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Countering Terrorism - Middle
Countering Terrorism from the Middle
R. Jerry Adams,
Evaluation and Development
It is obvious that the September 11th
terrorists attacked civilians and American icons because they were
trying to hurt Americans. What is not so obvious is they may also
have been trying to get the USA to retaliate, as violently as
possible, against Middle Eastern Muslims.
By provoking massive counter-attacks in the Middle East, the
terrorists hoped to unify Muslims against the USA. The real
purpose, however, was not just to unify Muslims against the USA;
the real purpose was to create an Islamic Empire composed of all
current Middle East nations. By getting the USA to attack, they
thought they had the best chance of starting such a unification.
Attacking the USA was just the first step in the plan. In addition,
the terrorists were also trying to show the vulnerability of the
West, Western values, and Western technology.
However, Muslims of the world were not fooled. Almost every Muslim
nation sided with the USA. They knew that killing innocent people
violates Islam. They also did not want militant fanatics falsely
representing Islam. They did not want militant fanatics destroying
their governments and institutions.
This is not the first time that militant fanatics have had this
strategy of trying to provoke a military response. For example,
Palestinian terrorists know that they cannot defeat the Israelis in
a military conflict. They want to enrage the Israelis so the
Israelis will respond violently with military force and kill
innocent Muslims. They want the world to see photos and television
images of Israelis attacking innocent Muslims. Palestinian
terrorists think that Muslims throughout the region will unite
against Israel if Israel kills enough innocent civilians while
pursuing the terrorists. The militant fanatics do not want peace to
be negotiated. They want the conflict to continue until Muslims in
the region unite into an empire. That is why they make outrageous
attacks when peace efforts gain momentum.
As long as the USA, Israel, and the West avoid civilian
casualties, Muslims will support bringing the terrorists to
justice. If the USA misunderstands the situation and regards the
situation as primarily a military conflict, as have the Israelis,
then over time the terrorists will win. The more Israel has
regarded their conflict with the Palestinians in primarily military
terms, the more terrorism has grown.
Al Jazeera, the primary news medium in the Middle East, broadcasts
pictures of all Muslim casualties from American bombs and Israeli
attacks on Palestinians. The news runs 24 hours a day, so every
casualty is seen many, many times. The impact of those pictures,
especially of young children killed or seriously injured, can be
very strong. Those news stories present in a compelling way the
allegation of the terrorists, that Muslims (and not terrorists) are
the real targets of American and Israeli war efforts.
The USA needs to be much more effective in the non-military part
of its approach. For example, a poll in November of 2001 showed
that majority of Pakistanis thought that someone within the USA or Israel was behind the
September 11th attacks! Only 12 percent thought that bin Laden was
behind the attacks. The majority of people thought that the
September 11th attacks were an excuse for Americans and Israelis to
The primary way to fight this type of terrorism is to remove the
fertile grounds where it grows. Terrorist networks cannot thrive
within populations that see them as criminal fanatics. On the other
hand, nations can harbor terrorists when the civilian population or
law enforcement view the terrorists as justified or even as heroes.
This can result in a passive, rather than aggressive, approach in
rooting out terrorists. This passiveness by civilians and law
enforcement is at the heart of the problem.
The second problem that provides fertile grounds for terrorists is
nations allowing (or promoting) anti-American attitudes, especially
among the young. This is not supported by Islam, but it is
supported by some Middle East nations.
The USA needs to focus on solving the two key problems that enable
terrorists to thrive by working with Muslim leadership to create
long term solutions. Problem solving with Muslim leaders, our
natural allies, to stop Middle East terrorists, needs to be a
central American goal. This goal should dictate military responses,
not the other way around. It is not too late.
1. Problem - Nations harboring or tolerating
Recommendation - Terrorists are caught most easily when
civilians oppose them and provide information to law enforcement,
which also opposes them. Governments, therefore, need to gain
support within civilian populations for stopping terrorists. If the
clergy or government foster the view that the terrorists are
heroes, instead of criminals, this will not happen. Clergy of each
country need to make it very clear that attacking innocent
civilians is incompatible with Islam. Further, Islam requires
Muslims to bring those who hurt innocent civilians to justice.
Terrorists can only thrive in nations where there is tolerance for
this type of crime within both the civilian population and law
The USA, therefore, needs to act in ways that support each
country's efforts to eliminate terrorism. It is very difficult to
eliminate terrorism from the outside, from another country. The USA
needs to collaborate with International Muslim leadership, such as
the Organization of the Islamic Conference, to help clarify within
the Middle East that terrorism is criminal behavior, not Islamic
heroism. As long as clergy within each Middle East country do not
step forward and condemn terrorism, part of the general public will
view terrorism as Islamic heroism. The USA also needs to
collaborate with Muslim leadership to help ensure that governments
do not teach children that hate is part of Islam.
These efforts may seem obvious, but they are missing. The moderate
Muslim clergy in many Middle East countries have not stepped
forward. Many of the public in some Middle East countries think
that terrorism is supported in the Qur'an. Children in at least
three Middle East countries are taught strong anti-American views
in schools. The governments of several Middle East countries have
not treated terrorists as criminals, as long as the violence was
carried out in another country.
The USA has not done well in forming friendships and trust with
the people of Middle East countries. In the 1980's and 1990's, the
USA abandoned the people of Iraq and Afghanistan after the military
effort against their governments ended. The abandonment caused
people throughout the Middle East to distrust the USA. Because the
USA also has not insisted on Israel withdrawing from Palestinian
territories, as international law requires, the USA is seen as
against Islam. The USA, as well as the governments and clergy in
the Middle East, have not presented to the people of those
countries the many times in recent years the USA has fought on
behalf of Muslims, such as in Bosnia.
2. Problem - Middle East nations that promote anti-American
attitudes. This provides support for terrorism against the USA.
Allowing the USA to be the focus of anger keeps the focus of anger
away from the leaders of Middle East nations where a large percent
of the people live in extreme poverty and hopelessness. Fostering
anger over a long enough time can lead to violence.
Recommendation - Collaborate with International Muslim
leadership, such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, to
create solutions. Teaching hatred is, of course, contrary to
There are three more key problems, but
they do not cause terrorism. Instead, they cause deep conflict and
frustration between the USA and Muslims of the Middle East.
Terrorism is the result of a breakdown in which criminal
behavior is accepted and supported. Nations can have conflict with
each other without supporting criminal behavior to resolve
Resolving the following three problems can lead to long term peace
and cooperation between the USA and Muslims of the Middle East.
1. Problem - U.S. foreign policies that hurt Muslim
nations. Many Muslims regard Islam to be "one nation," so that
when U.S. policies result in harm to Muslims in one nation, it
affects Muslims of all nations. Many Middle Eastern Muslims believe
that past and current American foreign policies are responsible for
a great deal of suffering of Muslims in Afghanistan, Saudia Arabia,
Iraq, and the Palestinian territory.
Recommendation - The long term consequences of U.S. foreign
policy to the people of any country where the U.S. intervenes must
be considered a very high priority in forming U.S. foreign
policies. When shaping long term policy with Muslim nations in
particular, the U.S. government should consider collaborating with
International Muslim leadership, such as the Organization of the
2. Problem - The USA symbolizes the globalization of Western
values, which many Middle East Muslim Fundamentalists view as
destructive, as well as attractive. In addition, a strong
totalitarian movement is growing within Fundamentalist Islam; the
totalitarian movement has had a very bad record on human
Recommendation - The USA needs to collaborate with
International Muslim leadership, such as the Organization of the
Islamic Conference, to find ways for Western and Islamic cultures
to live in peace. We also need, as a part of this effort, to
collaborate on how to promote justice and human rights.
3. Problem - Crushing poverty in the Middle East has accompanied
lack of education, lack of opportunities for young adults, women without power, and
lack of freedom.
Recommendation - The USA needs to collaborate with International
Muslim leadership to promote education for the young and empowerment of women, as well as
development of prosperity and health for the majority. Democractic institutions require
an educated populace and empowerment of women to operate healthily. Economic opportunity
is also a foundation for democracy.
Copyright © 1996-2016 EDI and Dr. R. Jerry
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