Countering terrorism

AuthorThomas Homer-Dixon,Margaret Purdy
Date01 March 2005
Publication Date01 March 2005
DOI10.1177/002070200506000102
SubjectArticle
MARGARET
PURDY
Countering
terrorism
The
missing
pillar
Until we understand the sources
of
terrorism and do
something about them, we can arm ourselves to the
teeth, rampage across the planet with our militaries,
suspend
many
of
our
civil liberties
and
still
not
protect ourselvesfrom this menace.
Thomas Horner-Dixon'
~E
OFTHE
FIRST
STEPS
IN
DEVELOPING
acounterterrorism strategy
should be to identify the conditions
and
circumstances
that
are
believed to motivate or ignite terrorist violence and to keep it simmer-
ing. This element
of
combating terrorism is usually captured under
"root causes," a label that is unsatisfactory for a host
of
reasons.
If
a
front-end causal analysis does
not
take place or if it is flawed, the
resulting strategy may be successful in dealing with the immediate
symptoms and manifestations
of
terrorism,
but
will fail to ameliorate
or address those factors that sustain support over the longer term. We
have seen some efforts on the part
of
individual nations to understand
and address root causes,
but
no sense
of
urgency
and
no sustained
attention. Internationally, we have
yet
to see a shift from familiar
Margaret
Purdy
prepared
this
article
whileon
sabbatical
at the
Centre
of
International
Relations,
University
of
British
Columbia.
Shehas
since
returned
to
~
e
ederal
government,
where
shehas
worked
in
policing,
intelligence,
andpublic
saety
since
1975.
Her
current
assignment
isasa
special
advisor
to
Transport
anada.
She
wishes
to
acknowledge
the
research
assistance
of
Ciaran
Aiken, a
masters
candidate
inpolitical
science
at
UBC.
The
views
in this
essay
arethe
author's
own.
1"Weignore miseryat our peril," Globeand Mail,
26
September
2001.
INTERNATIONAL
JOURNAL
Winter
2004-2005
Margaret
Purdy
rhetoric to collective action.
The
obstacles and objections standing in
the way
of
genuine progress on a root causes strategy are daunting,
probably too daunting to overcome.
FOUR
STRATEGIC
PILLARS
Effective strategies for dealing with serious terrorist threats must incor-
porate activities in four interconnected pillars:
a well-coordinated
intelligence,
law
enforcement,
and criminaljus-
tice
pillardirected at assessing, detecting, preventing,
and
investigating
threats
and
incidents, and prosecuting those individuals who engage in
unlawful activities as part
of
their terrorist agenda;
creative partnerships
among
governments, businesses,
and
com-
munities to provide a public
safety
or
homeland
security
pillar, focused
on protecting vulnerable targets, training and equipping first respon-
ders,
and
preparing to deal with the consequences
of
terrorist attacks;
a military pillarcapable
of
responding to government decisions to
deploy specialized personnel and equipment in a counterterrorism role
domestically or abroad; and
a long-term prevention pillar comprising collaboration
among
diplomatic, development, private sector, and other players to address
the conditions and circumstances believed to
playa
role in motivating
and sustaining terrorist violence.
The
first three pillars have been the primary focus
of
counterter-
rorism attention in Canada and most other countries over the past 30
years. In contrast, the public and political dialogue around the fourth
pillar,
and
what Thomas Homer-Dixon called "the sources
of
terror-
ism," has been sporadic
and
unfocused.
"HARD"
RESPONSES
DOMINATE
Since the 11 September 2001 attacks on targets in the United States by
individuals associated with the Islamist extremist movement, al Qaeda,
the first three pillars have gained unprecedented public prominence.
Understandably, the immediate attention
of
governments around the
world was fixed firmly on the individuals bold enough to strike inside
the United States
and
capable
of
doing so in such spectacular fashion.
Most early energy was directed towards disrupting or eliminating those
believed responsible for the 2001 attacks. We saw aggressive, multilat-
eral military action in Mghanistan, as well as priority given to prevent-
ing
the
next attack via
enhanced
intelligence
and
law enforcement
"
INTERNATIONAL
JOURNAL
Winter 2004-2005

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