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Middle Eastern Terrorism:Thoughts on Cause,Source,Deterrence

 
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 05:51 pm
Quote:
Why go half way around the world, when the ones putting our movies and clothes and music in his beloved Saudi streets are much more accessible to him?


For the same reason that Hamas is reluctant to take on the PA.

They don't just want their objectives. They have a desire to be seen as a leader of sorts and are afraid of the public opinion they court.

They like to speak for their people and like to avoid the possibility of being construed as attacking their own.

But even so, they occasionally do. Very recently there have been attacks on their own. Pakistan....
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:01 pm
Beyond Craven's explanation; the claims of "wrongs" that many of these groups make are greatly exagerated so having a far-off "enemy" makes it easier to have people buy into the group's story line than having the "enemy" close by where people have a greater chance of finding out the claims are false.

One of the story lines attributed to to Bin Laden was that his aim was to rid Saudi Arabia of the "infidel" Americans who had arrived during the 1st Gulf War and were supposedly defiling Mecca by parading around irreverently, etc..

But the US had troops in Saudi long before the Gulf War (I was first sent there in 1980 and again in 1981 and 1983 for a total of 12 months between the 3 trips). The US had E-3 AWACS planes flying out of Prince Sultan Air Base during the Iran/Iraq war monitoring all of the air traffic in the Gulf region. There was also a squadron of F-16s at Al Jabar, another in Jeddah and a US Army Training mission as well as a Britsh military training group and a huge group from the British Aircraft Corporation in the country. None of those were even connected with all of the oil drilling/export operations going on. There were more US Citzens there then than there are now (most of the oil related jobs have since been turned over to Lebanese or Korean's brought in specifically to do those jobs at minimal pay..). So why did Bin Laden point to the later presence and ignore the earlier presence? Probably because most of the people he is trying to recruit are young and wouldn't have any memory of what went on in 1980 but would remember the build up of US forces in 1991... So he ignored the 1980s and turned 1991 into something menacing for his own purposes and his recruiting targets were to young at the time to know any differently.

Mecca is also a closed city. There are checkpoints located 6 miles outside of city limits and to get through them you have to prove to the authorities that you are a Muslim. If you aren't a Muslim you don't get through the checkpoint. So how is it that these supposed American Infidels were gaining access? There may have been American's inside the city but they were Muslims - the religion he supposedly is attempting to reclaim.

But, back to the main point, distance and mystique are great tools if you want to stir up thoughts of hate or find someone to blame for something. We did it to the Soviet bloc during the cold war and they did the same to us in return. The scale is just smaller when dealing with terrorist groups instead of legitimate governments.

Bin Laden could have complained about the Saudi governnment but what was he going to use as his wedge? He wasn't fighting to rid the country of what we percieve of it's bad points. Women weren't going to be treated any better, non-Muslims weren't going to fair any better... The Saudi government already gives everyone free medical care, cars, houses and a government paid dowry when they marry. The people in Saudi that live in poverty generally aren't Saudi nationals. They are people brought into Saudi Arabia by the Saudi's to do their manual labor for them.

When you run down the list of possible grevinces Bin Laden didn't have many that he could rely on to turn many people away from the Saudi government. The US became a target of opportunity. We were distant and a culture totally alien to most in the Middle East and then the Gulf War provided a convient excuse.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:26 pm
Another element is the need for a dragon. "St. George will you lend me your dragon".

Distance lends mystique, distance also enables one to say "you are lucky you are waay over ther on the other side of this table or I'd be on you like hairs on a gorilla".

------

Does anyone here think assasination as a policy, (as timber suggests as a means) is reckless? I know most of you wouldn't sanction assasination as a policy when it comes to fighting the drug war in the US and would just liek to remind y'all way you think so.

I understand the desperate times arguments and such but is not assasination a form of extreme censure of the very ilk that is terrorism?

Abdicating the restraints of civility under duress is a tempting argument. so is the perceived necssity.

But if Israelis are right in responsing to extreme circumstancs with the suspention of common rights how does this relate to their counterparts using extreme circumstances to justify their means?

The arguments in favor of Israeli assasination often center on both the degree to which it works and the extreme situation Isreal is part of.

But those arguments are often the very same pretexts for terrorism.

I have not read most of the preceeding posts, when I saw lots of research but little in way of comprehensible conclusions I skipped past, but has anyone mentioned the deviation from generally acceptable bounds as having any responsibility?

Take for example Liberia, if Taylor were an upstanding sort the insurgence would be labeled as terroristic in nature.

I think the reactions to terrorism often help cause terrorism. The more willing the terrorist's opponent is to stoop to a lower level the more validation the terrorists will have in their eyes.

In short, for popular support (something ALMOST every terrorist organization cultivates to some degree) there has to be at least a perception of injustice.

You all have focused on many valid examples of where the perception of injustice is a misplaced one. But I saw no commentary on any legitimate concerns.

So I post the question, was any insurgence or militia right in the taking up of arms? I'm not asking about their methods, just asking if any of you think the "cause" as they define it ever has any validity.
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Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:30 pm
Ireland comes to mind.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:35 pm
So in the case of ireland you thought the "cause" as defined by the IRA was at leats partially valid? I'm assuming you do but want to be sure.

Note that I'm not asking about whether you accept the means, just whether you think their gripes had any validity.
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Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:43 pm
I don't know how the IRA defines it--but as history has defined it to me--Hell yes. Their cause is just.

I'm stepping on a load, I know. I haven't sat here and tried to reference similarities with other causes you may prove to be just as worthy.

I just know they were overtaken by force, nearly cleansed from the earth, and deserve to live free.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:55 pm
I'm not gonne reference any similarities. i'm just referring to terrorism in general.

I think in the last few years there has been an inordinate amount of effort aimed at painting terrorism as completley devoid of reason.

I'd not mind it so much if it weren't dangerous to do so.

Sure they have a lot of unreasonable wacky folk, but some have valid gripes. In our films we cheer the "man of peace" when he is "driven to violence" and we cheer when the superhero takes matters into his own hands.

Our superheroes are forgiven for their disregard for the rule of law and we equate having one's parents killed as sufficient motivation for a lifetime of crime, either crime by fighting crime or simple crime.

Then when it happens in real life we forget it all and try to portray them as crazy.

Terrorism exists because of strong beliefs. The beliefs aren't always irrational. Terrorsist tactics have wrought success in the past.

If I had to pin down one "cause" of terrrism (which I think is unfair because there are many) I'd cite military disadvantage.

The belief in one's cause string enough to fight is a complex beast.

Resorting to terrorist tactics is a simple deviation from acceptable standards of armed conflict wrought from a disadvantageous military position.

Give 'em bigger guns and the question would be "why war?" instead of "why terrorism? "

Of note is that the validity of one's cause is perceived in proportion to the empathy one has with the group. One thing i think you were going for with your Irish and Palestinian comparison is to illustrate empathy.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:03 pm
The history of the Irish Republican Army is one of the descent of a patriotic movement to effect a liberation--by violent means if required, although not of dogmatic necessity--into realms of increasing separation from the quotidien realities of the area in which it operated. When the Irish Free State was created, the legistlative assembly immediately refused, almost to a man, to take any loyalty oath to the British crown. In a people with a history of millenia of political disunion, the lure of factionalism was endemic. Michael Collins soon found himself leading "flying columns" of IRA veterans against other IRA veterans in a civil war which lasted a decade, devastating parts of the countryside and destroying political legitimacy in the south. DeValera's government was little short of dictatorship, but provided the stability, even if within the framework of poverty and ignorance, for which a people with an eight century past of occupation and oppression so desparately longed. Those die hards of the IRA, so well schooled in guerilla survival with their cell-like aparatus, loosely copied from Bolshevist industrial infiltration methods in late Tsarist Russia, and the Trotskeyite tactical doctrines embodied in the flying columns, turned their ire toward the ultramontane Loyalists of the north, who had already been heavily armed by the formation of the "B Specials," abetted by reactionary English military men. The "war" continued in the north, although the desire for peace in the Republic lead to their suppression outside the six counties, and a long period of relative somnolence. But the advent of the civil rights movement in Derry in 1969, followed by the Bloody Sunday massacre, lead to a resurgence in the organization, much revived by a groundswell of support from the "common man" of the south, who saw the old, ugly quasi-genocidal policies descended from Cromwell's Ironsides as having been reborn. The application of the more radical concepts of Maoist revolutionary marxism to the minds of the less civilized among the organization lead to the rise of the Provisional IRA, the Provos, and this was complimented by the rise of other splinter groups or independent organizations, which can be described as no less than groups of terrorists. Mirror organizations among Protestant youth, such as the Ulster Defense Force, and the proliferation of assault riflles, RPG's and military explosives raised the ante to the pitch of deadly hysteria. Those more extreme groups eventually took a page from the Sendero Luminoso, and degenerated into narco-terrorists, supplying the crack habits of the hopeless in the north. Certainly the IRA began as a legitimate movement of liberation; the failure--or, rather the politically conservative, total unwillingness--of the British to enforce a settlement upon the Protestants which would establish a united Ireland is the primary cause of the protracted strife in that island. Certainly the Irish, as do all other people on earth deserve to live free; the complexities of political intrigues and the pigheadedness of reactionary royalists in Stormont and in Whitehall have assured unforeseeable ramifications of rhetoric and violence which characterize the descent of all thwarted liberation movements into terrorism.
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Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:10 pm
Craven--
Many very good points, including partial motivation for my Irish/Pal thread.

Will read Set's piece.
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georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 12:00 am
Thanks to Setanta for as compact, lucid, complete, and accurate a picture of the historical trajectory of the IRA and the associated struggle for independence, unity, and justice in Ireland as I have ever read - anywhere. Wonderful read !

Here is a piece of a post I submitted on a related thread started by Sofia. It addresses the central issues here and touches on some aspects of Setanta's description of the IRA above,

- - - -- - - -- -- - ---- --- -- --
The struggle of the Palestinians against the Israeli occupier has many similarities to that of the Irish against the English. Both struggles had their violent radicals and their more political adherents. Both posed cruel moral and political dilemmas for the stronger power.

Terrorism occurs in history as a favored tactic of the weak against the strong. The Zionists themselves used it expertly in the early years of their struggle against the British and Arab governing structures in the land they were trying to seize.

What are the lessons of the Irish struggle that may have some applicability to the current struggle between Israel and the Palestinians (or whatever one may wish to call them)?

The struggle can last for centuries - as long as the injustice continues.

The weak can prevail against the strong.

Demographic trends can dominate political ones.

Terror can exhaust the stronger power and cause its people to reexamine their motives.

Terror eventually corrupts its practitioners morally, and those who use it must eventually deal with a cadre of people who merely kill out of habit and who will continue long after the original cause is fulfilled.

Similarly, the suppression of terror can corrupt the stronger power, taking him to ever worse action that may threaten his own values.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 12:03 am
I think your last two sentences are highly relevant.

No matter what the cause, sustained terrorism cultivates killers. Even if they slay their dragon they will not be done slaying.

The reaction to terrorism can come close to being the descent to the terrorist level.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 07:04 am
georgeob1 wrote:
Terror eventually corrupts its practitioners morally, and those who use it must eventually deal with a cadre of people who merely kill out of habit and who will continue long after the original cause is fulfilled.

Similarly, the suppression of terror can corrupt the stronger power, taking him to ever worse action that may threaten his own values.


I concur in CdK's opinion of the value of these two statements. I would like to remind everyone in this thread that we here discuss the Middle East, and not simply Palestine/Israel. Nations such as Egypt and Saudia Arabia stand on the edge of the precipice which could lead them to the horror which the Palestinians, the Israelis and Irish have endured, the former for generations, the latter for centuries. In those nations (i.e., Egypt & Saudia Arabia), there is a thwarted liberation movement, but one not so easily recognized by those would see revolutionaries only as dangerous left-wing, possibly Marxist or Maoist crypto-terrorists. The Wahabis, from which bin Laden is sprung, are among the most conservative of Muslims on earth. The revolution they seek is to completely reject the values of and expel or destroy the citizens of western nations. That the fundamentalists of Egypt are ideologically descended from the most conservative of the fatamids in no way lessens their zeal for religiously-based reform, nor their potential for violence. A metaphor in the Quran, which describes the world of Islam as the House of God, and the world of the "infidel" as the House of War, has been corrupted by the opportunistic leadership of radically conservative sects to justify any means to achieve the piety and purity of Islamic practice which they tout.

The Ibn Saud dynasty and the military junta tradition of Nassar/Sadat/Mubarek have both kept a tight lid on this will to religious reform at the expense of western engagement. In Saudia Arabia, the ibn Sauds coopted the power of the reactionary Islamist tradition by associating the Wahab clan with their early rule. Many of the wahabis are now reconciled to the situation, if profoundly unhappy. That bin Laden finds enthusiastic support among Saudis should surprise no one who gives some time to the study of the religio-politcal dynamic of the rise of the ibn Sauds. Egypt is more problematic, and the Sudan a ghastly sign post on a road down which the most populous of arabic-speaking nations may yet travel. Whether from ignorance, appathy or venality in American administrations matters not--it is long past time that the United States were fully engaged in the dynamics of the middle east, and it behooves our quadrenniel governments to be well-informed about and prepared to deal effectively with the situations there.
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georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 08:21 am
I believe the problems of Israel/Palestine and Ireland are closely analogous for reasons already outlined here. Many other Arab states represent also present serious issues for future stability as Setanta has noted, but they are, in my view, fundamentally different.

The Ottoman Empire was controlled by a "ruling institution", the Emperor, his army and his deputies. Civil affairs, and most elements of daily life, were managed by several "Governing Institutions" which were essentially religious in composition and the limits of their authority. There were distinct "governing institutions" for muslims, Orthodox Greeks, Coptic and Syrian Christians,and Jews, each of which was limited to its own adherents and led by its religious leaders. There were exceptions, but by and large the system worked well for a long time. It preserved large Greek, Coptic, and Jewish communities throughout the empire for a millennium, occasionally allowing them to flourish. While the ruling institution was well-led, uncorrupted, and strong enough to unite and lead the governing institutions, the Empire challenged (and usually beat) its European foes. When it ran out of steam the empire fell to the stagnant disunity that was (in my view) the natural product of its disjoint religious governance. This is the political and social legacy of nearly all the Arab countries that were part of that, very long-lasting empire.

For most of the debris of this former empire the political challenge is to find a political structure that can effectively rule and govern, given the tradition and Islamic mandate for religious governance of civil affairs, and ,equally important, one that can, at the same time, deal with the modern world of new ideas, technology, social mobility, and democracy. Most Arab governments have met the first task reasonably well, though challenges remain, while few have dealt effectively with the second.

I believe this is the right context for appreciation of the situations Setanta has described in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. I believe the two are quite different, but together they define the space in which the lesser Arab/Islamic countries reside. Egypt has a history of independent rule and governance that preceded the Ottoman one and which reemerged during the empire. It also is more cosmopolitan than most Arab states and has a remarkably large Coptic Christian minority (about 25% of the population).

The ruling institution in Saudi Arabia was created in an alliance with the most radical of islamists, the Wahabbis of southern Arabia, and is still dependent on them. Abdul Azziz Ibn Saud used the Whabbis as his strong right arm in his struggle to displace the Hashemites from Medina in the 1930s. While the ruling institution in Saudi Arabia is rich and, in some quarters modern and enlightened, it does not govern civil affairs and it cannot disengage itself as ruler from the embrace of its original, and still vital, ally.

For Egypt the challenge is the modernization of a ruling and governing institution that continues, but with some difficulty, to suppress the advocates of religious civil governance. For Saudi Arabia the challenge is to establish the most basic elements and beginnings of secular civil governance: the non-political aspects of modernization are otherwise already in hand. The other nations face various combinations of these challenges. Yemen is the exception - it has nothing.

I believe all this points to one of the important strategic elements in the United States' intervention in Iraq. This is the one Arab country most likely to quickly flourish under modern secular rule and governance.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 05:00 pm
Ain't doin' a lot of flourishin' at the moment, Boss . . .
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Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jul, 2003 03:03 pm
With a nod to the more eloquent writers here, I'll add my $0.02...

In defining terrorism, I first have to set aside the standing armies of the nations of the world as being outside the definition. Armies may commit crimes of war, and those crimes may have analogues within those activities defined as "terrorism", but we need to keep them separate to have a meaningful definition of "terrorism".

That written, I define "terrorism" as any attack intended to cause harm to civilians or civilian property with the intent of bringing attention to a cause or altering the actions of a government.

Using this definition, I consider the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon acts of terrorism, because in each case civilian casualties were an intended result. However, had some other weapon than a civilian airliner filled with civilians been used in the attack on the Pentagon, I would term that specific attack an act of war, rather than an act of terrorism, since it seems to me that the Pentagon is a legitimate, military target. (An attack on any military installation in the US would likely have civilian casualties, but these would not necessarily be the intent of the attack.)

On the notion of the cause of terrorism, I would argue that terrorism is a choice that follows a simple economic model. (No, I don't mean that poverty causes terrorism!) I believe that people turn to terrorism to solve their problems because they perceive the opportunity cost of terrorism to be lower than the opportunity cost of other avenues of redress. We must NEVER consider the "whys" of terrorism, for getting us to do so is the point of terrorism, and when we do so we effectively tell the world that terrorism works. What we must do is raise the perceived opportunity cost of terrorism and simultaneously create real options for these people, options with a visibly lower opportunity cost. Show people that there are peaceful mechanisms of redress THAT WORK, and simultaneously show them that terrorism NEVER DOES, and you will end terrorism.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jul, 2003 03:57 pm
If anyone here get's a chace I'd like to know what you think about my theory of military disadvantage being the greatest motivating factor in the decision to use the terrorist tactics.
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timberlandko
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jul, 2003 04:00 pm
I pretty much gotta go with there, Scrat. As to the "perceived opportunity cost" (mebbe steissd can add more to this), I recall hearing of an incident involving, I believe, Soviets in Afghanistan ... a local warlord grabbed some soldiers and held them hostage to the release of some partisans in military custody. The military commander summarily executed the captured partisans in the village square, then levelled the village. I'm sure the hostage soldiers suffered a similarly dire fate, but the concept has merit. Terrorism "works" only if those of more civilized persuasion ALLOW it to work. Not only should Terrorism be granted no possibility of reward, it should be rendered so ghastly in cost to its perpetrators that the practice looses all attraction.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jul, 2003 04:03 pm
And at what point does countering terrorism lose it's moral highground timber? At what point does this dastardly response you advocate become as bad or worse than the evil it purports to fight?

Because if your "solutions" were acceptable in any society I were part of I'd not stick around.
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timberlandko
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jul, 2003 04:09 pm
CdK, I think you're right on-target with the military disadvantage thing as a key motivator/rationalization for terrorist activity... but I do not see that in any way legitimizing the commission of terrorist acts. Civilians simply are not valid or justifiable primary targets. Blowing up a government office building which incidentally contains some civilians along with governmental and/or military personel is one thing, blowing up a disco or a crowded city bus or a commercial airliner or a ticket-que at a music festival is nothing more or less than wanton, savage, inexcuseable murder.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jul, 2003 04:14 pm
Just to clarify I do not see anything as justification of terrorist methods. My mention of military disadvantage is not meant to justify anything.
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