John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute is one of Canada's foremost experts on the threat of terrorism
In a recent MacKenzie Institute newsletter, Thompson outlines the fundamentals of this threat:
1. Terrorism is as terrorism does. Terrorism is not radicalism or protest; nor are terrorists ‘soldiers’ – they are thugs on the make. The characteristics of terrorism involve deceit, concealment and violent atrocity in pursuit of an abstract agenda. They only seek to tear down. Building up is not something that they are focused on except in the most general ‘after I win everything will be better’ sense.
2. Remember that terrorists lie to themselves. So why expect them to be truthful to the rest of us? Terrorists allow themselves to become caught in an artificial worldview, convince themselves that their violent actions are for the purest of motives, and believe that they are heroic figures and agents of destiny. The longer they stay in their group, the more real these self-deceptions become and the more unlikely it is that they will ever abandon their course. One should then also remember that:
(a) What terrorists say they want and what they really want can be very different. The political demand is often only the excuse for their actions; their primary motive is always based on an interior psychological terrain.
(b) Sometimes an offer to talk is not worth accepting. Young groups hold you in contempt and view any negotiation as a short term ploy; old terrorist groups (like the Basque ETA or Tamil Tigers) simply cannot give up the conflict which has become the sole meaning of their lives.
3. There are no root causes, okay? If somebody is talking about root causes, you can
automatically dismiss their viewpoint as being unhelpful (at least). Terrorism always involves choice. Terrorists always deliberately select to identify with an ideology that lets them act out in the way that they chose to. Carlos the Jackal, Yasser Arafat and Bin Laden each could have been anything they wanted to be, but they each chose to be a terrorist.
4. The terrorist’s first victims are his own people. If you think taking measures against al Qaeda is disrespectful to Muslims, think again. Jihadists have killed far more Muslims in the last 20 years than the United States and Israel combined. Then add American and other Western emergency aid and interventions that have saved Muslim lives to the total. How many Muslims has al Qaeda saved from famine and want?
5. The terrorist’s claims of leadership are always suspect. If a terrorist is claiming to be speaking for an entire people, it’s usually because he silenced the moderate leaders among them. Terrorists want to lead societies and don’t want compromise – the first killing by the leader of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers was of a federalist Tamil politician… and they’re still being murdered there.
6. We are the good guys. Terrorists are not. If you don’t understand this yet, you may be afflicted with “Fuzzy-Thinkingitis” a common problem in the Post Modernist environment where no values are concrete, context is irrelevant and all opinions are to be regarded as being equal. Please restrain yourself from public commentary in order to protect others from your condition.
7. Self-Defence is not immoral. If a terrorist thinks it is worth his while to attack you, surely it is worth your while to defend yourself? The terrorist thinks passivity is weakness and holds it in contempt, and despises tolerance except when using it as a shield. There is no real hope of political negotiation, so you might as well look to your defences.
8. Their idea of peace is not your idea of peace. This is especially true with the Jihadis – for them peace can only come when the whole world is under the rule of a restored Caliphate (which, frankly, will spell an end to human progress).
9. We can’t protect everything all the time; make your choices carefully. Terrorists will always get through somehow, and the cost of greater protection comes with a very steep price-tag. We can only expect so much of our police and security without turning into a totalitarian state, so think carefully about what you ask for. However, we can spend more than we have been and Canada’s new anti-terror laws are a reasonable response.
10. The terrorist wants you to feel afraid and helpless. Here is how you fight back against terrorism – refuse to be terrorized. Live as normally as you can. Don’t fear the abstract threat but respect the real one (e.g. go touring in Europe but don’t go backpacking in northwestern Pakistan). If and when your city gets hit, make a visible show of resolute calm.