Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Are we doing this right?

U.S. Catholic magazine has an informative interview with an expert in international relations who had advised both the Clinton and Bush administrations. According to the article, “Maryann Cusimano Love knew that it was only a matter of time before terrorists would hit the United States, but it was a dead car battery that kept her out of harm’s way on September 11. She was supposed to be teaching a class on terrorism in the wing of the Pentagon that was hit. All of her students survived, and one briefed the president that night.” From the interview:
Are our actions at least making us safer?

People think that, because we’ve spent a whole lot of money since September 11, we are safer. The dirty secret is that most spending on the War on Terror has had nothing to do with combating terrorism. A lot of defense contractors have gotten very rich off our fear and have not made us one iota safer, while a lot of the programs that actually could and do make us safer are struggling for financial and political support.  
Sometimes the simple things are the most effective ways to make us safe. Updating our roads and bridges, improving air traffic safety, and protecting our food supply and public health systems protect us against an array of everyday threats and from terrorists exploiting our civilian infrastructure.  
Instead we’re spending billions on a Cold War military architecture, like aircraft carriers and the latest fighter jets for the Air Force, when Al Qaeda doesn’t have an air force. There’s a real mismatch between our values and what we’re doing to combat terrorism, and also a mismatch between what we’re doing and what actually works.
What works in fighting terrorism then?

The good news is that terrorists have never defeated a democratic state. Terrorism doesn’t win. It is, by definition, a desperate attempt by a minority group that does not have mass public support. Al Qaeda isn’t organizing mass social movements in central squares in Egypt and Jordan because they don’t have that kind of support.
Al Qaeda is of great concern to the United States, but groups that deliberately target noncombatants have been around since at least the 1700s. When terrorist groups have been defeated, it’s been by slow, long-term pressure, using law enforcement and intelligence, and addressing the larger-scale grievances that give greater sympathy and support to the cause.
The rest of the interview is here.

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