RESEARCH: Defining and Countering Global Terrorism

January 17, 2013 § 1 Comment

It can be argued that the primary issue in the world today is terrorism. The most recent and relevant dealing with terrorism is “The War on Terror” (also known as the Global War on Terror and War on Terrorism), which is a term commonly applied to the international military campaign that began in 2001 by the United States and the United Kingdom, with support from other countries. The campaign’s official stated purpose was to eliminate al-Qaeda and other militant organizations.

More than a decade after the declaration of the War on Terror, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have killed at least 225,000 people, including men and women in uniform, contractors, and civilians – according to a new report by the Eisenhower Research Project based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. The report also estimated that the war will cost Americans between $3.2 and $4 trillion, including medical care and disability for current and future war veterans, and that if the wars continue; they would be on track to require at least another $450 billion in Pentagon spending by 2020.

According to official releases, the George W. Bush administration defined the following objectives in the War on Terror:

  1. Defeat terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and destroy their organizations
  2. Identify, locate and destroy terrorists along with their organizations
  3. Deny sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorists
    1. End the state sponsorship of terrorism
    2. Establish and maintain an international standard of accountability with regard to combating terrorism
    3. Strengthen and sustain the international effort to fight terrorism
    4. Work with willing and able states
    5. Enable weak states
    6. Persuade reluctant states
    7. Compel unwilling states
    8. Interdict and disrupt material support for terrorists
    9. Eliminate terrorist sanctuaries and havens
  4. Diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit
    1. Partner with the international community to strengthen weak states and prevent (re)emergence of terrorism
    2. Win the war of ideals
  5. Defend US citizens and interests at home and abroad
    1. Implement the National Strategy for Homeland Security
    2. Attain domain awareness
    3. Enhance measures to ensure the integrity, reliability, and availability of critical physical and information-based infrastructures at home and abroad
    4. Integrate measures to protect US citizens abroad
    5. Ensure an integrated incident management capability

The war initiated by the Bush Administration was in response to the September 11th attacks in which nearly 3000 people were killed. It can be seen above that the objectives of the war were to end terrorism and extremism, but 11 years later evidence suggests that the contrary was achieved. A New York Times article in 2006 titled ‘Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat’ reported:


A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks. The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.


This intelligence estimate was completed in April 2006 and was the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began. It represented a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government.  It was Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ and asserted that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, had metastasized and spread across the globe.

An important April 2005 Washington Post article, ‘U.S. Figures Show Sharp Global Rise in Terrorism’ also reiterated the counter-productivity of the War on Terror:


The number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled last year (2004), according to U.S. government figures, a sharp upswing in deadly attacks that the State Department has decided not to make public in its annual report on terrorism due to Congress this week.

Overall, the number of what the U.S. government considers “significant” attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from the record of around 175 in 2003, according to congressional aides who were briefed on statistics covering incidents including the bloody school seizure in Russia and violence related to the disputed Indian territory of Kashmir.

Terrorist incidents in Iraq also dramatically increased, from 22 attacks to 198, or nine times the previous year’s total — a sensitive subset of the tally, given the Bush administration’s assertion that the situation there had stabilized significantly after the U.S. handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government last summer.

The two articles, portions of which have been quoted above are among many over the last decade that attribute rising extremism to the very war that was meant to end it. The counter-productivity of the war on terror must mean that there is a flaw in the strategy. Critics of the War on Terror have often pointed out the prime reason for the failing of the war was a failure to tackle the root causes of terrorism. Renowned American sociologist Philip Slater discussed this in his op-ed in the Huffington Post on October 25th, 2006. “Everyone talks about ‘fighting terrorism’ at the roots”, says Slater, “But no one does anything about it”. He explains his point of view:

It’s much easier–and relieves more anxiety and frustration–to go bomb somebody. Making “war” on terrorism is a lot like taking a couple of drinks to cure a hangover–an enjoyable short-term solution and a disastrous long-term one. But long-term solutions have never played well in Washington, the land of the quick fix. Nor with the American public for that matter–our instant-gratification consumer society has a bevy of corporations competing to make that instant even shorter.

So what exactly are these root causes that Washington is so reluctant to tackle? Philip Slater links terrorism to hopelessness and inequality. He writes:


For of all capitalist enterprises, the extractive industries are probably the most deserving of the abuse heaped on them over the years. The possessors of the earth’s treasures believe, apparently, that the luck, wealth, or political corruption that allowed them to own land containing such riches is a sign of divine favor, while the poverty of those around them indicates celestial disgust.

Terrorists are people who have lost hope–hope for the possibility of peacefully creating a better world. They may be middle-class and educated, as many terrorist leaders are, but their despair is one of empathy for the plight of their people as a whole.

The root causes of terrorism are pathological inequalities in wealth–not just in Saudi Arabia but all over the Third World. Even in our own country Republican policies have in recent decades created inequalities so extreme that while a few have literally more money than they can possibly use, the vast majority are struggling to get by. A society that impoverishes most of its population in order to enrich a few neurotically greedy individuals is a sick society. As Jared Diamond has shown, societies in which a few plunder the environment at the expense of the many are headed for collapse. Fundamentalist religions and radical ideologies are the common refuge of people without hope. Christianity has played this role for centuries.


Slater claims that Islamic fundamentalism is the latest drug that is being offered to the poor and desperate and that it has the added appeal that you can not only get into heaven but also take vengeance at the same time. This incentive is an easier line to sell when a foreign power is bombing you. Militant organizations recruit people whose families have been killed as a result of collateral damage. These people are mentally traumatized and angry at the United States and its allies and turning towards the terrorists is a source of respite for them and an opportunity for revenge and martyrdom. This past September a very important and thorough report was released by the NYU and Stanford law schools Entitled “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan”. The report detailed the terrorizing effects of the Obama Administration’s drone assaults as well as the numerous, highly misleading statements from administration officials about the campaign. The study’s purpose was to conduct “independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians”. According to The Guardian, the report was “based on over 130 detailed interviews with victims and witnesses of drone activity, their family members, current and former Pakistani government officials, representatives from five major Pakistani political parties, subject matter experts, lawyers, medical professionals, development and humanitarian workers, members of civil society, academics, and journalists.” The newspaper reports that witnesses “provided first-hand accounts of drone strikes, and provided testimony about a range of issues, including the missile strikes themselves, the strike sites, the victims’ bodies, or a family member or members killed or injured in the strike”.

Here are the powerful first three paragraphs of the report, summarizing its main findings:





From everything that has been presented so far it is undeniable that the efforts of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan have only succeeded in creating more terrorists and new extremism and radicalization. Something very important to ponder upon is how acts of terror are justified and what the reasons behind them are. After the 9/11 attacks Osama bin Laden cited American involvement in the Middle East and its support for Israel as the main motives for the attacks. Another example is the Pakistani American, Faisal Shahzad who was attempting to plant a car bomb in Manhattan a couple of years ago. At his sentencing hearing when the federal judge presiding over his case, asked him how he could possibly use violence that he knew would result in the deaths even of innocent children, Shahzad said, “well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims.”

We must now ask ourselves what terrorism really is. Most simply and commonly, terrorism is defined as the use of violent acts to incite fear within, or deliberately target non-combatants for ideological or political goals. Faisal Shahzad and Osama bin Laden do fit this definition, but then perhaps so does the United States of America as a nation. The combatant to civilian death ratio in the Iraq war was dismal, with death estimates between 100,000 to 1,000,000. The US drone strikes in Pakistan bomb villages, towns and other areas in attempts to eliminate ‘suspects’. The body of the target is often so devastated after the attack that he/she is impossible to identify. Drone strikes result in massive collateral damage and destruction of property, they traumatize the people who live in the surrounding area and give rise to more extremism. The United States went into the war on terror in retaliation of the September 11th attacks, Osama bin Laden ordered the September 11th attacks in retaliation for U.S involvement in the Middle East and oppression in Palestine.

Violence against innocents is wrong and should be severely condemned, but answering violence with more violence should not be the answer. The United States has responded to terrorism on its soil by attempting to eliminate militancy with pure force. Terrorism is an idea, and ideas are fought with ideas, not bombs. Instead of rushing into a war that has lasted more than 10 years with no meaningful accomplishment, the United States should have looked into why 9/11 happened, studied the root causes and tried to address them. George Bush called the War on Terror a war against radical Islam. This is a huge disservice to over 1.6 billion people, and perhaps a misunderstanding on the part of the Bush administration. The motives for 9/11 were political, not religious and were a result of American foreign policy. The way to deal with terrorism is to win the hearts and minds of people. By using the word ‘Islam’ and tying it with the war, the United States made it easier for the militants to recruit undereducated conservatives who see it as a war against their religion, and are willing to die for their faith.

Perhaps the United States needs to look back and see what might have caused an attack like 9/11. Perhaps it needs to change it foreign policy in a way that it does not anger a large portion of the Asian and Arab world. While the United States consider Osama bin Laden a terrorist, and groups like Hamas a terrorist organization, most of the Arab world today considers the United States and Israel as terrorist states. While obviously not justifiable, it may be safe to say that the 9/11 attacks were a result of U.S oppression and injustice in the Middle East. If so, then the only realistic way of eradicating terrorism is to establish a foreign policy that connects with the hearts and minds of the people of the Middle East. This would mean a looser relationship with Israel, less involvement in the internal matters of sovereign countries and an end to the war on terror.

How finally would an end to terrorism and radicalization be achieved? The answer is to isolate the hard core ideologists. Groups like Al-Qaeda need to recruit more people to their cause to sustain themselves. By changing foreign policy and how it interacts with other nations internationally, the United States can win the hearts and minds of the general population. By not calling it a War against some sort of radical ‘Islam’, the United States can end the ‘Jihad’ narrative that is used by groups like Al Qaeda to attract the religious but uneducated to fight for their faith. And finally, by disengaging from its war, the United States will cease to cause collateral damage and radicalize people who turn to the militant organizations for solace. Groups get radicalized when they are marginalized, so all outfits need to be brought to the mainstream and there needs to be political dialog. At the end of this the hard core violent ideological terrorists will be isolated who could easily be eliminated. What can’t continue though is more of the current strategy. The United States plan in the war has not changed, but rather become more violent since the election of Barack Obama and as discussed in this paper, this kind of policy will only further exasperate the problem. Indeed it does not seem wise to fight terrorism, with perhaps one’s own version of it.


Works Cited

“Brown University.” Estimated Cost of Post-9/11 Wars: 225,000 Lives, up to $4            Trillion. N.p., 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.

Glasser, Susan B. “U.S. Figures Show Sharp Global Rise In Terrorism.” Washington     Post. The Washington Post, 27 Apr. 2005. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.

Slater, Philip. “The Root Causes of Terrorism and Why No One Wants to End     Them.” The Huffington Post., 25 Oct. 2006. Web. 10                                     Dec. 2012.

Greenwald, Glenn. “New Stanford/NYU Study Documents the Civilian Terror from      Obama’s Drones.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 25 Sept. 2012.                                     Web. 10 Dec. 2012.

Moving Beyond Bhuttoism: Reconfiguring Politics in Sindh‏ – Abdul Samad

November 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ever since the hanging of Bhutto, the political fortunes of Sindh have been confined solely to the party he founded, the PPPP, which came to power twice under the leadership of his daughter, the late Benazir Bhutto, and now under her husband, the infamous Asif Ali Zardari. Bhutto has now ironically become a brand, one that can be packaged and repackaged and sold to party loyalists or an affluent feudal or simply, to the highest bidder. Consider how Bilalwal, the son of Zardari, changed his name to include the remnants of his grandfather’s legacy, a move that has secured his political future for the foreseeable future. It is colossally ironic to witness how the PPP has withered into a family heirloom.

Cyril Almedia, writing in the Dawn, captures the gist of the problem:

Bhuttoism may have given the people, the ordinary people of interior Sindh, a sense of self-worth, but did it also brainwash them into supporting a party that no longer has — or may never have had — an interest in their material and social progress?

But it’s also true that Sindh is Bhutto and Bhutto is Sindh. The PPP dominates the political narrative here in a way that no party has or will in the foreseeable future.

So, travelling through Sindh, seeing a society held back, a people still suffering, a ruling class that is distant and aloof, you can’t help but wonder: could the people’s love for Bhuttoism be part of what’s holding them back?

The crucial question emerges: Is Bhuttoism part of the problem, a component of the feudal structure that holds Sindh back, binds it to traditionalism and backwardness, or is the legacy of Bhutto, one of empowerment and consciousness of the masses, of political awareness to hitherto benign and subjugated people. Some contend that Bhutto rules from his grave in Ghari Khuda Bakhsh, that his sacrifice, one of blood and life, has immortalized him in the Sindhi political sphere, in the imagination of the impoverished peasants and laborers. It took me some time to understand the complex and mulch-faceted(at times, contradictory) personality that Bhutto undoubtedly was, from his fiery speeches in the Security Council to his sycophancy and fawning of then dictator Ayub Khan, from his role in the breakup and eventful separation of East Pakistan(Idhar Hum, Idhar Tum) to his crucial role of uplifting a de-moralized West Pakistan after 1971 and bringing back the POWs, from his Oxford and Berkeley education and feudal background to his ease of interaction with the ordinary masses. While it is true that Bhutto became progressively authoritarian in his ways (consider the rigged election of 1977), the false murder charges leveled against him and his subsequent hanging remains a blot in the history of Pakistan, in that a democratically elected popular leader was unconstitutionally removed from office. The tragedy of his hanging remains afresh even today.

Bhutto was undoubtedly a complicated individual and so is the legacy he has bequeathed to the nation, and to his native province of Sindh, where politics, even today, revolves around him, his very name. The people still love him, after all these years; the man who promised them Roti, Kapra and Makan, the one who electrified a crowd of millions with his speeches and eloquence, who told the peasants and laborers that they too had dignity and rights. And yet if Sindh has to progress, it would have to detach itself from the memory of Bhutto, from his promises, his eloquence, his brilliance, as painful and difficult as that might be. The present generation of leaders are merely exploiting the name of Bhutto for their own bigoted political interests, to finance their exotic lifestyles, to plunder the exchequer. Politics in Sindh remains mired in an advanced state of stagnation and degeneration, owing to the emotionalism that is tied to Bhuttoism, as has been witnessed over the past three decades, with the PPP emerging victorious in spite of its dysfunctional and corrupt character. The complete absence of an alternative political voice for the Sindhi people accounts for the near monopoly enjoyed by the PPP in the political arena. Sindh would have to forget arguably it most favorite son and the populace would have to bury him finally in their collective imagination and do away with the slogan-Zinda Hai Bhutto Zinda Hai. Let him, for once, rest in peace.

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