By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Deterrence by suppression is always tricky, given that suppression helps spawn terrorism in the first place. A terrorist is already beaten down -- by politics, by poverty, by religious fanaticism, by whatever -- all the way down to the level of feeling good about strapping himself to a bomb and blowing himself up in a shopping center.
“Whoever is responsible needs to pay the price,” says Professor Kamrava, who, like the other experts interviewed for this article, would endorse a thoughtful, limited application of military force. “But in inflicting that price, the American government should make sure that it doesn‘t further damage its own interests in the long term by further destroying a country that is already battered, by further polarizing anti-American sentiments, by isolating American allies, and by creating future martyrs.”
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor -- the event most often yoked by metaphor with the World Trade Center strike -- vaulted us into a conflict that was, in the battlefield, a conventional war over territory and resources. That is not the case today. Yet President George W. Bush -- with his vague but repeated “declaration of war” and his talk of getting bin Laden a “dead or alive” -- has backed himself into a political foxhole from which he may see no escape but fighting his way out.
“The Bush administration has focused its future, defined itself and its agenda as ’fighting the war,‘ this new conflict, what it calls a war,” says USC political science professor Richard H. Dekmejian, an expert on the Middle East and terrorism. “Calling it a war is good rhetoric, but it’s also unfortunate. That this is a very different kind of conflict should be obvious to people. But when they‘re looking at tragedy, they’re not too objective.”
To date, no one has demonstrated that military might stops terrorism. Certainly, no one has proved it superior to international cooperation and effective diplomacy, which could be funded with the $40 billion Congress approved last week for the so-called war effort. What could that money buy? How about investing in technology that would lessen our dependence on foreign oil? The payoff would be cleaner foreign policy and cleaner air too.
Maybe more foreign aid is in order, on a selective basis, though it should yield more of a return. Would Israel continue its assassination policy if the U.S. threatened to cancel all aid? Would Yasir Arafat and his PLO keep radicals in line if the upshot of their decision was either increased U.S. aid or none at all? Those kind of quid pro quos are at least worth a try before we start lobbing cruise missiles.
“Everyone has a price except the most committed fundamentalists, the true believers,” says USC‘s Dekmejian. “But much depends on American willingness to use our power wisely.” With Israel, yes, and also the Arab countries. “Go down the list of Arab states and see what they’re prepared to do for us in this regard, in terms of tracking down criminals and terrorists. In the past, we‘ve been very soft with them.”
Beyond capturing suspects, international efforts could focus on seizing terrorists’ financial assets and shutting down fund-raising venues. While Bush‘s broad hints about military invasions have received a lukewarm international reception, he might get his coalition if the talk shifted to economic sanctions, for example.
The problem with real solutions, says Dekmejian, is that they are long-term efforts “at a time when the American public is looking for something very dramatic.”
The Israeli example worth emulating is from the early 1960s, a period when Israelis first tried to extradite fugitive Nazi leaders, then, when necessary, risked their lives to capture them. Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi bureaucrat who organized the transportation of Jews to death camps, wasn’t abducted and then summarily lynched; he was captured and brought to trial. Israelis elected not to reduce themselves to Eichmann‘s level. That’s a history lesson worth remembering today.
Researcher Lovell Estell III contributed to this article.
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