Wednesday, October 08, 2008

what happened to tackling the root causes of terrorism?

Watching the debate last night, to Obama especially, it sounds like people believe that the way to handle terrorism is to find this Osama Bin Laden guy and the Taliban, and then the problem will be solved.

That was the attitude that was roundly derided by the media once upon a time. Terrorism is like a cancer of different cells, and killing any one is hopeless. Focusing on Afghanistan is pointless, most of the 9/11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia. Many are now coming from Europe.

There was a time when liberals advocated somehow reforming the root causes, by spurring economic development. Though now the middle east is awash in petrodollars, you don't hear that any more.

Plus, decades of foreign aid spending and quiet diplomacy hasn't worked.

What isn't easy to say, is that the war in Iraq was an attempt to get at the root causes of terrorism. There was a time in 2005 when it looked like the crazy experiment might work. Democratic movements spreading across the middle east and arabic world, in Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan. I used to have the cover of the Economist magazine from this time. It didn't work, but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth a try.


James Lin said...

You made a leap from "the war in Iraq was an attempt to get at the root cause of terrorism" to something (I can't even tell exactly what) about democratic movements.

Why would democracy quell the terrorists? Maybe I'm simplistic and naive, but it's always seemed to me that the the Middle Eastern terrorists mostly want the rest of the world to mind their own business, particularly with respect to Israel.

HoBs said...

ok, it was a bit of a leap. actually, it was a huge leap.

argument depends on lots of other steps. that democracies don't go to war with each (aka Kant's liberal peace). that terrorism comes from lack of development, and development requires stable non-corrupt governments, and one way to get good government (sometimes) is democracy.

that other countries mess around in the middle east because of the instability from having totalitarian regimes.