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March 10, 2005

Identifying the Roots of Modern Terrorism

Creative Policy Debate Question 4

There are multiple explanations that illustrate why the Middle East is fertile ground for the recruitment of terrorists. Frequent descriptions are: the US support for Israel, the Saudi monarchy and other corrupt authoritative regimes, or Wahhabism and other educational institutions that preach intolerance.

How do we succinctly encapsulate and define the source(s) of modern Islamic terrorism? What policies can be developed to tackle these root causes?

Participants in the Identifying the Roots of Modern Terrorism Creative Debate

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This post below has been reformatted. The comments posted on March 11, 2005 were reposted on April 5, 2005.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 20, 2005 09:07 AM


[Schmid]

First we must define terrorism. There are over 160 different definitions...

[Dworkin]

Perhaps not an expertise at the table...

[Schmid]

Root causes of conflict, root causes of violent conflict. Have identified 35 root causes, but if had to choose one, the most telling comes from 336 BC, Greece. Why did someone burn down the religious temple? He wanted to be remembered. He had nothing against the temple, but destroying it put his name into posterity. So one root cause is simply fame or popularizing a theme.

Invention of dynamite, invention of rotary press...propoganda by deed makes information dissemination more effective. "If it bleeds, it leads."

[Schmid]

The 9-11 act was not to punish the US, but to awaken Arab youth...to have them seen as avante-garde.

[Moderator]

Is terrorism always a non-state entity? Or can terrorism be part of the state?

[Dworkin]

Of course, you can have state-sponsored terrorism. What is terrorism? Organized violence against civilians... But there is a difference one can point to between that of state and that of the sort we are confronting now.

[Dworkin]

Is there something distinctly new about what we´re confronting? Seems to be yes, a distinctly non-state phenomenon...

[Moderator]

Connection of violence to media seems critical, and a state has the second de facto.

[Schmid]

Conventional politics, unconventional politics, violent politics. There are many types of politics.

[Lindhout]

Terrorism seems not to be done by the thought leaders, but by their followers. Bin Laden could not buy his way to heading a predominant position, so he buys it through an underground way--via terrorism. He manipulates the media.

He wants to be known as the one who saved wahabism. This may have other echoes--that other movements aren´t accepted outright, but radical believers manage to drive the ideology. Apply the philosophy to other areas until it comes back around to the mainstream. Combination of ideology that cannot legitimize itself using media, poverty, and discontent to foment itself.

[Dworkin]

When will violence hurt vs. help a movement? The path of violence is open becaue it will help rather than hurt... Terrorists benefit from disorder, creating a crisis within the liberal system. They see themselves likely to benefit from a disjuction.

[Schmid]

Disagree--they do not benefit from disorder, they create disorder. Democracy is not a cure for terrorism. Opportunities to engage in violence are bigger in a democracy. Autocratic govt´s have fewer incidents of terrorism. Democracy takes many forms--winner takes all vs. proportional represetation. Democracy--just putting a paper in a box, is a farce without the rule of law.

[Lindhout]

Perhaps because one cannot get anywhere in their own country politically, taking the battle to another country may draw attention to their domestic conflict.

[Schmid]

Yes, look at Olympic examples that bring domestic issues to light on an international stage.

[Moderator]

Distinguish causes vs. enabling factors.

[Schmid]

Poverty is often mentioned as a cause, but it isn´t. If you look at the stated reasons or statistics, the unemployment level of the demographics of the terrorist ilk are not as high as those on the bottom rung. Statistical analysis consistently shows that poverty is not a cause, but unemployment among the educated classes can be a big collaborating factor.

[Dworkin]

Why groups resort to these techniques is the key question. Cannot force agenda, feel excluded? Differences between kinds of terrorist groups which put a limit on the damage they want to achieve and an Al Qaeda that wants to create a catastrophe...

[Schmid]

Causes of war vs. causes of crime. Necessity vs. opportunity. Let´s take it to the audience.

[Audience Member 1]

Insufficient infrastructure, daily food, travel, etc...

[Audience Member 2]

Political instability

[Audience Member 3]

Come back to poverty. Don´t intellectuals have more of a stake in the system and have representation? Why would they be the source of these terrorist movements? I have a hard time believing that poverty is not a cause of these violent movements...

[Schmid]

Perhaps poverty will cause overthrow of govt or other violence, but these may not be terrorism.

[Audience Member 4]

perhaps terrorism is an outlet of last resort...

[Schmid]

Look at the ANC (South Africa), which engaged in political movements and non-violent social unrest. Why also participate in violence? Many times there are two arms of the same movement, one political and one violent.

[Audience Member 5]

Perhaps socialization or normalization allow this to become acceptable...

[Audience Member]

There may not be one single root cause. Poverty and inequality is not a root cause. Look at the 9-11 terrorists. They came from good economic backgrounds. Look at the arguments used to justify March 11. The truth is that the Arab world has done very little to help the Palestinians. If the Middle East question is solved, what will be the next issue--infidels in the Holy Land?

[Audience member]

Bin Laden claims 2/3 of Spain.

[Schmid]

Violence requires a justification, but these reasons change.

[Lindhout]

We look for causes...if we don´t find the right cause, but look at solving the incorrect cause, we may be missing the correct source.

[Schmid]

In the 15th century there was a huge earthquake, and Europeans were looking for a reason for why God allowed this catastrophe... Kant said, the reason is beneath your feet and people had a very difficult time with that.

[Audience member]

So is religious fundamentalism a real cause or motivation for terrorism--it seems like a cover-up for a struggle for power. Bin Laden is more interested in fame and power than in the religious cause.

[Answer from the table]

People who are interested in an absolute truth may fight against someone else who does not agree with these truths. Pascal said those who think they have absolute right find it easier to kill. What is common to all religions? Sacrifice? What do terrorists do? Sacrifice innocents.

POLICY PRESCRIPTIONS:

[Schmid]

Terrorism is violence and propaganda. If you only answer the violence and not the propaganda, you have problems. We must counter every terrorist piece of propaganda with a well-articulated response. Oppose the language of violence with the language of peace and conversation.

[Lindhout]

This is not a new idea. Anti-propaganda can quickly become propaganda. In the Kosovo campaign, the key was getting on air early in the day. Interesting concept, but who has the credibility? You have to have the machinery and be in gear...

[Audience member]

Must be done at local level, with local voices. If it comes from an international organization, it may feed the problem by allowing a counter force to be blamed by the terrorist sentiment. State is seen as secular, and the people religious extremists... Cultural discrimination is a factor in this with regard to the state versus the citizenry. Support for civil society organizations is critical--allowing the society to interact with itself. The state is so repressive that civil society is too weak to combat that.

[Audience member]

The media echoes terrorist messages--ie beheadings. Media runs these stories many times. Someone in Berkeley put out a video of himself begging for his life and media ran the story, which turned out to be a home-made video. Can the government monitor the media to prevent this kind of thing from happening? In order to fight this new threat, we have to forego some comforts we had before. We must shut the echo of what the terrorist is saying by preventing the showing and reshowing of this footage.

[Lindhout]

The media would resist these kinds of censorship. The media seeks out information about people who are kidknapped, unless that person is a member of the media--is that appropriate for them to protect their own and no others?

[Schmid]

We are getting to a central point. Freedom of information is important, but there is also freedom from intimidation. Media must distinguish betwen things that would happen whether there was a camera there or not and things that are staged... The media cannot be trusted to self-regulate. The media is a battleground between terrorists and governments. "If it bleeds, it leads?"

[Audience member]

The media is too narrow to focus on. Why should we stop the TV from showing reality when we don´t prevent movies from showing an equally violent fantasy? Print media is not regulated, but the television is. Most footage of the beheadings would be fined for being too graphic. How do you prevent censorship creep? Violating ethics in print is directly equated with print sales.

[Moderator]

We need a reeducation of the media, and perhaps of the public. The media may not be doing a good enough job of getting behind the pre-packaged story delivered by the terrorist or the state.

[Audience]

There is a distinction between freedom of information and the publication of a terrorist´s staged comments and staged submission to media outlets. There is a feeling of violation in having Bin Laden in my home. This is a state of emergency and we have to take serious measures.

[Audience member]

I was in Iraq and often had the choice of what photos to show of corpses, etc. I always chose to show the reality because the contextualization was key--so that the reader understands the context from which comes the story. I am not conceding anything to the terrorist, but will not be intimidated by the terrorist into not publishing something.

[Schmid]

- Lack of democracy
- Lack of rule of law
- Lack of good governance
- Illegitimate regimes

...these are causes of violence, but are they causes of terrorism? Something extra is required to distinguish between war and war crimes--the same is true between violence and terrorism...

[Audience member]

Terrorism is not just a means but also an end in itself.

[Schmid]

Unibomber said he had to kill people in order to bring attention to the cause. In the Netherlands, protests would not go on if there was not media coverage--what would be the point?

[Audience member]

The root causes of the ETA movement no longer exist--there is momentum. There is a difference between the root causes and the continuance of the movement. Terrorist rationale may not be reasonable because they don´t really work for a goal, but eventually become addicted to the movement.

[Audience member]

There are many forms of violence that prosper on silence--on media silence, so perhaps the media is not as critical as we are saying. Silence may be a strategy of terrorism.

[Audience member]

Terrorism is a tool of power. The UN security council veto-holding members will never relenquish this role. How can we expect a terrorist organization to give up this source of power?

[Lindhout]

Challenge the media to debate itself... Scandals that have occurred have not reverberated through the entire media, only in the isolated examples. The media seems not to change however. Spending x number of dollars on whatever doesn´t guarantee that money will be spent properly. Specific Menonite group in Canada only participate in projects where they have direct contact with people--they have gained lots of legitimacy with other NGOs and donors.

[Schmid]

But sometimes providing water may create other problems--irrigation allows wealth, allows the purchase of weapons to kill one another and soon we have a failed state.

[Lindhout]

Yes, just spending x dollars can have unforeseen consequences.

[Audience member]

Censoring the media is not a viable option. Policy makers address the psychological war on terror.

[Audience member]

Terrorism perpetuates itslef--it gains momentum. Damming a river is much more difficult than diverting it. Perhaps we can do this with terrorism. Show respect for the terrorist´s idea and show that they are part of the discourse.

[Schmid]

It isn´t about their ideas, it is about their methods! It´s not the separatism, it is the methods of kidknapping and bombing.

[Audience member]

How do we understand why joining a terrorist organization becomes a viable option for someone? How do we preempt that choice and give them a better one? Devote resources to establishing civil society groups that are options to terrorist organizations.

[Audience member]

The main problem confronted with is that it is a win-win situation. Killing others is a victory, and also being killed while fighting is also a victory. Radical solutions are required to confront radicals.

[Audience member]

I think it is key to reinforce the rule of law, not dismantle it in order to pursue the terrorists. Protecting the rule of law is critical.

[Lindhout]

Albright saw monitoring banking as a necessary step to trying to track money movements by terrorists. Others have said that this is a violation of privacy. People who pay in cash can be investigated because the govt wonders where they can come up with the money to buy a house suddenly.

[Audience member]

Governments have a lot of rhetoric that there is an end to terrorism. What about a policy that one acknowledges that terrorism is a part of life and will always be around? Could this defuse fear of the terrorist threat?

[Lindhout]

Far more people are killed in traffic accidents, etc, than are killed in terrorist acts. We see certain risks as acceptable in the traffic context...

Schmid lists 11 prescriptions for preventing terrorism, as described in his paper "Terrorism as Psychological Warfare"

Eleven Rules for Preventing and Combating Terrorism

1. Prevent radical individuals and groups from becoming terrorist extremists, by confronting them with a mix of "carrot and stick" - tactics and search for effective counter-motivation measures.

2. Stimulate and encourage defection and conversion of free and imprisoned terrorists and find ways to alienate the terrorist organization from its constituency.

3. Maintain the moral high-ground in the struggle with terrorists by defending and strengthening the rule of law, good governance, democracy and social justice.

4. Try to address the underlying conflict issues exploited by the terrorists and work toward a peaceful solution while not making any substantive concession to the terrorists themselves.

5. Establish an Early Detection and Early Warning system against terrorism and other violent crimes on the interface between organized crime and political conflict.

6. Deny terrorists access to arms, explosives, travel and identification documents, safe communication, safe travel and sanctuaries; disrupt their preparations and operations through infiltration, communication intercept, espionage and by limiting their criminal- and fund-raising potential.

7. Reduce low-risk/high-gain opportunities for terrorists to strike by enhancing transportation and communication security and by hardening critical infrastructures and potential sites where mass casualties could occur.

8. Prepare for crisis - and consequence-management for both "regular" and "catastrophic" acts of terrorism in coordinated simulation exercises and educate the public to cope with terrorism.

9. Enhance technical assistance against terrorism by strengthening the capacity of law enforcement, intelligence and the military of states which lack sufficient capacities while also enhancing internal and external coordination within and between states to deal more effectively with terrorist threats.

10. Since terrorism is a mix of violence and propaganda, counter not only the violence but also terrorist communiques, ideological writings and
internet propaganda and respond to the language of hatred and violence by a well-argued counter-language of reason and humanity.

11. Since we all can become victims of terrorism and they bear no guilt for their fate, it is our obligation to acknowledge them, show solidarity with them and assist them, including through financial compensation. This will also contribute to strengthening the resilience of targetted societies.

[Audience member]

UN looking at creating terrorist victim benefits such as academic scholarships, etc...

[Schmid]

Assets confiscated from terrorists could fund this.

[Audience member]

Fight against terrorism should be under the auspices of the ICC.

[Audience member]

Stronger international organizations to deal with terrorism...

[Lindhout]

I like the support for victims, but it is difficult to apply some of the other suggestions. It shows our support if we can be there for victims of terrorism in Iraq, for example. Is there an organizaton fighting for the rights of victims of terrorism?

[Audience member]

Journalists are not sure how to treat it or how to deal with it... This type of organization could be very helpful to shape the media treatment.

[Moderator]

Can we wrap up and decide which is our policy recomendation? We´ll go to the list provided by Prof Schmid and in addition, a victims´ fund to support terrorist victims.

[Audience member]

Every organization must justify its budget. Living peacefully with Islam for nearly 1000 years ("islam" comes from "salaam", meaning peace). The jihad began when communism failed, and it seems that the whole thing is a rouse. It is an artificial movement to justify the Pentagon carte-blanche budget...the Pentagon needs an enemy.

The second session of the debate was cancelled and the first session took up all the time.

Thank you!

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop at April 5, 2005 05:25 PM


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