New Means Needed to Engage Terrorism

Monday, 08 Feb 2010 08:15 AM

By Tawfik Hamid

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After Sept. 11, the issue of how to classify Islamic terrorist acts became an important topic for discussion.

Some see the acts of Islamic terror or violent jihad as crime that only needs to be treated as any other crime while others consider it to be an act of war that needs military intervention.

The answer to this dilemma is simply that Islamic terrorism does not fit fully into any clear definitions. In other words, we need a new classification for jihadist acts of violence.

Failure to see that new approaches are needed to defeat Islamic jihadism can be also deadly.

Generally speaking, in cases of crimes and wars, the offender usually aims at a specific materialistic gain on earth that is typically motivated by economical factors such as gaining money or control of the resources of specific territories.

In addition, the opponents in most of these circumstances do not want to die. For example, the emperor of Japan in World War II surrendered when he realized that he and his nation would be annihilated if he continued the war.

Furthermore, in normal situations, if the opponent has WMD he will avoid using them if this will result in his total destruction. The Russians and currently North Korea, as examples, are not ready to attack the U.S. with WMD as they know the U.S.will strike back in kind.

On the contrary, Islamic terrorists seek to die as martyrs and to cause maximum pain and suffering to the "infidels" until they surrender to their barbaric ideology.

Their ambitions are not financial or territorial. For example, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida terrorists did not seek any materialistic gains after Sept. 11. Just causing pain to the U.S. and seeking the honor of conducting jihad for Allah and dying as a martyr was sufficient for them.

The same principle applies to the Palestinian terrorist groups and the Iranian mullah regime who have repeatedly expressed their religiously based desire to annihilate all Jews — outside of the territorial issue.

In the case of dealing with an enemy who wants to commit a crime or declare a war, it is usually feasible to negotiate with such an enemy as his ambitions are typically focused on tangible things.

Negotiations that can result in giving this enemy some satisfaction in achieving some of his worldly desires may be successful in ending the problem.

Furthermore, the enemy in these circumstances will be more likely to surrender if he is going to die and will certainly hesitate to use WMD if his opponent is ready to use them against him as well.

On the contrary, the jihadists cannot be satisfied by giving them some materialistic gains as their target is subjugating others to their ideology as Ayman Al-Zawahiri stated clearly that al-Qaida will stop terrorism if the U.S. converted or surrendered to Islam. Furthermore, jihadists are unlikely to surrender even if their decision will result in their annihilation or will cause a total destruction for their nation.

Moreover, unlike Islamic terrorism, the demands of conventional terrorist groups such as ETA and the Tamil Tigers are limited only to regional geographical areas and could be solvable via negotiations as their objectives are to achieve some political gains rather than to die for their cause and to cause pain for the "unbelievers."

Similarly, unlike jihadism-based violence, individually conducted crimes usually lack the ideological thread that can transform them into a global phenomenon that threatens the world security at a large scale.

This complex situation necessitates that we should look at the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism as a completely different phenomenon that has different dynamics and new rules of engagement.

It is different from ordinary crimes, from conventional and from traditional warfare.

Developing novel approaches to deal with this phenomenon including legislative ones is mandatory as classical approaches in dealing with it as a crime, as conventional terrorism, or as a traditional war may not be enough to deal effectively with it.


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