The Anti-terrorism Agenda

Hearing much about terrorism from the campaigns?  Just 6 years ago this fall DC was inundated by nuclear threats against US cities and Anthrax.  These twin crises, according to intelligence sources outside of government (such as George Friedman of STRATFOR), served as the final impetus for our leader’s foray into Iraq. (By the way, STRAFOR is a fantastic site for news analysis. I’m adding it to my blogroll).

Peter Berkowitz summarizes the five key areas of agreement emerging from the 8th annual World Summit on Counterterrorism, attended by several hundred practitioners and academics from more than 50 nations. This year’s conference was sponsored by the International Institute for Counterterrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya, Israel’s leading private institution of higher education. Berkowtiz noted that Israel’s experience with assessing and fighting a range of threats while balancing liberal and democratic principles.

  • CONTINUED VULNERABILITY
  • TERRORISTS MASTERY OF MEDIA
  • ANTI-TERRORISM NETWORKS UNDERDEVELOPED
  • NO MAJOR SOFT POWER (my term) STRATEGY OR INVESTMENT
  • THE CHALLENGE OF MAINTAINING POLITICAL WILL TO ADDRESS THESE FACTORS

Berkowitz adds:

These conclusions suggest that terrorism ought to be a topic of intense concern to the world’s sole superpower as it hits the home stretch of a critical presidential election. Yet neither candidate has candidly discussed the threats to the homeland. Nor has the press, preoccupied with defending the nation against a Palin vice presidency, sought to hold the candidates accountable.

Perhaps next year’s World Summit on Counterterrorism could devote a session or two to the need to educate politicians, the press, and the public about the impressive work that is already being done, and the urgent and enormous challenge that remains, in the battle against transnational terrorism.

To my readers who might be offended that I link to a conservative magazine, please agree with me that terrorism prevention is not the owned by any political program or ideology.  Below are these factors spelled out a bit more.

VULNERABILITY  The United States and Israel as well as countries around the world are increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic, mass-casualty attacks.

MEDIA  Terrorists have not only mastered the use of the Internet to disseminate their message, recruit fighters, and communicate among themselves. They have also shown great skill in manipulating Western media to take their point of view while also establishing their own broadcasting companies such as Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV and Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV. Accordingly, civilized nations must find ways to disrupt and shut down terrorists’ exploitation of the Internet and traditional media, and to counter terrorists’ success in using the Western press to promulgate their propaganda.

NETWORKS  The fight against transnational terrorism–which already involves unprecedented cooperation among nations–requires a great deal more pooling of resources and sharing of knowledge: As Ganor likes to say, “It takes a network to beat a network.”

SOFT POWER  To weaken the forces of radicalization at home, civilized nations must address Islamic communities’ real grievances, provide educational and economic opportunities, reach out to reformers within Islam, ensure that the rule of law and the democratic ideal are extended and upheld in all segments of their own societies, and, where possible, work to fortify liberty and democracy abroad.

POLITICAL WILL  The key to all the others–the West must summon the political will to maintain focus over the long haul to prevail in a struggle that could last a generation or more and in which the enemy can lie low for months or even years on end and then, thanks to ever more lethal, ever less expensive, and ever more mobile weapons of mass destruction, strike suddenly with devastating impact.

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