and we need to try something else.

    How does this sound – you CAN fight terrorism, but not be creating Secruity Certificates, the Patriot Act (no matter what country), ignoing habeous corpus, ignoring the Geneva convention, or getting into an ill-concieved war that had little to do with actual terrorism (Iraq, incase you were wondering). You fight it both militarily and with sensible foriegn policy. Afghanistan is an example of how you might combine the two correctly (and that theatre could be better served with more troops and aid workers).

    No jane, you don’t lay down and let them roll over you. Nor do you give them the ammunition to fight you. Fighting “Terrorist” shoulod not mean I loose my freedoms at home at the hand of my own government. Why they hell are we fighting “islamofacist” terroirists if the government will do their work for them?

  5. I hadn’t noticed any loss of freedom. Even with the Patriot Act our civil liberties in the US are superior to most western countries. The Brits have more restrictive powers and are even talking of national id cards. Her in the US the main benefit of the Patriot Act is getting wire-taps on mobile phones which was needed to keep up with telephone technology.

    I’m sorry, Chris, I believe your thinking is a little shallow. This root cause theory is ridiculous IMO. The root cause of terrorism from Islamists is their conviction that infidels must die. There have been many, many opportunities for the Palestine/Israel issue to be resolved but the PA is not interested due to the terrorist mentality all these years under Arafat that they would be satisfied with nothing less than the death of all Israelis and the complete destruction of their nation. You know that is true but don’t apparently think the West has been “creative” enough to help them change their minds.

    I don’t think we’ve been fighting them effectively until we fought the taliban in Afghanistan and removed the despot from Iraq. We are just beginning to strengthen our resolve. You agree this is a generational fight but already want to give in to them. T

    his fight is going to won, not by patting terrorists on the head and asking them to please be nice and tell us why they are so angry so we can make it all better for them. Arabs don’t respond to that treatment very well because they instintively know that that is a W.E.A.K and pathetic appeasement which they are all too eager to exploit.

    You don’t believe this but Iraq is a success story in the making. This new nation is going to be a success in a few short years. We can stick it out with them but obviously the left can’t.

    “an overwhelming majority of the British public favours a tough approach to terrorist suspects. Almost 90 per cent of people want the police to be given new powers to arrest people suspected of planning terrorist acts, tighter immigration controls and strict baggage inspections.”

    What do you think about the Brits, Chris? Maybe if you ever experience this in your own country, you’ll have a new understanding of what terrorism is and how silly it is to think you can stop it by rstamping out the “root causes” to the terrorists satisfaction.

  6. “The suspects, all believed to be British-born and coming from the Leeds area, were clearly “footsoldiers” recruited by a terrorist
    network, Johel said.”

    http://www.principal.com/marketnews/news_template.htm?story=20050712/PIC20050712Londonbombersdiedinsuspectedsuicideattacks.xml

    These guys were British born, it appears. I doubt that their lives were “desperate”. You are really over the top if you believe that Islamists live in such “desperate” straights that they become terrorists. What they are is jealous, resentful, bitter and completely unreasonable blaming the west for their lack of power. The WTC/Pentagon attackers weren’t from “desperate” backgrounds, they were all from fairly well educated and affluent backgrounds.

    Well, I believe I’m ranted out.

    I just noticed that I should have been ranting at Mike. Sorry Chris. It’s usually just you and me goin’ at it with hammer and tong. Hey Mike, nice talkin’ to ya’

  7. Jane,

    I don’t believe you’ve actually read my whole post through. Please take a deep breath and read it again… but if you come to same conclusion here is what I’m saying in short…

    #1 We simply can’t stop every terrorist attack. London, a city that is no stranger to terrorist attacks over the past many decades, could not stop it even after arresting many other terrorists and discovering other plans. So all we can do is continue to be prepared and vigilant while protecting our own rights and freedoms.

    #2 The long term goal of the terrorists is not to inflict pain, pain is simply their method… rather, they want to change the expectations and norms of our society. Every time we take away a few more of our own freedoms, we walk a step closer towards what the Islamofascists want.

    #3 If we do not change our tactics, the attacks will be inevitable and widespread. Canada, the US, Europe, Australasia are all potential targets. The Chief of the Defense Staff of Canada recently said he believed Canada is just as likely a target as the UK and I have no reason not to believe him.

    #4 This isn’t about warm and fuzzies… this is about realizing that starting massive wars and nation building does nothing to fight terrorism. The only way we will win against the terrorists is by changing our own attitudes and behaviours towards the issues that drive them to extremes and deny them freedom. We cannot go on ignoring the role Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich, humanity-poor countries play in Terrorism. We shouldn’t be punishing ourselves every time there is a terrorist attack.. we should be punishing the people actually driving these people to think the Caliphate is the better answer.

    And what do I think of the British reaction to the bombings? It’s absolutely predictable. It’s exactly what happened after 9/11. It’s the natural reaction… but unfortunately, it’s the wrong one.

    You said:
    ” What they are is jealous, resentful, bitter and completely unreasonable blaming the west for their lack of power. “

    Unreasonable? I don’t think so… not when their oppressors… who happen to all be outdated regimes and monarchies, are so completely and uniformly supported by oil money from the West.

    Do you seriously think that the Muslim world is *just now* waking up to the fact that democracy=good, opression=bad?

    I’m sorry, but I give them a little more credit than that because I know that they are well educated and the majority young… and therefore quite UNLIKELY to believe that the Saudi Kingdom is the way of the future.

    The only thing keeping them where they are is outside powers who are happy with the status quo.

  8. Chris,

    “We simply can’t stop every terrorist attack.”

    This is true. But the question is whether the level of casualties remains low. If terrorists start deploying weapons that kill hundreds of thousands of people, then something more than vigilance will be necessary.

    “The only way we will win against the terrorists is by changing our own attitudes and behaviours towards the issues that drive them to extremes and deny them freedom.”

    I agree that our policy of supporting tyrannies has been a major factor in the alienation of people in the Middle East. But I don’t think attitudes over there are only or even primarily a function of our actions. There is a deeper fear and hatred of the modern world that will remain even if we withdraw from the region entirely, and jihadist ideology (whatever our role in bringing it about) does not believe Islam can be secure if any place on earth remains unconquered.

    The immediate danger is that as nuclear weapons spread throughout the Middle East radical forces (or radical governments) will use them. I’m not sure there is any really good way to prevent a much more dangerous world as this happens unless a majority of nations agree to a closer form of world government to control these technologies. The age of traditional terrorism (and the national sovereignty that makes it possible) is coming to an end. Civilization will have to pull together more closely or we may all lose our freedom.

  9. Yes, Chris, I did read your entire post. And in spite of that I disagree with your analysis of the proper response to this evil. I don’t believe that they are bombing Western seats of power because they don’t like their own governments. I believe they want to ensure that Islam is the only religion practiced in the entire world. I believe that they are convinced they are victims of the West. Wahhabism is actually in control in Saudi government and it’s adherents are spread throughout all the government institutions. The House of Saud, in order to remain in power, plays along with these ideologues.

    “#2 The long term goal of the terrorists is not to inflict pain, pain is simply their method… rather, they want to change the expectations and norms of our society. “

    How do you KNOW what they think about inflicting pain? You are making nicey nice assumptions about the pooor misunderstood terrorists. It gags me to read such twadle. Who the hell gave them the right to change “our” society? If they don’t like the West, then leave. I’m sure we will continue to have suicide bombings on every continent but I’m not going to put any energy into trying to “understand” why they are upset with the West and kill us indiscriminently. I certainly don’t know if we can irradicate terrorism or not but neither do you. We may very well ultimately be successful but it won’t happen by sitting around a table talking to them. The Brits had a tacit agreement with the Muslims among them. We’ll leave you alone if you leave us alone. Nice try but not effective.

    “The only way we will win against the terrorists is by changing our own attitudes and behaviours towards the issues that drive them to extremes and deny them freedom.”

    Poppycock. You sound like an 19th century missionary. They are driving themselves to extremes by their susceptibility to irrational ideology. These Pakistani-Brits were all BORN in the UK. What did the Brits drive them to do? except for offering them a safe place to live, an education and a decent life worshiping as they wished and legally protected from discrimnation.

    What you really advocate is to speak softly and throw away the stick. When in reality the only thing some people understand is violence. If you have no stick or won’t use the one you have, they merely laugh at you while they’re detonating their bombs. Bah.

    David, you are right. The civilized world needs to cooperate on a national footing to defeat the hideous danger these violent ideologues present to civilization.

    “I don’t think attitudes over there are only or even primarily a function of our actions. There is a deeper fear and hatred of the modern world that will remain even if we withdraw from the region entirely, and jihadist ideology (whatever our role in bringing it about) does not believe Islam can be secure if any place on earth remains unconquered. “

    World domination is their stated goal. Fear and Hatred of the West is their hallmark. Talking alone isn’t going to solve this problem to be sure. I am in total agreement with the above comment.

  10. “If terrorists start deploying weapons that kill hundreds of thousands of people, then something more than vigilance will be necessary.”

    But then I have to ask, what more can be done? There certainly isn’t any military option that would really be viable considering the enemy is quite literally “amongst us”.

    Are we going to wait until there are 100s of 1000s of casualities before we start finding other places and regimes to depend on for our economic security?

    I agree that the West is certainly not completely to blame for the rise of jihadis… but we can certainly do much much more to clean up our image and stop talking out both sides of our mouths.

    Jane: “The House of Saud, in order to remain in power, plays along with these ideologues.”

    THis is exactly my point… we are we cowtowing to these people? Why are we so utterly dependant on them. This sounds like a great opportunity to sink a ton of money into alternative fuels… saving us from the Peak Oil and withdrawing our implicit funding of the terrorists all at once.

    “What you really advocate is to speak softly and throw away the stick.”

    Wrong. What I advocate is reorganizing our priorities and focusing on all facets of the terrorist mechanisms rather than only dealing with the issues we are most comfortable with.

    The traditional “stick” is relatively useless against this kind of threat… unless you plan on bombing the muslim districts of London and New York.

  11. “But then I have to ask, what more can be done? There certainly isn’t any military option that would really be viable considering the enemy is quite literally “amongst us”.”

    I believe that David is a proponent of the missle defense system and has indicated that it looks as if it will be a reality by 2020 even though Canada scoffs at such an idea. Technology is moving forward. That is the type of cooperation needed to stop terrorists from killing 100s of thousands of kaffur.

    If you think we aren’t interested in alternate fuels, then think again. In parts of Iowa we are running cars on fuel that is 85% alcohol. The only problem is it takes too much energy to grow, harvest and transform the corn into alcohol so right now it’s not actually cost effective IMO.

    Chris, yes, we do have to develop new ways to fight terrorism and yes, of course, it is much more difficult to do so when they can be sleeping next door to your house. The first order of business is to make THEM more uncomfortable in the places they train and are instructed in. The Brits have allowed them to foment the worst type of rabid fanatacism right there in the UK because they wanted to be “sensitive” and haven’t taken the problem seriously. They don’t believe that Arabs are a serious enemy. The most serious task the west has is to stop the flow of money to terrorists like al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and all the splinter groups.

    “The traditional “stick” is relatively useless against this kind of threat… unless you plan on bombing the muslim districts of London and New York”

    No you misunderstand me. I want to be tough on terrorists in their hiding places. If that is tracking them down and killing them in the mountains of Central Asia or the deserts of the ME I want
    to keep after them. In London and New York, I want the government to use it’s investigative and police powers to find them, arrest them, convict them and punish them harshly. I like the Patriot Act. I don’t feel any loss of freedom under this legislation. You are outraged by such a law and prefer to try to talk the terrorists out of wanting to kill us. I say that is a delusion – one of your favorites. Talking to these sociopathic killers is the most futile pointless suggestion imaginable.

    “Wrong. What I advocate is reorganizing our priorities and focusing on all facets of the terrorist mechanisms rather than only dealing with the issues we are most comfortable with.”

    What I don’t understand is why you think that isn’t happening./ Reorganizing “our” (by that you mean, I assume, the US) priorities is underway. Sorry you didn’t get the memo. Things have and are changing. Like you said this is a generational conflict just as was the cold war and no doubt many phases are yet to come. In the end, most likely hearts and minds won’t be changed but I can assure you that the modern world is not going to be taken over by an oppressive, murderous, evil and cruel ideology advocated by Islamofascists scurrying around with back-packs stuffed with explosives.

  12. ——————————————————————————–

    AFX News Limited
    France reintroduces border controls in EU – Sarkozy
    07.13.2005, 12:36 PM

    “BRUSSELS (AFX) – France has activated a clause in the Schengen open borders agreement enabling it to reintroduce border controls within the European Union, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said.

    ‘If we don’t reinforce border controls when around 50 people die in London, I don’t know when I would do it,’ Sarkozy said on the sidelines of a meeting of EU interior ministers.

    France has used the clause in the past, mainly for major sporting and political events, but Sarkozy said it was activated this time in response to the London bombings last Thursday in which at least 52 people were killed. “

    far-loc/gd/jc

    COPYRIGHT

    Copyright AFX News Limited 2005. All rights reserved.

    What an outrage. The Euros will have to show passports at borders. I guess the terrorists have won.

  13. Chris: “But then I have to ask, what more can be done? There certainly isn’t any military option that would really be viable considering the enemy is quite literally “amongst us”.”

    Jane: “I believe that David is a proponent of the missile defense system and has indicated that it looks as if it will be a reality by 2020 even though Canada scoffs at such an idea. Technology is moving forward. That is the type of cooperation needed to stop terrorists from killing 100s of thousands in Darfur.”

    The current Jihadi movement has been described by experts as a worldwide insurgency and I think that is as good a description as any. I’ve been rereading some old books on insurgency and two themes emerge. The first is that the only way to defeat insurgents is by separating them from the civilian population that gives them sanctuary and support. The second is that the government of the civilian population (and any outside powers that intervene to assist the government) must uphold standards of conduct that differentiate them clearly from the insurgents. There are a number of further points.

    1. Military operations against an insurgency are useless by themselves if insurgent losses are simply replaced. Military operations make sense only if they secure inhabited areas and quickly lead to a permanent transfer of control to civil authorities and police. In Malaya, the process of clearing and holding territory took about four years. In the first four years of the Vietnam War, search-and-destroy operations did very little to secure the territory in a permanent sense because the Ho Chi Minh Trail was not severed and cleared territory was not effectively held. The last two years of American operations in Iraq have been largely ineffective, not because of inadequate troops, but because US forces have expended great efforts to take and retake cities before the civilian and police capacity existed to hold them properly. In Afghanistan, certain places like Kabul have been held, but large areas of the country have been essentially in a state of truce and some are now seeing resurgent violence.

    In both Afghanistan and Iraq, what matters isn’t building up large national armies. It is extending civil and police control over increasing increments of the country, using the troops and then the police and administrators that are available. In both nations, insurgents enjoy sanctuary and support from neighboring countries. This may not be as crucial as it was in Vietnam but stability may not be possible as long as it continues.

    2. My larger point, to which Jane refers, is that the world must draw closer together to enforce minimum standards of government in every nation. To achieve this, we must first confront the rivalries that prevent the larger and medium-sized nations from coming together. These rivalries exist because modern technology allows them. If changes in military technology make the most dangerous forms of rivalry impractical, then closer cooperation will be possible. My point about missile defense is not to advocate it right now (the technologies for it aren’t yet reliable). But a dedicated engineering effort in aerospace defense might make ballistic missiles obsolete in twenty years and such missiles will almost certainly become obsolete at some point in this century.

    3. The obsolesecence of ballistic missiles will either give one country or coalition global dominance, or it will be an open system to which all nations can belong. If the former, there will be world war. If the latter, then the planet has some prospect of coming together and concerted action to improve standards of national government may result. If all nations can be held to a higher minimum standard of government, then the contrast between governments and insurgents will be sharper and it will be easier to separate the latter from the civilian populations that give them support.

    4. This will still not entirely solve the problem if it becomes possible for one or two individuals to synthesize a killer virus in a basement lab and trigger a lethal pandemic. But if these threats can be reduced to a problem of neighborhood watch, they may be more manageable, especially if the larger causes of alienation have been reduced by improvements in civil government and society.

    5. The danger is that none of the above things are likely to happen soon, and in just a few years Iran will get nuclear weapons and Saudi Arabia and other countries will follow suit. The American counter-terrorist strategy may not be sustainable under these conditions. The only solution would be to accelerate the coming together of nations that I hope to see later in this century, but without some larger provocation I do not see much sign that this is going to happen in the near future.

    Chris: “This sounds like a great opportunity to sink a ton of money into alternative fuels… saving us from the Peak Oil and withdrawing our implicit funding of the terrorists all at once.”

    I argree, although we need to be careful not to make predictions about peak oil that don’t come true. Over the last thirty years, recovery rates have improved, setting back the onset of peak oil, and nobody is sure how long this will continue. But I don’t think anybody doubts that oil will run out someday and I agree that we ought to be transitioning from fossil fuels. Canada’s tar sands require one barrel of oil to extract four barrels for use and questions have been raised about how much carbon is emitted in the process. You may know more about this. Brazil, unlike Iowa, has had a thirty-year biofuels program that has made the country self-sufficient mainly because it depends on sugar rather than corn (maize). I don’t think we have the growing conditions in North America to do this. We could still transition temporarily with some biofuels but the ultimate answer is probably going to have to be renewable physical energy (electricity from sun and wind) unless fusion comes to the rescue.

  14. Ah, David the voice of sanity. You make sense and as always have provided a new understanding of complex issues. Thanks.

  15. Jane and Chris,

    Thanks. I only wish I could think of a course of action that would improve things in the immediate present. Maybe events are moving some things on their own. My brother got a hybrid car and I think a lot of Americans are looking for ways to be less dependent on fossil fuels now. It is fortunate that Canada has such huge oil reserves and recovery methods should improve. But oil from Canada and elsewhere should be used to meet only the most essential needs during the transition to other energy sources.

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