Skip to comments.Gee: Stop making excuses for terrorism
Posted on 09/16/2001 9:10:20 AM PDT by Clive
Before we can fight terrorism with any success, we have to change the way we think about it.
People in the West often assume that terrorists must be driven to it by some burning grievance. If the men of the Irish Republican Army bomb a pub in Belfast, it must spring from their anger over the British occupation. If a Palestinian suicide bomber blows himself up outside an Israeli disco, it must spring from his frustration over the harsh Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Call it the "root causes" theory. What terrorists do may be despicable, goes the argument, but they did it because their grievances had been ignored by a brutal occupier, an oppressive government or an indifferent world. It follows that the only way to end terrorism is to address the "root causes."
Serious students of terrorism rejected the "root causes" theory long ago. Terrorism does not spring spontaneously from social deprivation or political oppression. If it did, then every poor and undemocratic country would be a hive of terrorists. Soviet dissidents never resorted to murdering innocent civilians, nor did the opponents of Nazism -- though they were fighting some of the worst forms of oppression ever seen.
Terrorism is a deliberate form of political or ideological warfare waged by fanatics with a disposition for unlimited violence. In the case of extreme religious terrorists, whether Islamic or Christian or Sikh, they are engaged in a holy war, a struggle for the fate of the world that justifies any amount of bloodshed.
Addressing "root causes" will not stop people like that. Even if Israel pulled out of the West Bank tomorrow, Islamic terrorist groups would keep trying to kill Israelis. To them, it is not the Israeli occupation that rankles. It is the very existence of Israel. It is pure hatred, more than grievance, that drives them.
Yet the "root causes" notion lives on. We have seen it twice this week on these very pages. The day after Tuesday's attack, University of Toronto scholar Thomas Homer-Dixon argued that the root cause of terrorism was the growing gap between rich countries and poor ones. "These differences breed envy and frustration and, ultimately, anger," he wrote. "The problem will never go away if we don't address the underlying disparities that help motivate such violence."
Then, in yesterday's paper, columnist Rick Salutin said that the key to defusing support for terrorism was "eliminating the worst cases of wretchedness that sustain it." His suggestion: End Western sanctions against Saddam Hussein's Iraq and get Israel to pull out of the West Bank.
No doubt both writers abhor what happened this week as much as everyone else. But by making excuses for terrorism, even qualified excuses, they give the perpetrators what they crave most: legitimacy. Worse, they acquit them of responsibility for their own actions.
If terrorism springs from their frustration over unanswered grievances, then it is not really their fault. It is merely a disease and they are simply the carriers, "rather in the way that innocent animals might be the carriers of rabies" (as the conservative U.S. author Midge Decter once put it).
That not only gives comfort to the terrorists, it hurts the effort to fight them. If terrorists are not morally responsible for their own actions, then it frees the rest of us from the burden of taking them on.
Well, that freedom just ended. We now know we must confront terrorism face to face. Before we do that, we must learn to see it as it is -- not as the product of "root causes" but as the result of a deliberate decision to kill in the name of hate.
Great article Clive thanks for posting it.
The root causes of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie was the publication of his book Satanic Verses.
Should we have removed the root causes of the situation there and banned the book?
It lives on on Free Republic, in the maniacal rantings of Demi(dog) Bin Laden and his cell of sycophants.
Thankfully, most here aren't in league with those who, basically, hate this country because it doesn't conform to their political ideology.
They are terrorists themselves.
They are first and foremost anarchic ideologues, and only lastly Americans.
Is anybody looking for the "root causes" of the behavior of the people who have been bomboing Iraq for the past 11 years? Of course not.
When we bomb whoever we're going to bomb in the coming war, will anyone be wondering what is bothering us? No. We think about what we want all the time. We talk about it all the time. That way we don't have to think about, or talk about, what anybody else in the world is thinking or talking about.
But that isn't going to stop them from acting upon their thoughts--just as we do.
Where have we seen this tactic before? Could it be from Hillary and the other liberals in this country? Isn't it just a prop for the assencion to power, an us against them ploy, with the conservative Republicans being "them". Tyrants all use the same tactics no matter their stripe. We need to recognize them here and abroad.
It will if they're dead or conquered.
True. But I'm still waiting for the "peace dividend" in the wake of our conquest of The Evil Empire. The Evil Empire that was, that is. Not the current Evil that we are going to rid the world of, of course.
Not if they're dead.
There aren't many human beings who place as little value on their own lives as these terrorists do. They are like a cancer.
If the only way to eradicate terrorism is to kill every terrorist, then we (the civilized world) will simply have to kill every terrorist.
Good point. I would add that many of those with "a disposition for unlimited violence" simply love violence. Any grievance will serve to justify blooshed. They don't really need a reason, just the means and the opportunity.
You do our side in these America's-the-root-cause threads a disservice with that hyperbole. You are usually someone with a firm lock on commonsense and the bottom line. They may be unrealistic, protectionist/isolationist, utopian, 1700's stuck, insensitive, un-patriotic appearing, armchair ideologs...but terrorists is little over the top.
Stinkspur has always embraced whatever would extend state control and reduce liberty. He's the stereotype of those who hope to be relieved of the terrible burdens of freedom.
As Hitler said.
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