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Fighting "Rational Terrorism"

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Message Joshua Sanders
In a recent Newsweek article, famous American writer Fareed Zakaria compared America's war on terror with the Hundred Years War. The article discusses the implications on the American state if engaged in a prolonged and expensive war. Citing U.S. history, Zakaria explains that during wartime the United States' government will increase the influence of the state and expand its ability to manage social affairs. Such government action costs the country an enormous amount of money. This has been a relatively short-lived problem in the past with such wars as WWII and even Vietnam. In those wars, there was a clear enemy and the end of the war would be conclusive, with the victors receiving control.

The issue of concern regarding the war on terror is that, in the past, those "exceptional circumstances" that have required government intervention were typically short-lived, but the war on terror, with no clear enemy, may extend for decades, eventually costing our country trillions of dollars and an unknown number of human loss.

The War on Terrors is different. It represents an extended and seemingly endless conflict, a mix between the Cold War and Vietnam, being supplied by underground soldiers in various countries, like Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, as they pour into Iraq and Afghanistan to fight the United States and our allies.

There is no doubt that terrorism is a concern; September 11th opened everyone's eyes to this reality. The problem with our current method is that we may be essentially confronting the situation with a sledgehammer when we should be using a scalpel.

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When we attack and occupy specific countries to fight terrorists who are independent of any single country, we create a nationalist resistance to our presence and an added barrier in the way of fighting the actual terrorists. In the end, our efforts click here;increase the terrorist threat. While we cannot do nothing, we cannot continue as we have the past nine years. We can no longer afford the cost and our methodology has proven ineffective to say the least.

click here">click here" style="border: 0px none;" height="164px" width="200px">We must better understand our enemy and we must understand our role in their motivation. A good strategist knows that you must know not only the strengths and motivation of your own men, but of the enemy's as well. We must examine the mind of the rational terrorist.

"Rational terrorism is an outgrowth of public dissatisfaction and political dissent and a form of revolt against the established order, or regime. Few, if any, dissident movements willingly adopt terror as a conscious tactic, namely because such tactics provoke public revulsion and condemnation."

click here">click here" style="border: 0px none;" height="200px" width="250px">There are three potential motivators in the mind of the terrorist: political, cultural or psychological. For the political terrorist "the motivation may be to affect a political reform, or overthrow a regime perceived as illegitimate or lacking public trust and support. Terrorism may be used to demonstrate the weakness and vulnerability of the regime, to reveal its inability to provide security, to provoke government repression to help recruit followers, and ultimately to force leaders from power."

The psychological terrorist exists in the confines of any modern society. "Some terrorists are unbalanced, violent individuals suffering some form of psychosis. Others may be egomaniacs driven to achieve recognition through violence, and who attract a following of other dysfunctional individuals. This characterization may be accurate in cases where terrorists appear to have no logical goal, or motivation, or a purpose that makes little sense to normal people. This can include cases where the goal is the psychological benefit achieved by vengeance (Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing). Psychologically motivated terrorism is simply a criminal act, like serial killing, and doesn't qualify for analysis as political violence."

Finally, the culturally motivated terrorist. "This motivation is most common in situations where an ethnic or religious group fears extermination, or loss of their common identity, language or culture. It may also be combined with political motives, where the rulers discriminate against the ethnic group in terms of jobs, economic opportunity or access to the political process. In the case of oppressed minorities, opposed by a strong, entrenched regime, terrorism may be seen as the only available option. This is especially true where demands for political reform are ignored, where there are few, if any, external allies, and where the regime resorts to collective punishment for what are seen as reasonable and justified demands."

There are three subsets to the culturally motivated terrorist:

Separatism (let's separate) In situations where the ruling group is seen to be unfair and unjust in its government administration, dissident groups fight to form a separate state. Example would include the aspirations of Tamils in Sri Lanka, or Basques in Spain to establish a separate state for their people.

(aka Irredentism let's get back together) The objective is to re-unite an ethno-political group that has been divided and separated by an arbitrary state border. An example is the conflict in Northern Ireland where Irish Republicans (typically Catholics) aspire to unify the 6 northern counties with the Republic of Ireland.

(let's organize ourselves) The aspiration of a national group (people related by ethnicity, religion, language or culture) to create a formal state for their nation. An example is the aspiration to establish Kurdistan as a homeland for the Kurdish people. This entails elements of both separatism and irredentism of Kurds living in Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

Clearly, the terrorists that attacked us on September 11th were neither political nor psychological terrorists. Some members of al-Qaida are undoubtedly psychologically motivated, but the organization itself has a clear purpose. That purpose is unlikely to be politically motivated considering the organization's size, structure and public addresses. The terrorists that attacked us on September 11th are culturally motivated, a mix between separatists and nationalists.

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Writes for Attends school at The Ohio State University, part-time, earning a BS in Business Finance.
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