The war on terror is a misnomer. Terrorism is not an event that can be eradicated by traditional shoot-and-bomb warfare. Revenge for a terrorist act may fit that bill, but not terrorism itself. Terrorism is a fact of life, a state of mind and being, to which no country is impervious. It is a malignancy fueled by religious zealots and radical political forces that are responding to a void in their own existence. Terrorism is an out-of-control response to injustice. However, knee-jerk violence is not the solution to the indignities, abuses and inequities that exist in our world. That philosophy is just like putting out a fire with kerosene.
Al Qaeda, for example, is a terrorist group with outposts all over the globe. They have cells everywhere. To invade Afghanistan or Pakistan and now, perhaps even Yemen, would not solve the problem. Their strength is their decentralization; they morph and move almost like a chameleon. Radical destruction knows no national boundaries. Thus, to commit troops to one or two geographical areas not only will not get to the root of the problem, but will also agitate and infuriate the native population. Our response to terrorism is outdated and has caused even more division between world nations. Our war on terror has not been effective in curbing the vicious ideology and actions perpetrated by these radicalized, “ultimate” groups.
With regard to radical Islam, it would be most helpful if the moderates, who are the vast majority of those of the Islamic faith, would be more publicly vocal in repudiating the radical arm of that religion. In no way, shape or form do the founding tenets of Islam call for the violence and destruction perpetrated by the current small sect of terrorists today. These religious outlaws have bastardized the precepts of Islam to feed their own aims. Once true, always true: individuals, societies and nations need to look inward and fix what ails them instead of focusing outward and lashing out at forces that just will not have an effect on the quality of their lives as much as altering their existence from the inside out. Jealousy, revenge and a craving for material gain just will not cut it. For how many millenia has this been going on? It is an ancient story, and one that seems destined to repeat itself over and over again.
This is the constant struggle of the haves versus the have-nots. The heart-and-mind argument, of nation building by providing schools to educate, a viable infrastructure to act against geographical isolation, economic assistance to bolster trade and a functioning financial foundation and support for a government that fosters equality, civil rights and justice, is a tempting platform for change. It is idealistic and unfortunately, sometimes open to corruption. After all, the developing countries see that exact narcissism in the industrialized world and want the same for themselves. Hence, destruction, mayhem and horrendous events result in the Third World’s imitation of the “established” world.
In reality, these terrorist groups are really just emulating the same destructive paths of established countries. They are just farther behind and thus, more impatient for change. No surprise there. I do not know the antidote for this behavior. I do know that our response must change: our strategy must be altered and above all, our mind-set that underlies any possible solution must be turned inside out. And all of this has to happen well before another attack occurs. We have to incorporate this new learning into our lives and policies on a daily basis.
Terrorism is not a fire that can be put out in a quick military foray (or even an eight year war). Just as the causes of this toxic inertia are inbred in our world, so have been the responses. Terrorism is not an event; it is a movement, a way of life, a thought process. No surgical bombing strike can metamorphose that amorphous evil. Much understanding needs to take place regarding the initial stimulus as well as the resulting reaction.