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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 13:19, August 21, 2006
Terrorism cannot be defeated by military force and tech alone
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Why are there more and more terrorist groups and corresponding anti-terrorism measures forming around the world? With British police recently uncovering a plot by a group of local youths in London and Birmingham to blow-up US-bound planes, terrorist warnings in Britain and America have escalated.

I feel that overall Britain and the US have lost more than they have gained. In the 'war against terror', terrorist activities have not been contained at all; in fact, they have increased in number. The world is facing the growing threat of terrorism. Iraq has become a new theatre for terrorist attacks; the Taliban and Al-Qaida are restructuring and preparing for their return. South-east Asia has also become a target. Britain and the US are still facing the very real threat of a large-scale terrorist attack.

I studied at Oxford just before the London incident and my focus there was anti-terrorism. Oxford is a quiet town in England, and I heard a lot of different voices there. I often saw people protesting against the government's anti-terrorism policy; in bookstores there were many anti-war books on the shelves. Many of the local papers also criticized US and British anti-terrorism policy. There are plans for large-scale demonstrations next month.

Many western scholars and civilians believe there are problems with their countries' current anti-terrorism policies. It would seem though that the scholars that influence policy-makers disagree.

Before I returned to China, I participated in a lecture on international cooperation on anti-terrorism, with other influential scholars. Talking about the current situation, I said that western policies were not realistic, and that their current strategy �C attempting to defeat terrorism with military force and technology-- could in fact drive terrorists to take further action.

Western scholars disagreed with my point of view. They believe that only military force and technology are direct and powerful enough to defeat terrorism. I wonder why they don't reflect on the fact that terrorism targets particular countries, western countries, although the affects of the attacks are never limited to the country in which they take place. What's the fundamental cause of terrorism? How can we effectively fight terrorism?

Hegemony breeds terrorism
Terrorism has in fact existed for thousands of years, although it never constituted any great threat. Before 2001, terrorism was not emphasized. Now terrorists have become the enemy of the whole world.

An English saying goes that there is hostility only among enemies. In Britain, a Muslim friend told me that a relative of his was killed by US troops in Iraq a few months ago. They were told he was killed primarily because he shared his first name with Osama bin Laden. When the news reached the family, the man's relatives became angry and some vowed to avenge the Americans.

In recent years, the US has favored a policy of unilateral hegemony and has been shown to have double standards in international affairs. It has referred to some countries as 'rogue' or 'failed' countries. What do people in those countries think of America?

Hegemony and terrorism are twinned. Hegemony has created its own enemy and fallen into its own trap. It goes against the basic principle of tolerance and resists real communication and reconciliation between civilizations. It doesn't treat small or weak countries equally, nor does it facilitate the necessary justice in the international community or help backward countries to develop their economies. In fact, it helps to breed terrorism.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration hasn't yet realized this. President George W. Bush, commenting on the latest terrorist plot in Britain said, "America is still at a war with Islamic fascists." The US tends to treat the behavior of a small number of people as representative of an entire nation, and this is demonstrated by their attacks on Afghanistan and their invasion of Iraq. Bush taints religion with terrorism; by referring to 'Islamic fascists', he has pitted the entire Islamic world against the US. What is the logic behind this? Now that 'home-grown' terrorists are appearing in Britain, will America bomb them too?

Terrorist groups are becoming extremely well-disciplined organizations and are expanding with the support of advanced technology. Terrorists also make good use of the media to spread their message and maximize fear. In such a situation, military and strategic attacks on terrorism can only be effective for a short time. In the long run, terrorists will catch up with technology, and it is highly unlikely that this form of attack will ever be enough to wipe them out.

The nature of terrorism is that there is a strong ideology behind it. It is difficult to resolve ideological problems with a technical approach. Ancient Chinese military philosophy advocates 'reason' as the most preferable way to change an opponent's mind. If this can be done, it is unnecessary to fight, yet still possible to defeat the other. The US needs to change its strategy in the Middle East; at the moment it is only finding new rivals, creating more hostility and building unfair policies. Instead it should promote reconciliation, tolerance and equality between civilizations. It should adopt some anti-terrorism measures against individual terrorists but must avoid targeting an entire nation or ethnic group to gradually reduce hatred and conflict. If this can be done, their will be no environment in which terrorists can grow and flourish. The time is right for the US to reflect on its anti-terrorism strategy.

The article is written by Qi Yunhong, a scholar of international affairs for Global Times and translated by People's Daily Online

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