Archive for the ‘terrorism’ Category

Terrorism: their and our

May 21, 2017

Instead of writing a final word on terrorism of today, I am trying to define the problem and discuss a possible way out. I leave “celebrity” terrorism aside since that is a different problem.

By terrorism I mean here attacks on civilians. In the middle east Muslims are attacked by Islamists and by Western (including russian and japanese) forces of ”law and order”. In parts of the middle east Muslims are killed as part of a civil war between sunni and shia and as part of resistance against western aggression. The West is there to protect access to raw materials and to prevent religious fanatics, instead of Western corporations, from controlling the region.  Both parties are killing innocent Muslim civilians.In other words a perfect whirlpool of mixed motives:

I don’t intend to give a complete rundown of terrorist activities or discuss the rights and wrongs of the situation. The main point is that civilians are being killed as a routine matter.

The difference is that Muslim fanatics are killing other Muslims to assert their power. The Western forces of “law and order” are killing Muslims because they simply don’t care. It is clear that in crowded cities and in firefights there is no automatic immunity for civilians, but weddings and funerals are bombed, schools and hospitals are attacked without anyone held responsible. Western state terrorists are not targeting Muslim civilians; they simply do not care. To the inhabitants of these areas the difference, between the two parties, is irrelevant. Dead is dead.

Considering the historical lessons of successful antiterrorist actions, I will outline a policy. When actions against terrorism have been successful (the British against IRA for exemple) this has been based on legality. This does not mean that brute force and extermination have not also been successful. But the cost to the host society and the incompleteness of the results has made this a very chancy proposition in a world where nuclear weapons are getting cheaper, more portable and finding disturbed fanatics to carry them easier all the time.

Legality has the following parts.

  1. A clear dividing line between legal and illegal activities
  2. Those that are innocent are generally acquitted
  3. No punishment greater than the crime committed
  4. Members of military and paramilitary forces of “law and order” who have gone over the line are put on trial

The first time any officer is put on trial for “carelessness” resulting in civilian casualties will be  the el alamein of the fight against terrorism.

The first time any officer will be charged in an international court for the breach of point 4 will be the D-day of counterterrorism.

Legality is the first element but there is another element which the terrorists completely lack. The second element is kindness, which can be shown in many ways. Here is how you can think of kindness in today’s world, even if I hope you will find a better way. Apart of the manipulators, most terrorists are not very well acquainted with the Koran and its meaning.  One suggestion is that captured terrorists on the fringes of atrocities will serve their prison sentence building a mosque and their evenings studying Koran under a moderate mulla. The purpose of the studies is not to convert them but leave them informed.

The conflict between the muslim world and the west won’t be solved by violence.



Fight the extremists, not the Talibans.

August 15, 2009


Let us imagine the following. Due to some serious terrorist actions, foreign troops are forced to invade the US. Which then would lead to the least  casualties among invaders as well as US civilians: Attacking the “moral majority” or attacking the extremists groups?


If the invaders  limit themselves to attacks on extremists or interfering , in addition, with the court system.


Bringing in foreign aid workers and businessmen of the same nationality as the major invading forces or limiting the presence of foreign civilians to the minimum as much as possible.


Please keep this scenario in mind while we discuss the following questions.


First – why is the West in Afghanistan at all?  What are Western war aims? Or to put it differently, in what way does Western presence in Afghanistan make sense?


Second-What is the situation in Afghanistan?


Third- What is the nature of the Western Presence in Afghanistan?


Fourth-What makes the Western Presence unnecessarily disruptive in Afghanistan, supporting the extremists and causing avoidable damage to civilians and to the Western forces.


Fifth – How should the Western Forces react to the different factors in Afghanistan?




A.     Why is the West in Afghanistan at all? What are the Western war aims? Or to put it differently: is there any way that the Western presence in Afghanistan makes sense?


The drug trade, denial of women’s rights, the establishment of the Muslim laws  called the sharia, oppression of citizens. All these occur, more or less, in countries without any Western military presence and often allied with the West.


How is Afghanistan different?


a.      It has a government which does not control its own territory or even its own bureacracy (the closest comparison is former South Vietnam)

b.      The risk of an extremist takeover (not a Taliban-they are already there) is great.

c.       In addition the government itself is in danger of being taken over by drug dealers and turning into a narco state.


The West is there to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a global danger by being a safe shelter for global terrorists. But the ones paying the price for global security are the Afghan people.


Therefore the only Western war aim that makes  any sense is to prevent the extremists from gaining control of Afghan territory.


B. What is the situation in Afghanistan?


Think of a series of dials. A big one for Afghanistan as a whole. Smaller ones for each province.  At the far left of each dial are the extremists (10%), next we have the very conservative and devout rural and small town population(40%),  then rightward we have the ones just trying to make a living and and getting along with the power that be, tolerating Western benefits  with (health care  and  women’s schools) and Western habits (rock, Western movies, Western dress) in various degrees the more you move rightward(30%). Then you have the Western modernizers who fully accept Western ideals (10%). Finally you have the drug dealers, war lords and gangsters at the far right (10%).Don’t get caught in the percentages – they are approximate and change as the needle moves. The needle is the current situation in Afghanistan based on what people think, how they act, and how the local leadership changes.


This means that it is not only  possible but necessary to negotiate with local Taliban leaders.  Depending on the position of the needle ,  the treaties will hold or not. However if they are broken  then it is back to the negotiating table again. Outrage will not solve anything but perseverance will give a breathing spell for ordinary Afghans to get on with their lives and  join to improve their society. It is this civil action that is the hope of Afghanistan.



        C.  What is the nature of the Western presence in Afghanistan?


The Western presence is that of foreign invaders with an alien culture whom the Afghan people did not ask  to intervene. The extremists are nearly all Afghans, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. That is the great advantage that they have.

On the other hand the extremists are fanatics who push the envelope till it pops.

The  great advantage of the Western forces is that the extremists run their territories so badly that even Western invaders are tolerated. Until the West in turn screws up so badly that the needle swings back again.  It  is important to note that the West is now engaged in a ground war in Asia, something which one Western general after another has warned against from General Eisenhower on down.


   D.      What makes the Western presence unnecessarily disruptive in           Afghanistan and and plays into the hands of the extremists?


i.                    Carpetbaggers.


These can be put under the following headings. Businessmen trying to exploit the weakness and corruption of the Afghan government to make money.

“Idealists?” claiming to help but in reality trying to impose their private agenda on the Afghans using the Western military presence and Afghan economic weakness.


What is the price in wayside bombs and bullets in the dark that justifies the presence of these?


I propose that nationals from the major contingents serving in Afghanistan (with the exception of journalists) be barred. Martyred Afghanistan is not to be a playground for economic and ideological hustlers. As for the citizens from smaller countries, their presence ought to be discouraged unless the Afghan government insists on their presence. Even their    help costs too much in paving the way for local extremists.


ii.                  Atrocities


On the face of it there is a military necessity for air attacks and artillery fire where civilians and their livelihod are at risk.  And there are no risks to the ones ordering it– charge it to the taxpayer. The risks are borne by the men in the field who are the targets of those avenging their martyred dead.


I propose the following, either separately or in combination for a trial period of six months:


a.  Air attacks and artillery fire as usual but a reduction of one pay grade for the officer ordering it.


b.  An board of inquiry for every such event, evaluating the necessity, the effect and eventual errors.


As it is now, bombing the wrong village or for inadequate reasons is written off as a mishap and these mishaps keep happening because there is no interest in correcting them.


                     If after 6 months (or earlier if there is a sharp casualty rise due to these restrictions)  there  is no increase in military casualties traced to these restrictions then they should remain.


       E.   How to minimize Western distruption of life in Afghanistan?


                a. Compensation for loss of life and property   



Any loss of life or property (read livelihood and shelter) due to Western military action should be compensated in a way that puts the money into the hands of the sufferers and not parcelled out through a corrupt bureaucracy.

That extremists use the civilian population as shields is totally irrelevant. They are Afghans, the Westerners are invaders and the extremists would not use the civilians as shields if the Westerners weren’t attacking them. (OK this means that the extremists are literally getting away with murder, but that is not the point.)The point is the reaction of the victims and their neighbors (see section B )


  b.  Establish an agricultural support program.


            It is important that this does not interfere with normal market procedures. That   is a matter for the Afghans. The program should be confined to compensating for floods and storms on the one hand and providing affordable (not genetic modified)  seeds for the nexts season’s planting, on the other. Unfamiliar crops for which there is a local demand could also be financed this way.  It is important that this should not go through the Afghan bureaucracy.  A benchmark should be set up for when the program should be phased out, otherwise it will always be “needed”.


c.  A pension plan for seniors who survived the Sovjet invasion


                    For many years the Afghans fought the Soviets. Their resistance was one of the major reasons for the fall of the Sovjet empire. Most of the survivors have died of privations or from the subsequent unrest.


   I suggest: That the West pays a modest monthly pension to Afghan senior citizens in those districts that have a functioning girl’s school and women’s medical clinic. That the payment gets into the hands of the poverty stricken population and not sticking to somebody’s palm. 


To sum up: Resist the extremists, negotiate with the local Talibans time and time again, limit  the carpetbaggers, cooperate with the government at arm’s length, and prepare a sensible exit strategy for Afghanistan.      




Armistice between Israel and Palestine

February 1, 2009

This continues: Time to leave the merrygoround of violence in the Middle East

There are some major issues arising from the armistice proposal which have to be addressed, even though not part of the proposed agreement itself.

a. Limitations on sovereignty

The Proposed agreement will leave the Palestinians with the West Bank, cleared of Israeli settlements, without the Gaza Strip, but with the addition of areas from Israel of almost exclusively Palestinian composition. The question of Jerusalem will probably have to await a peace treaty which could not reasonably be negotiated earlier than 5 years after an essentially continual armistice.

A fully independent Palestinian state may be possible for a short while. But with hostile actions emanating from Israel in retaliation for attacks from Palestinian territory which such a state could not possibly control, barring a general Middle Eastern peace treaty, there would be only 2 outcomes: a total breakdown of the armistice or a puppet government.

On the other hand a sovereign Palestinian nation with state sovereignity, limited by Israeli security concerns,  is fully possible, but only with far reaching  Israeli concessions in return.

What would this involve?

Israeli troops and customs checks at the borders of Palestine as at present. Nothing stronger than small arms in the hands of Palestinians. Israeli incursions in case of hostile actions of gravity.

b.  Advantages for Palestine of such limitations for the duration of the armistice.

I want to emphasize here that none of these advantages  that follow outweighs the limitations on sovereignity but may make them endurable if joined to suitable compensation while Palestine builds its own nation.

1 The entire government budget will be devoted to civilian needs. As a bonus, an armed coup will be much more difficult.

2 The government will be less liable to come into armed conflict with its own citizens or with fellow arabs, some of which would even be of Palestinian descent.

3 This however is not enough, if it is to be endurable, there has to be some compensatory limitation on Israeli sovereignty, which does not affect Israels security and other security neutral concessions as well.

What follows is not intended to be a realistic proposal but an exampel showing how to think about these matters.

1 Palestinian officials in Israel

Israel gives Palestine a monopoly on package tours of the IP area and considers breach of this as a threat to the armistice and state security. While having control of its own customs, Israel trains and pays for customs officers who are Palestinian nationals  at all access points, even Israeli airports and harbors. These officers will function more as travel agents than as customs officials. So among the first faces that a visitor to IP meets, will be Palestinian government officials bearing Palestinian national insignia.

2 Payment for damage

Violent actions from Palestine territory directed against Israel, will continue after the armistice for reasons noted in the main proposal. If the armistice is to be successful it cannot be a shield for such actions. This means that Israeli retaliations may continue. It is necessary therefore, if the armistice is to hold,  for Israel to agree to a neutral assessment of damage and compensation for non terrorist lives and property. This cannot be a part of the armistice agreement proper as it would imply that Palestine permits such retaliation. It should be a unilateral action by Israel as a consequence of such retaliations.

3 Generosity

When an armistice is signed, it is important that Israel as the more powerful of the signatories interprets the provisions as generously as possible, within the security limitations involved. The armistice is only the first step to the ending of this unfortunate conflict and it would be ridiculous to expend all this time and effort and have it fail due to petty execution or rigid interpretation.

4 Return of senior citizens

As an exemple of generosity is the return to Israel of senior citizens who are Palestinian nationals. Even with a peace treaty, it is an illusionto believe that Israel will ever consent to a “law of return” for Palestine, similar to the one applying to those of Jewish origin. However both as a gesture of good will and to relieve the Palestiniabn budget, a sizable number of such senior citizens should be permitted to settle in Israel. The number depending on the ebb and flow of economic conditions in Israel.

5 Economic support

If the two nations were at peace and a natural calamity would affect one of them, wouldn’t the other be a good neighbor and help the stricken one. It is useful to consider the long conflict as such a calamity which has weighed more heavily on Palestine than on Israel. On the other hand Israel would not be prepared to transfer funds which wind up in armaments or an offshore bank account. As an example: two wasys which would be difficult to divert improperly would be a certain percentage of the difference of percapita income between the two nations to be paid directly as a pension supplement and children’s allowances for the first 3 children.

c  Restrictions on the IP

1. No Palestinian nationals working in Israel.

The use of an external workforce from Palestine will in itself strain the armistice as much as to make it useless. A large group of people taking the worst jobs, confronting the greater prosperity of Israel each day and subject to Israeli culture is an unnecessary source of great conflict. Until both Israel and Palestine separately consider that the conflict is resolved (which would need a peace treaty at the very least) they should be kept apart.

2  The Wall – its armistice context

The wall was build to protect Israeli territory. Its section on the West Bank must be torn down before the armistice is signed. Neither part has yet reason enough to trust the promises of the other part. However I submit that it should be rebuilt on Israeli territory and only torn down there as the consequence of a peace treaty. Its function is to protect the security of Israel and  the independent development of the nation of Palestine.

Let us consider the situation of Palestine, After decades of struggle what of the Palestine of peace that the armistice would enable? How will it develop into a nation with its own ways, goals and destiny without being smothered by Israel and constantly having Israelis of Jewish and Palestinian origin as role models? It is bad enough that Palestine is under the Israeli media umbrella. To build itself as a nation it needs a period of benign neglect on the part of Israel.

Internationally it is a different matter. Neither carries enough weight by itself but together, with their joint history, they can mean something.

The above shows some of the consequences of an armistice and how they could be met.

The real solutions are of course a matter for direct negotiation.

Time to leave the merrygoround of violence in the middle east

February 1, 2009

a. Let the democratic majorities decide

Today it takes just a few persons to block any peace efforts in the IP (Israel Palestine area) regardless of the will of any democratically elected government or even any government with popular support. Only some Kalashnikovs or semtex   or rockets are needed.

The area is victimized by a culture of violence. Automatic reprisals from either side only fortifies this situation. Deciding who is to blame is like quenching a fire with gasoline.

Is it possible to put the brakes on this development? With a more realistic perception of the conflict and the real issues at stake, supported by an attainable change in mindset, this can be done.

What realistic perception? That all actions that the IPs engage in are distorted by 60 years of conflict. As little as 5 years of a continual armistice will give a completely new perspective on the issues. The problem is to anticipate this new perspective.

What are the real issues? For the Palestinians whether it is more important to develop their own state which cares for its citizens or to kill Jews. For the Israelis whether a Palestinian State is a threat or an opportunity.

What is the necessary mindset? It is that attacks are felt by the IPs as a threat to their basic and separate national goals. The minimum to translate this attitude into policy is an  armistice agreement.

Is it possible to imagine such an agreement? I present here one of many possible versions to show that is possible to think realistically along these lines. I want to stress that it is not the content in itself that is important but the thinking behind it. All too many supporters on either side are caught on the merry go round. It is time to get off and look around.

b. A sketch for an armistice plan in the IP area

Step 1. The Gaza Strip is turned over to Israel and its residents are offered housing and startup capital in Palestine.

Comment: The thought here as in the following step is that an area has not the identical value for Israel and Palestine.

For Palestine the Gaza Strip is a disaster, surrounded and separated by Israel, where Palestinian citizens live in squalor and without hope. For Israel, the gain would be a unified territory up to the Egyptian border and one border less to police.

Step 2: One or more Israeli areas with mainly Palestinian population are incorporated in the Palestinian state.

Comment: It is obvious that Palestine will not turn over the Gaza Strip without gaining something as valuable to them. The areas in question are however more valuable to Israel sq meter for sq meter than for the  Palestine. No Israeli government would turn over land on a 1 to 1 basis and on the other hand no Palestinian government would agree to exchange 10 of the strip to 1 of Israeli territory no matter how many of Palestinian origin live there. Here lies the central basis for negotiation.

But these two steps are only the foundation for armistice negotiations.

Step 3. The settlers are offered resettlement funds and compensation. The armistice is in force first when almost all the settlers have left Palestinian territory and almost all Palestinians have left the Gaza Strip.

Comment: The whole armiostice plan builds on the thought that the IPs have a furture where the main obstacle is the present culture of violence. The Palestinians, quite reasonably, refuse to be treated as “natives” with the end result a reservation (like the Gaza Strip as a matter of fact). The Intifada and the suicide bombings are a desperate substitute for the jets the Palestinians lack. But the armistice plan offers the Palestinians increased security and an increased number of their citizens in a Palestinian homeland. It offers the Israelis increased security and clearer borders. For the settlers an honorable retreat (after all the Strip has to be settled) to the advantage of Israel.

Step 4.  The world community foots most of the bill.

Comment: It is obvious that IP cannot pay for everything out of their own resources. The outside world will have foot a large part of the bill. The world community must weigh the costs for their part of compensation to settlers and Gaza residents against the political and economic costs of the present conflict. Above  all the political costs of fortifying terrorism as a way of life on both sides of the border.

Step 5. The world community must receive a return on their investment.

Comment: Nobody can guarantee a future free from violence. However a violent future is guaranteed as long as torture is not forbidden by IP constitutions or corresponding instruments and as long as the foundations for ethnic cleansing are laid in the schoolbooks. It would simply mean that the world community would be financing continued and increasing violence and violations of human dignity and rights.

Therefore, as a minimum: Torture is forbidden in the constitutional instruments in IP with full transparency for the world community in the implementation of this. b. Until a peace treaty is signed (an utopian step at present) all school books up through gymnasium or high school must be approved by a suitable UN organ.

c. The bitter reality

Violence within IP can decline if there is a reason to rethink the situation but it will take a long time before it disappears completely. Today suicide bombers and state terrorists are heroes because they can brainwash not only themselves but their countrymen into thinking that their actions are necessary for the survival of their people. With an armistice agreement, negotiated by the IP, where both parties trade something worthwhile for something even more essential, the men of violence become a threat to the national goals and existence of the IPs. That means that terrorists are changed from popular heroes into outcasts. This is as obvious to them as to everybody else. Therefore an immediate increase of violence during negotiations and immediately afterwards in order to sabotage any armistice agreement. The members of the larger organized groups, however, have an incentive to gain power by spending their efforts in shaping the future of IP by peaceful means. The smaller groups can only continue with the only thing they know – the murder of innocents. Can the IP citizens put love of country and a will to build their own future ahead of their anger? Or will they let a few extremists among both nations determine their future?This and a perceptive and determined leadership from their politicians is necessary to marginalize these few and leave the merrygoround for good.