Tackling global terrorism requires abandoning full blown military approaches

April 4, 2009

On September the 11th 2001, the world was issued a wake-up call to the lingering threat of global terrorism. The symbolic attacks on the world’s greatest power’s core institutions of finance and military highlighted the vulnerability of the even the strongest nation to this emerging form of violence. Subsequent attacks on Bali, Casablanca, Madrid and London demonstrated that this threat was to continue, and it was not confined to one nation.

Some questioned the effectiveness of this threat, dismissing its feasibility to persist in the long-run. This has been dismissed with the swift withdrawing of Spanish troops from Iraqi soil following the Madrid train bombing. The persistence of Al Qaeda to fight in Iraq and now the redeployment of Al Qaeda to Afghanistan demonstrate that there is no sign of this problem evaporating.

However a more poignant question to ask is whether inter-state warfare, focusing on nations and high politics is the right response? We have had correspondents telling us that if we do not fight them there, we will have to fight them at home. However this is only looking at half the picture. The inter-connectedness of these groups and their presence in certain safe-havens does partly require a multi-national militaristic approach.

But this does not mean that going to war with every country that harbours terrorists is always the solution. In terms of eradicating a problem, the Iraq War increased the presence of al Qaeda. Staying in Afghanistan and fending off the Taliban would have done more to help the situation.

The other half of the picture described is tackling the roots of terror with a long-term deterrence approach. Taking the 7/7 bombings in London into account, the bombers were not necessarily directly linked to the culprits of 9/11, and possibly not ideologically the same. New security approaches, focusing on the psychological, financial and social factors that breed radicalism need to be addressed more stringently to eliminate future occurrences of terror.

Looking at the recent terrorist attacks on Mumbai;  they were the result of a myriad of intermingling financial sources, actors and interests. There exists the alleged role of elements within Pakistani intelligence services (ISI) and Indian criminal groups based in Pakistan conspiring with the Taliban and Islamist tribal groups to de-stabilise India’s Kashmir region. Military responses alone cannot address these issues. Instead increased regional co-operation is needed to tackle criminal elements, and paving the way for democratic reform in Pakistan by empowering society will help eliminate agitating forces within the intelligence services. The majority of Pakistanis want greater democracy, albeit an Islamic form, which is greatly at odds with the Islamist factions within the government which do not reflect public opinion.

A step forward in initiating this dualistic approach is the Obama administration’s new policy towards Afghanistan. There will be an increased presence of American troops, but at the same time a bigger focus on increasing human security through ‘lite nation building.’ This in turn will make Afghanistan a more tolerable country to live in where civilians will not turn to radical elements as their means for survival. The danger here is to insure that the mistakes of ‘humanitarian war in Iraq’ are not repeated. The Iraqi people felt threatened by the humanitarian message as soon as they saw their living standards deteriorate. An effective management of allocated resources must be overseen to improve relations with locals and to build a sustainable infrastructure.

— Peshko


2 Responses to “Tackling global terrorism requires abandoning full blown military approaches”

  1. benitozenil Says:

    Hi Peshko,

    military conflicts are being in human history since long time ago, probably that will continue because of the different perceptions, cultural roots, present situations -living standards-, diverse goals to achieve and of course the social en economic push. But with terrorism is different, eventhough involved military, there’s also the highlight point of who’s winning with this conflict?, probably there are diverse elements invilving in this arena, meanning investors, politicians, governments, suppliers (of any king), social leaders, media, etc, but what else is involve with terrorism besides the economic wealthfare that raise with this war? control or power? if it is so, who’s the major winner?
    I think that are some questions need it to answer too, in order to understand any problematic and some causes that could help to disminish or could strength this attacks.
    Obama’s administration is taking a step forward, as you mention, but why will the troops will remain over middle-east territory and actually there’s a possibility to increase their number, eventhough one of the running presicency promises where to take out USS presence in areas like afganisthan, Irak, etc. Those questions are need it to answer too, do you think?

    Luis Benito Zenil

    • Peshko Says:

      Hi Luis, thanks for your reply.

      I think you do well to highlight the numerous factors which need to be addressed. Even there are contradictory forces at hand. For instance, there are those that argue that terrorism is the result of economic desperation and a lack of education, yet it is widely believed that those terrorists active in Europe usually come from wealthier backgrounds and those with higher educational attainment. It is for this reason that I say that terrorism has to be looked at very closely, and different types of terrorism need different approaches. The labelling of terrorists and those that have something to win is also an issue. It could be argued that the threat of terror has somewhat been exaggerated and used for political means. However that does not been that its threat must be undermined, it is a persistent problem that needs to be tackled.
      I think when it comes to Afghanistan, it is very important that the United States does not leave Afghanistan and let it be absorbed by the Taleban again. I do not believe the Taleban is the result of an American presence in the Middle East, far from it infact. It is therefore vital that they are defeated, but through calculated means, we must not forget that it was the isolationist policy of the West towards Afghanistan after the Soviet war that helped the Taleban take power in the first place.

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