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    11 August 2007

    Seven Rules for Countering Terrorism

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    This comes from a post at National Security Intelligence by Tom Quiggin (his work was celebrated here) and Sir Richard Dearlove. The post was the first in a pair that argue that secrecy, while necessary in certain circumstances, can in fact hinder the counter terrorism process, among other things... I'll leave interested readers free to read the posts but want to archive the "rules" here and comment. They write...

    Louise Richardson, author of The Roots of Terrorism, spells out six rules for countering terrorism to which we can add a seventh. They are:

    • Have a defensible and achievable goal;

    • Live by your principles – don’t be goaded by the terrorist into behaving differently;

    • Know your enemy, intimately;

    • Isolate terrorists within their own communities;

    • Engage others in countering terrorism with you;

    • Have patience and keep your perspective – be prepared for the long-term;

    • Build a process which is unambiguous and can function strategically and operationally and in is open-ended.


    In order of appearance... I don't think eradicating terrorism is a "defensible" goal. Limiting it and starving it of sustenance is better. President Bush seemed to be on the verge of getting this in his recent press conference when he said "[i]t matters to the security of people here at home if we don't work to change the conditions that cause 19 kids to be lured onto airplanes to come and murder our citizens." He was speaking of Iraq here so he still hasn't comprehended the fact that Iraq is precisely the condition he is referring to.

    "Live by you principles." Good God we have lost that round. PATRIOT ACT, FISA, unilateralism, torture, habeas corpus...

    "Know your enemy." What is the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite? And a Kurd? What is the difference al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and al Qaeda of 9/11 and all the other al Qaeda outfits. The difference between al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and a Baathist insurgent? They are not all the same and saying they are is lowest common denominator drivel for the masses and does nothing for the war and much for propaganda.

    Isolate to terrorists. That's hard to do, especially when your actions facilitate there survival. They are everywhere, anywhere; but at the same time nowhere.

    Accept the help of others. Mixed bag. We went into Afghanistan with the international community, although some (Rummy and Cheney) wanted otherwise. Those two won the argument as we went into Iraq (with little genuine international support). Now we're begging for a larger UN presence. And you know what? We're lucky for it. If the UN had the belligerence of some in the Bush Administration they'd ignore us. Furthermore, we skip opportunities to try to incorporate enemies (Syria and Iran) into our effort. Without exploring this avenue we not only dump the precedent of talking to our enemies we leave a stone unturned.

    Prepare for the long-term. Meaning don't use (the threat of) terrorism for politics. Short-term gains against terrorism often give terrorist a rhetorical card to use in the long-term (justification for actions and recruitment). It should be clear that the "long war" will not be won with a military. Especially without a viable political track. Iraq is making that painfully clear.

    Open-endedness. best covered by Quiggin: "This will require training and practice exercises, as well as scenario planning and building capacity. Little point exists for working in stove pipes which merely come together, if at all, at the top level. Stated another way, we need to escape from the tyranny of the tactical and advance to a strategic, whole-of-government approach."

    Posted by Geoff

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