DEFEATING TERRORISM—WHAT WORKS BEST, AND WHAT WORKS RARELY
Note well the above sobering figures: Terrorists have only been defeated militarily in 7 percent out of 268 cases reviewed. But surely U.S. military might is different?
Well, it might be nice to think so, but America’s track record does not support such a view.
But what rotten Leftist organization did the research? Actually, it was RAND, who were set up by the Air Force, and who can scarcely be described as liberal. Could it be that that they are merely reporting the facts?
I first encountered terrorism in the Fifties while staying with a friend who lived near the Curragh in Ireland. We were both about twelve at the time.The Curragh is a large area of flat-ish heathland which not only boasts a rather famous race course, but also housed a substantial force of the British Army when they occupied Ireland. Now the Irish Army hold sway, and have since the British withdrew from most of Ireland in 1921—though they, the British, have remained in the North (Six counties out of Ireland’s 32).
My friend and I decided to go to the movies, and since the fastest way there was to cross the Army’s lands, that is exactly what we decided to do. We doubted we would be seen. It was dark, and we prided ourselves in being able to cross country undetected. We were, so to speak, not only going to a movie—but in a movie. Such is the power of a child’s imagination.
All went well until we came face to face with what looked exactly like a prisoner of war camp straight out of the movies. There were barbed wire fences, watch-towers, a brilliantly lit perimeter, and armed guards. If their weren’t mines and machine-guns, our imaginations painted them in. Frankly, I doubt there were mines—or we would have been blown up. We were crossing the area where such devices are normally placed. As for machine-guns, yes, there were there in all their lethal reality. If a small number of guards has to contain large numbers of prisoners, such are the tools of the trade.
We crouched in the shadows. The weakness of a brightly-lit perimeter is the darkness beyond. This was before the days of night vision.
A POW camp in Ireland! Why?
The sight left an indelible impression on me. It was a graphic demonstration of the power of a government—and I wasn’t entirely relieved when I learned that the camp’s occupants were suspected IRA terrorists who hadn’t actually been convicted of anything, but had merely been interned on the word of a police officer. So much for due process.
Since that time, I had a great deal to do with terrorism and its consequences—sometimes merely though reading, sometimes as a byproduct of living in Ireland and the UK during the decades of the Troubles, and sometimes in places like Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Italy where I suppose I went looking for trouble to get material for my books. When I look back, I shudder—but I was lucky despite quite a number of experiences I would prefer not to repeat.
Have I learned anything about terrorism from my research and experiences? We are talking over 50 years here, so I would like to think so. What I will stress—with some emphasis—is that I don’t think it is good enough to regard terrorists as a bunch of bad guys whose sole fate is to be killed.
- There are normally good reasons why terrorists do what they do. You might not agree with them, but it is vital to understand them.
- If terrorists have valid grievances—and they often do—then remedying those grievances is a good place to start.
- A major terrorist goal is almost always to cause their enemies to over-react.
- One of the best ways of making sure terrorist targets over-react is to make it inevitable that the military will be brought in. Soldiers are trained to kill people and break things—and have never been renowned for their patience or subtlety. They positively excel at alienating the local population. Reflect that soldiers and marines are mostly young, ignorant of the context, and trained to kill without hesitation. As a consequence, they do kill—and then have to live with the consequences the rest of their lives. Society pays.
- As mature people learn in normal life, in most confrontational situations, one of the best courses of action is to refuse to be provoked. Self-righteous is not a substitute for brainpower.
- Once initiated, violence has a momentum of its own—and is extraordinarily hard to stop.
- Neither governments nor terrorists tell the truth, and never all the truth. Typically, such conflicts are supported by a positive flood of propaganda and lies.
- The consequences of such carnage are horrendous beyond our ability to grasp the meaning of that word. They effect every aspect of life, and frequently translate into death. Such consequences can last for generations—and frequently do.
So, what are my conclusions? Have our numerous conflicts in Vietnam, Latin America, the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan really served the National Interest?
Personally, I think it is about time we got to work re-building the United States of America. From education to infrastructure to Middle Class earning power, we are losing ground under more headings than I care to mention. And yet, there seems to be no sense of outrage. The general view seems to be that we remain the richest and most powerful country in the world—so what is the problem?
The problem is that Middle Class earnings have been in decline for about 40 years and that two people are now needed to maintain a reasonable Middle Class life style—whereas one could have coped before. In short, the standard of living of most Americans is in decline.
I have no answers except one: Conditioning—in the sense of dumbing a population down through a combination of distraction and outright lies—works.