of the New Year,
Natalia J. Garland
The year 2009 brings us to over seven years of having lived
without a terrorist attack on American soil. However, the recent
attacks on Mumbai, India, to which some Indians refer as their
9/11 awakening (even though India has been attacked before),
remind us that we are always vulnerable to another attack on our
country. My wish for the New Year is that we will all agree, in
thoughtful retrospection, on certain realities of terrorism. If
we can reach a point of common understanding about the nature and
purpose of terrorism, perhaps we can then renew discussion of ways
to protect the civilized world.
Let's begin with a
review of what the past has taught us, and then discuss new
directions for overcoming terrorist activity. Can we all agree on
What Americans Have Learned
Since September 11, 2001
- Military intervention can be successful. War [justified
war] becomes unpopular when victory is obstructed by strategical
errors, when the news media provides biased coverage, and when a
nation loses its collective will to win.
- Peaceful co-existence with terrorists is not possible since
the goal of terrorism is to dominate and control: (A) through
conversion to Islam, (B) through humiliation and oppression, (C)
through disruption and chaos, (D) through death.
- National security rests not only on military effectiveness,
but also on accurate intelligence-gathering, border enforcement,
and homeland vigilance.
- Any attempts at diplomacy with anti-democratic leaders or
nations is futile unless backed by U.S. military power and
supported by U.S. allies.
- The terrorists are Islamic extremists (i.e., there is no
comparable hatred or aggression coming from Christians, Buddhists,
- There is absolutely no normalcy or genuine spirituality that
can be attributed to or associated with terrorism, even though
terrorists murder in the name of God.
- The psychological, sociological, and cultural explanations for
terrorism are helpful only in understanding and preventing the
recruitment of young or new terrorists (i.e., there can be no
political justification for or apologetic tolerance of
- Some terrorists come from backgrounds of affluence and higher
- Terrorism is primarily a matter of fanatic Islamic ideology.
Factors such as poverty, ignorance, or alienation are of secondary
influence (i.e., people of other cultures also live in poverty,
etc., but do not react by killing innocent civilians).
- Terrorist hatred and aggression are directed toward America,
Europe, Israel, democracies, and free-market systems.
- Terrorist warfare is focused on civilians, especially
civilians located at government, business, and transportation
- Terrorists divide the world into two groups of people: Muslims
- The war on terror is a contest between barbarism and
- Suicide bombers are the major form of terrorist infiltration
- Nuclear weapons are becoming a major terrorist threat to the
maintain that the Iraq War was wrong from the beginning. Some
who concluded later (after no W.M.D. were found) that the Iraq
War was wrong, now question whether a decision for war should
ever be based on intelligence-gathering alone. In other words,
intelligence can be inaccurate. And, still other people believe
that the Iraq War was justified (even without the threat of
W.M.D.) in order to remove Saddam Hussein (who was responsible for
killing up to two million innocent people).* However, most
Americans--and this is currently an important crossroads of
agreement--believe that military action is justified and necessary
under certain conditions. Few people are committed to a lifestyle
of total non-violence.
is a new, post-Iraq, anti-war stance: the more we kill our enemies,
the more they increase. There seem to be two versions of this
view. (1) The war on terror is perceived as a war on all Muslims.
This has caused an increase in the hatred of America and,
consequently, in the numbers of people willing to serve the cause
of violent jihad. The Iraq War provided a training ground for
jihadists. (2) We are confronted with hatred--as a whole and
consuming quality or force--and we, in our human nature, need to
identify and label it as belonging to certain groups or leaders.
Hence, it cannot be overcome by the killing of human bodies. It
continues to spread because it has not been destroyed in its
modifications of anti-war preferences might be summarized as
Post-Iraq, Anti-War Assertions
- Non-violence: War is wrong under any circumstances. The Iraq
War was wrong from the beginning, as are all wars. This
assertion was also evident during the Vietnam War. This is the
difference between then and now: war is believed to cause an
increase in the enemy's numbers and strength of purpose.
- Non-military: Military intervention is given credence but is
insufficient to overcome the essence of terrorism: which is pure
hatred. Americans must respond morally, spiritually, and
imaginatively in order to draw people away from hatred. Hatred
inspires more hatred.
Are the above
assertions accurate? Given that the military surge in Iraq has
been successful, and that Iraqis are now able to debate their
differences and to hold elections, it is not apparent that the
terrorists have multiplied due to an increased dedication to
jihad. On the contrary, it appears that violent jihad has failed
in Iraq, despite military errors and despite low opinion of America
(or, specifically, hatred of George W. Bush) and of the Iraq War.
In fact, there are reports that some Al Qaeda members themselves
are disappointed in violent jihad and are tired of the horrors of
If the number of
terrorists has increased, and if such an increase is connected to
the Iraq War, then this needs to be proved. Where are the
statistics? Where is the indisputable evidence? If the activity
of terrorists has increased, this could be due to variables other
than reaction to the Iraq War. The goal of Islamic extremism is
world domination. It follows, therefore, that terrorists will
continue violent jihad until they have achieved their goal or have
Is non-violence or
pacifism a possible solution? Let us remember that the first
terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was in 1993, and that
the U.S.S. Cole was attacked in 2000. America did not respond to
those attacks militarily. The lack of military retaliation seems
only to have emboldened the terrorists to continue their attacks.
America's restraint and tolerance did not decrease the terrorists'
hatred. It could be argued, however, that America did not engage
in any pro-active outreach to those troubled areas of the world,
but simply backed down from conflict. It could also be argued
that a military response in 1993 would have prevented the 2000 and
2001 attacks. Perhaps, today, we would still be a country that had
never experienced a terrorist attack on its own soil.
What about the
assertion that hatred is spreading as a quality? In other words,
hatred has an emotional or mental force, infecting humans and
spreading from one human to another. It may have historical roots,
but in its essence it is the same hatred that has existed on earth
since the beginning of time. From this view, those who feel such
hatred are possibly psychologically or culturally infected.
Although military action may eliminate certain hateful groups or
persons which pose imminent threat, such action will not destroy
the virus which causes the hatred to spread.
What do the new
post-Iraq views have in common? There is some improvement between
the Iraq and post-Iraq anti-war preferences. (1) Terrorism is
acknowledged. (2) There is agreement that terrorism must be
stopped. (3) Although there is still some tendency to blame
America, it is not so severe as the 9/11 conspiracy theories or
the attitude that America got what it deserved. (4)
Although there is still some naivete or denial regarding the
causes of terrorism, there are also attempts at problem-solving.
But what are these
non-military ideas for stopping the spread of hatred and the
activities of terrorists? The following is my own list of
Responses to Terrorism
- Strengthen relations with America's allies.
- Develop new allies.
- Provide humanitarian aid, demand accountability for
distribution of aid, and expect friendship with America.
- Train our allies' police and military to become
self-sufficient, and expect alignment with human rights and the
establishment of constitutional governments.
- Improve our intelligence-gathering systems.
- Solicit the help of moderate Muslims.
- Re-vitalize the Peace Corps.
- Study terrorist prevention and rehabilitation programs.
Support these programs if effective.
- Support educational and arts programs for boys and girls
throughout the world.
- Permit citizen groups to conduct humanitarian projects in
other countries. The U.S. government must provide sanction and
protection for appropriate projects.
- Groups that attempt projects without U.S. awareness are
responsible for insuring worker safety, and must inform the host
countries that they do not officially represent America.
- Anyone employed by or serving in any U.S. sanctioned,
anti-terror capacity must have knowledge of the Constitution of
the United States, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of
Rights, and must pass a college-level test on U.S. government.
- Anti-terror participants must also have a thorough knowledge
of the culture and history of the peoples with whom or countries
in which they work.
- Homeland projects should be conducted in areas in which the
youth or others might be vulnerable to terrorist recruitment.
- An anti-terror lexicon must be developed for common usage,
accurately defining the issues and goals of both military and
non-military responses to terrorism. This lexicon must transcend
In order for any
non-military activities to be effective, there are some
psychological pre-conditions that must be met. In addition to the
military errors of the Iraq War, there have also been errors of
perception regarding the causes of terrorism (and hence the
solutions to terrorism) among the anti-war advocates.
Pre-conditions for Non-military Responses
- Stop the excessive introspection into America's faults (real,
exaggerated, or imagined).
- Stop the focus on the hatred of George W. Bush.
- Stop the emphasis on looking for the sociological root-causes
of terrorism, and face the ideological reality of terrorism.
- Stop the apologetic tolerance of terrorism.
- Stop the self-hate, self-blame, and self-torment.
Before I conclude,
let me make it clear that I favor military intervention when the
circumstances cannot be managed in other ways. And, I reject
pacifism as having any positive application to terrorist activity.
Non-military responses are not alternatives to war: if war is
necessary, then that means other measures have already been ruled
out as possibilities. It could also mean that other programs,
alliances, or interventions have been tried and have failed, and
therefore war is the only solution. I view non-military responses
as within the realm of international relationships. Moreover, the
successful outcome of non-military responses might depend on
police or military protection of workers.
So, how can people
effectively participate in non-military responses to terrorism?
It requires will. Those who want to overcome terrorist hatred and
attacks via non-military solutions, must have the same strength of
will as the terrorists. Terrorists are willing to die for the
cause of violent jihad. Suicide bombers are regarded as martyrs.
Americans who are anti-war or who advocate for non-military
responses to terrorism, must also be willing to sacrifice their
lives for the cause of civilization. Without this same level of
dedication, the terrorists will eventually rule the earth. Even
with such dedication on the part of citizens, there is still the
possibility that terrorists will use nuclear power.
Not only would the
non-military responses have to be conducted at the risk of one's
life, but such responses would have to be offered without
diminishing the significance of America's largesse. Americans
would need to present themselves as courageous helpers, respectful
of other cultures while also feeling a healthy pride in Americana.
In other words, they must be compassionate patriots. And, they
must sincerely believe that Western Civilization is worth saving.
How many Americans
would be willing to serve in the Peace Corps or teach school
children in dangerous parts of the world? How many would leave
their jobs and the comfort of home? How many would have to be
killed before any worldwide stability was achieved? How many
suicide bombers would find these volunteers and teachers to be
easy targets? There could be more dead American civilians than
there were soldiers in Iraq. That does not mean non-military
ideas should be discarded, but only that non-military intervention
could also be perceived as a war on terror and not welcomed.
(Written 01/01/09: bibliography available.)
[*ADDED NOTE: To
read about the uncovering of the mass graves of some of Saddam's
victims, see: "Witness to Genocide," by Heather Pringle,
Archaeology magazine, January/February 2009, pp. 28-35, 64,
65.] (Written 01/19/09)
Until we meet