Sunday, September 05, 2004

Root causes etc etc

David Aaronovitch in The Observer on dealing with terrorism:

View to a kill
Yesterday, in the wake of the Beslan school horror, the historian Corelli Barnett more or less blamed the crisis on the war against terror itself. His thesis was that, since September 11th, the actions of the West (and particularly the Americans) had made things far, far worse.

The problem with this is the simple one that the war with terror was declared by terror itself. Declared in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi in 1998, declared in New York on 11 September. It wasn't until 11 September, however, that we began to appreciate the scale of what was already happening. The idea that, had we negotiated with the Taliban, left Saddam in place and put more pressure on Sharon to settle, kids would now be safe in North Ossetia, is just wishful thinking.
and concludes:
It seems to me that an absolutely necessary part of the battle for a safer world consists of cutting away as much as you can of the potential support for terrorists.

The logic of this is not, however, to concede to terrorists. Much of what they want we can never give them, and much of what they want lies in the act of terrorism itself. And it as false a trope to say that there are usually political solutions to terrorism as to say that there are always military ones.
I often feel that those who talk of "root causes" fail to recognise that the perpetrators of acts such as at Beslan do not play by the rules. Its the mistake of projecting liberal values onto people who are profoudly un-liberal.

And for once I agree with Matthew Yglesias
Partisanship and complaints about Bush's handling of counterterrorism aside, this business is a reminder not only of the horrors out there, but also that terrorism is a genuinely difficult problem -- I think we've been doing many of the wrong things lately, but no one should claim it's obvious what the right way to proceed is.


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