Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mind Over Martyr

The title for this blog comes from Jessica Stern’s article of the same name that appeared in Foreign Affairs January-February 2010. While I’m unprepared to discuss the successes and failures of de-radicalization programs she describes, I think the central points she makes about countering terrorism are on quite sound footing. No military will ever kill their way to victory because the ideas themselves never exactly die. What we can do is identify is what makes someone more likely to be attracted to these radical terrorist ideas and take steps to correct these societal imbalances.

The picture of a terrorist painted by Stern is an immigrant who moved to the West in search of a better life. Instead of that better life, they are relegated to the most menial jobs and that’s even if they find a job, they feel like and are often marked as outsiders or others within their new community and perhaps discriminated against. Others have expierianced serious psychological trauma and humiliation…highlighted by the Palestinians who feeling humiliated and degraded by a lifetime of Israeli occupation turn into suicide bombers to reclaim some power, even in death.

In order to combat these problems, we need to increase our programs of integration for new immigrants to America, provide better job opportunities, and just in general make them feel welcome. Terrorist ideologies thrive among the isolated and those largely ignorant of religion. We have to fight this war on two fronts: one a military front…the other a domestic preventative front, if we fail in either arena, than the War on Terror will become about as successful as the War on Drugs.

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