One of the basic sets of laws in using antibiotics is to administer them in full dose when we need to treat an infection. Using a “half dose” of the antibiotic not only fails to cure it, but can also result in the emergence of resistant strains of the organism that won’t respond to future antibiotic therapy.
A second golden rule in using antibiotics is that it’s better to start them early in the course of the infection rather than late. A delay can result in fatal complications. A third rule is that using a combination of antibiotics rather than one single type can occasionally be vital to treating life-threatening infections.
These fundamental concepts also apply to the phenomenon of terrorism. Using “half power” to deal with terrorism can only make things worse. When the United States embassies were attacked in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the insufficient use of military power, or holding back with the “half dose of the antibiotics,” just encouraged al-Qaida to attack the U.S. again — which was 9/11. Had America unleashed full power or a “full dose of antibiotics” to defeat al-Qaida from the onset, Sept. 11 and its catastrophic consequences would probably not have occurred.
The importance of intervention early in the course of the disease rather than late holds just as true in averting terrorism as it does in medicine. There was a sharp decline in suicide bombings inside Israel ONLY after the Israeli Government took more aggressive measures to deal with the phenomenon of terrorism and ONLY after building the security barrier to protect its civilians. The number of terrorist attacks dropped dramatically from an average of 26 a year before the barrier, to three a year after.
Had Israel followed the principle of early use of antibiotics and thus taken the same security steps at an earlier stage, thousands of Israeli citizens — who include Jews, Muslims, and Christians — would have been saved. The delay in using the proper treatment only resulted in more complications, damage, and loss of more innocent lives.
The third rule, or the use of a combination of antibiotics to treat serious infections, should guide us to the fact that employing a military-only approach to defeat terrorism without combining it with ideological, educational, economic, and psychological reforms is insufficient to treat the problem.
These three approaches must be used in dealing with other security threats we currently face — from the global ones such as the possible nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, to the relatively contained ones such as the attacks of Somali pirates. The U.S. should use sufficient power (or full-dose antibiotics) to end these phenomena before they complicate. Power can include military, intelligence, economic, ideological, and diplomatic tactics.
Ignoring the problem until it complicates, exhibiting a lackadaisical response to aggression, or using a single treatment approach rather than a multi-faceted one can only bring more catastrophes to the U.S. and to the — still — free world in the future.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid's writings in this blog represent only his thoughts and not the views of the institute where he works.
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