Terror won't deter terror

by Bob on 週一, 31 十二月 2007 評論
In many ways terrorists and non-terrorists are exactly the same: they both have ideologies to which they pay allegiance; they both have codes of conduct that govern how they act; they both have arsenals of equipment, weapons and ammunition; they both have legions of silent supporters and cadres of militant activists.

As a terrorist my intention would be to shock or punish or terrify the public as a means of forcing them to give in to my demand or take seriously my message. My primary objective would be, if possible, to commit the terror without being apprehended or killed. Should I unfortunately not escape unscathed or be apprehended, I would consider that a small price to pay for the advancement of my cause. One of the big differences between terrorists and non-terrorists is that for terrorists the message has priority over the messenger. It is perfectly acceptable for the messenger to be sacrificed or innocent people killed or property destroyed in the process.

As a non-terrorist my primary objective would also be to deliver a message, but the priority would belong to the messenger, so that everything possible would be done to deliver the message with as little injury or damage as possible. To a non-terrorist, the most terrifying thing about terrorism is its seeming disregard for human life: the survival of the cause is more important than that of its individual advocates while the lives and property of its opponents count not at all.

The only way to eliminate acts of terrorism would seem to be finding some way to disarm and deactivate the terrorists. Can this be done without doing to them what they are doing to us? Can violence be stopped non-violently? Or is violence in the cause of law and order no longer “violence” but justifiable “self-defense” and “enforcement”?

Countering terrorism requires countering the terrorists. This will entail first identifying who they are and where they are. Then it is necessary to prevent their acts of terrorism, which can be done by isolating or incarcerating them, so they cannot operate, or by destroying or removing from their hands their equipment, weapons and ammunition and cutting off their supply of financial support or resources so there is no way they can any longer engage in terrorist activities.

This is a big order and not at all easy or perhaps not even possible to accomplish completely. And even if the terrorists are disarmed and their influence contained, they will always be potential ticking bombs, so long as they persist in their ideological beliefs and evil purpose. The rest of the world can only relax if the terrorists can be persuaded to modify their views or adopt non-terrorist tactics. This can never be done by force of arms or overpowering restraint. Military defeat never converts the heart, however much it might shackle the body. It only reinforces hatred and fuels thirst for revenge. No terrorist-like response will ever scare terrorists away. The only way to get them to abandon terrorist behavior is to convince them that such activity is no longer necessary to achieve their purposes. And the only way to do that is for us to modify our present anti-terrorist behavior which is serving only to increase their hatred and justify their terrorism.

We the non-terrorist anti-terrorists must always maintain an effective intelligence network and strong deterrent military defensive force to protect ourselves and the free world, but the war will never end until terrorists are finally granted the attention and respect they are seeking. Our hands holding the guns and the shields must be accompanied by friendly hands reaching out for genuine friendship, dialogue and compromise and peaceful coexistence.

We need to pay more attention to what the terrorists are trying to say and not let our abhorance of the messenger or the envelop of the message blind us to the content of the message. I am not a diplomat or politician. I don’t speak the languages of the terrorists or understand all their demands. I cannot tell the free world the best way to proceed, because I also don’t know what that is. But I am convinced that just more of what we are doing now will not succeed. We have to insist less on doing things only our way and learn to distinguish more clearly between what is outright unacceptable and what is just different from our way of doing things.

If we dare to sit down and listen, we are sure to hear things we don’t want to hear about ourselves as well as about our adversaries, but we also are more likely to see more clearly and dispassionately that between the basic unyielding issues that anchor each side there is a vast expanse of possibilities for compromise, cooperation and peaceful co-existence in which they can maintain their identity and we can retain ours.

How nice it would be if the whole world were like what I want it to be, but that could happen only if other parts of the world were not free to be what they want the world to be. The only way that I will be free to enjoy my part of the world as I want it to be is to allow those other parts to be what they want them to be within the common boundaries of international law and human rights. The only way for both sides to go forward together is for both sides to step back.

(Photo A.K.)

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