Monday, May 17, 2010

Counterterrorism: Communities and Terror

Dear readers,

There are many ways to approach counter-terrorism. The challenge is like that of David and Golliath--or Odysseus and the Cyclops. The terrorists are small, careful, smart, desperate and creative. Governments are large, lumbering, filled with internal bureaucratic issues. And, you might note, Golliath and Odysseus did not fare well--mostly due to my lack of good imagination to come up with a better parallel. :)

Two striking stories about extremist terrorist groups with ties to Islam.

Technology versus good old-fashioned spying: Europe's antiterrorism agencies favor human intelligence over technology

My favorite paragraph from this article is this one:
"You have to have people who go into a specific community, an ethnic group, religious group, a sectarian group, get acquainted with their people, their leaders, and get to know their community," Hamilton said in an interview. "Those communities know, usually, the people within the community that are disaffected, mad, angry, maybe even threatening."

Partially, because it deals with an understanding that terrorists, or people who become terrorists are an anomaly, not the mainstream. Also, if you build networks within a group, you can quickly find those anomalies...everyone knows the local weirdo, right?

The other story deals with the trickier aspect of the causes of terrorism--anger, frustration, the fact that the US is still killing people in 'Muslim lands' and how disconnected I think most Americans are from the reality of other people's fear--not just ours.

Just how deeply unpopular the United States is in the Muslim world?

My favorite paragraphs in this one are those that quote George Orwell:

Their violence, our violence

The palatable and politically safe answers – for conservatives, that Muslims are inherently violent, and for left-liberals, that only a small minority is violent – have always skirted around one important detail: our own violence.

This is no surprise. The notion that our violence motivates terrorism has always lost out to the notion that terror is absent from our violence. It was George Orwell who observed in 1945 that “the nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them”.

But this “remarkable capacity” is not shared by everyone. Civilian deaths and accounts of torture from Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine have fueled the radicalization of a minority of Muslims abroad, and it was only a matter of time before it produced the same effect on a minority of Muslims here, too.

It is only now, amid this growing domestic radicalization, that we are seeing some willingness to cure the deafness Orwell once wrote about.

Hope you enjoyed these stories.


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