Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Countering Terrorism by War Not To Bring Peace

With a smile, a young Nigerian terror suspect has bought fear and uncertainty to the United States. The United States is once again exposed to tensions and aviation security upgrade. Since the 9/11 incident, the US counterterrorism war has undoubtedly entered a more awkward situation. However, can the Americans really sleep peacefully even after they have driven all terrorists out from Al-Qa'ida network?

Awkward Counterterrorism Strategy
In principle, because of the danger of terrorism, the use of "violence against violence" approach to tackle terrorists should not create very much controversy. This is because the violence pursued by terrorism is infinite. Terrorism has the greed to create political and psychological fear to reap the impact of threat to governments. For the brutal atrocities carried out by terrorists, it should be logical for governments to crackdown terrorism resolutely. However, if a country only uses violence against violence to fight terrorism it is but a surgical type of targeted killings. It cannot eliminate terrorism from the root level.
In order to expand counterterrorism war, the United States has coordinated with allies and brought more troops to Afghanistan, the United States has even engaged in "proxy" wars in other countries. The attempted flight bombing during Christmas seasons was the result of US support for the Yemeni Government in its fight against Al-Qa'ida terrorist organization. This has led to the reprisals on the United States from the division of the Arabian Peninsula Al-Qa'ida terrorist network. For the past several months, the United States has been supporting the Pakistani Government to fight against the Pakistani Taliban forces. Although the military victories of the Pakistani Government were numerous, but because of the complex political situation in Pakistan, the recent violent terrorist attacks in Pakistan are also on the increase. The counterterrorism achievement there has nothing significant to report. In this regard, when the country faces terrorists' violent challenge, using the "violence with violence" approach to counterterrorism can indeed be counterproductive.
While it is resolutely necessary for nation to fight against the terrorists, but such a fight is far from enough. We should know that there must be conditions that can lead to the formation of the extreme psychological terror mindset of terrorists. If we do not try to understand the environmental factors that lead to some formation, any measure to counterterrorism can only remain in the fatigue response. We cannot improve our counterterrorism measure from the fundamental base.

Emergence of Modern International Terrorism
The emergence of modern international terrorism is closely related to the larger context of globalization. Of course, Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" is also alarm to the ears. International terrorism and conventional terrorism carry different features. More often than not, international terrorism tends not to fight for the national interest, nor to fight for personal clothing or food but more for their religious beliefs. They hold hatred on the Western world.
The paradox is that majority of Al-Qa'ida elements are not from the type of working people who cannot earn enough to eat nor they are people coming from some vulnerable weaker groups in the society. They are often educated in the West, steeped in the western culture, and came from wealthy families. Osama bin Laden has been in business to raise the money to train terrorists, rather than making a name as a secular elite tycoon. The father of the Nigerian youth who tried to explode a US plane during last Christmas used to be the Nigeria Minister of Economic Affairs. The father has just retired from the chair of the First Bank in the country. During his studies in London, the Nigerian youth lived in an apartment worth $4 million.
These terrorists enjoy the victory fruits of modernization and the vested interests of globalization. However, in the general population we can find the rebound of a sense of religious or cultural threat coming from this group of population. For example, in the United States, Muslims there loathe the aversion and interference of the US culture and religion on them. Within the Western-oriented society, they encounter a sense of loss. In the globalization process, many non-western regions cannot feel they have enjoyed equal advantage and opportunity. What they feel is sense abandonment. In addition when this group of population observes the US military raising and waving its big stick everywhere using its discretion to either support the opposition force at one time and at the turn of event, turning away from them and support the ruling regime, the United States has created a breeding ground for terrorist forces in that social soil.
Perhaps, it is difficult for people to find a unique personality from the terrorists. However, any person who joins a terrorist organization must have gone through a certain degree of frustration in life. This frustration can come from discrimination and prejudice the individual suffered in the heterogeneous culture. This has further given rise to their disappointment in the power of politics. When in life's reality this group of population cannot find a way out, people will resort to the power of religious belief and put their belief to extreme means. In addition, when terrorist activities are carried out at international level, there is strong possibility that these terrorists of whom many have never stepped out from their homeland before, would want to gang up and conform as one in carrying out their hatred of the western world when they go overseas.
When faced with terrorist attacks, it is difficult for the suffering nation not to adopt a stern action to crack down the terrorists. However, launching heavy attack on terrorists with modern military technology, and annihilation of physical battle is not very effective and can even become counterproductive. Such measure can only deepen their hatred and lead to more retaliation. For the United States, to solve this awkward counterterrorism dilemma, it will take time to find a better solution to cure such sickness in the society.

Obama's Address to Muslim World
In his Cairo address to the Muslim world, US President Barack Obama said that he wanted to build trust with the Muslim countries. However, when the United States continues to use military on other countries, how can the Muslim world believe the friendly gesture of the United States? As such, in the Arab region, although President Obama has gained high popularity, however, when the Muslim population views his position and the Western world, which Obama represents, it is another feeling altogether.
For the United States, economic issues are important, but more importantly, it should learn to resolve the conflict between religion and culture. With dual pressure of universalism and pragmatism come on certain minority group, it might be difficult to maintain harmony among different ethnic groups. But taking a broader view, there is still the need for the United States to cultivate mutual tolerance, mutual understanding and communication. Yet, we have to admit that it is difficult to predict if such an approach to eliminate the hatred feeling of certain group within the society can be achieved or not. It can be an unknown fact. This is because the intergroup prejudice in the international arena is difficult to eliminate in the first place. This, coupled with the penetration of the political realities, can make such interactions among intergroups become ever more complex or even worse.

Psychological Terror
In short, the most fundamental thing to eliminate extreme psychological terror is to proceed with soft and long-term approaches. The short-term approach of using direct means of military strikes is not a long-term solution. This is because, even if we can eliminate the bodies of the terrorists, the hatred feelings of terrorists will not disappear.
If the United States stresses on using tough measure to eliminate terrorists, what they get can just be a negative sense of security. As such, in order to resolve the nonconventional terrorist violence, using military means alone is not enough. Moreover, stressing on using military means to counterterrorism has also contributed to the root cause of why it is so difficult to achieve true harmony in the society.

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