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Countering Terrorism
Middle East

Countering Terrorism from the Middle East
R. Jerry Adams, Ph.D.
Evaluation and Development Institute

Seeking Retaliation
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 attack Muslims.

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 terrorists.

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 enforcement.

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 Islam.

Promoting Peace
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 it.

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 Islamic Conference.

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 rights.

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.

May we find a way to honor each of our heroes, 
firefighters, police, rescue, and emergency crews.  May it be our honor to care
    for the many in great need.

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