I recently had the honor of speaking in an interview with Ernie Brown, on the nationally syndicated radio show, “Trending Today.” The subject was on U.S. Terror Operations Worldwide. I was asked a few questions about terrorism, duh, and about war. But also about President Trump’s policy on the war.
The interview was good, there were no surprises or “gotcha” moments, but the issue is the difficulty, and policy questions are a tough one.
The issue of terrorism is difficult for a simple reason. It can be like a chameleon. In the history of terrorism, we understood it to play out something like:
- a group, influenced (you could say angered) by political or social issues,
- attacks their identified target society, with acts of violence, in the name of their cause.
The key there is “group.” Those groups always had a name. Those groups were never a country, but rather, an unaffiliated assortment of upset and like-minded individuals. They generally did have a cause related to a country, political affiliation, perceived religious injustice, or ethnic discrimination or a cause related to some combination of these. While today that can still be the case, we have since seen, as recently as the 1990’s, the focus of attack has come from groups as described, but over time, morphing into individuals down to the single person level.
The problem with that is, if you are a big ole country, like the U.S., Israel, Lebanon, or the like, how do you address one pissed off guy. Picture some individual or a couple of guys that seek to terrorize a country, a citizenry, a community, an institution or perhaps the world body?
It calls to mind the old movie “The Mouse that Roared,” except this is no mouse, and it certainly is not a comedy.
One must wonder, do you send the police after the guy, the military or their parents? I say that last in jest, but of course this is serious. People have been killed in numbers that are as unacceptable as they are alarming.
And the question comes up, is it an international, national or a local effort? If it happens elsewhere, but you believe you are among the intended targets, do you go there to get the guy in some other country that quite possibly has nothing to do with the disagreeing issues?
Can you equate an attack by a suspected terrorist in France to a threat that might impact the U.S.?
The problem for America and the current U.S. government, is that there are those that want to address this problem in what appears to be a logical and structural process. There is a current initiative that seeks to define the powers of the President and view the current terrorist challenge with War Powers.
Can politicians, through the cumbersome process of a big government, efficiently direct an effort to end terrorism with all these listed parameters?
Recall, if you will, terrorists and criminals do not have rules of engagement. They do not have boards of advisers and structured organizations that they must go through to get their operational orders. When that “guy” has the thought, “I think I will get in a car and drive through a crowd of people” he may not request, or even require authority from a leader or manager. He can just do it. The only requirements being (1) a vehicle, likely one stolen or rented; (2) a license…no, check that, these guys most often are not concerned with rules of the road; and (3) a good location to find the victims. A Congress, a House of Lords, or a Parliament may not be mobile and agile enough in their analysis and decision making to keep pace with the threats that an impending attack might present.
As such, how can an agency, be it the CIA, DIA, DoD, Mi6…you name it and insert here ______, how can they be expected to react in a timely and effective way, without the authority to make decisions and act on them. The example that is glaring obvious is Afghanistan and the chase to find and stop people like Osama bin Ladin.
In the political and media world, there is much talk about leaders making statements that encourage and inflame these killer terrorists! Really, I thought those guys were already upset. New words spoken by one leader or another, after the fight has already begun, surely play very little role in the hearts and minds of killer terrorists.
Yes, we do not need our leaders making embarrassing or ill-conceived comments, but suggesting that their comments change things, is just not realistic.
So, here we are. Guys are driving down city streets into crowds of people. Men and women are dressing in things we call suicide vests and walking into crowded social places and blowing themselves and everyone within reach to death. How do you fight that? How does a military find those people? How does an intelligence service find those people? How does a police agency find them and how can anyone prevent those things from happening? Anybody…anybody…anybody…Bueller!?
Well it is clear. We need to know what we do not know. We need to be in places to see things, hear things, and discover things that are concealed from us. That is how!
Those of us who are pleased to say that we live in free and democratic society are fortunately/unfortunately saddled with the responsibility to be “fair,” to be “honest,” to follow the rules of good conduct…we will not cheat, we will not sucker punch, we will keep within the written or presumed rules of engagement parameters. Rules, I might add, that are set forth by people, government officials, that the terrorist will happily kill.
Well it is clear. The CIA or Mi6, must talk to bad people, even criminals, they must be in places where we may not be welcome. Our DIA and Military must be prepared with information and methods to win in fights and battles, and be positioned where they can be fast and effective. That is the ugly reality to world affairs.
You have seen those bumper stickers and billboards that proclaim…“War is not the answer.” But they are never followed with the answer. They offer nothing, just complaints and questions without logical and reasonable answers. Terrorist do not seek a loaf of bread and a warm hug. They do not seem to simply want that we see them, and treat them in a polite manner. In so many cases they will admit to anyone listening that what they want is change. Change from us, in favor of their way of living and thinking. Convert or die!
The reality is, solving the problem is not, possibly even remotely, a police, military or intelligence matter. Those are the necessary tools we have available and should empower to combat those evil forces. They intend to keep the peace, stop the bomb and bomber, intercept the available clues and plans…but they are not the solution. The solutions come from reeducation of societies and communities of people who believe they have been injured. It comes from addressing, with practical solutions, that belief we hear them shout, that someone has taken something away from them, placed them in harm, prevented them from prospering and enjoying life as they suggest they would like. Or, for that matter, the complaint that there is some self perceived attack upon their religion. And more!
Wow, you say! Yes, wow. How on earth do we do that. How do we get those persons who have lived a life in anger and conflict, to stop thinking like a victim and opponent, and start working with the world body, whatever that is, to find common and safe ground?
- Who will be the first to put down their guns…
- to not make another bomb vest…
- to not load a vehicle with explosives…
- to not plant an improvised explosive in something out on a roadway…
- or find some chemical that can harm living things?
If you are the first to put down your gun, will you be the first one shot down?