Brenda Cooper

On Terrorism

I’m not very happy to be addressing Terrorism on Thanksgiving.  But I spent part of yesterday near the Internet and TV, watching the horrible events in Mumbai.   I’d like to reflect a little on the way the Clinton administration handled terrorism vs. the way we’ve handled it under Bush.  What I’ve got to say is going to sound simplistic, but sometimes boiling a problem to its bones is a good thing.

Clinton’s administration saw the first World Trade Center bombing, attacks on our embassies in multiple countries, and the attack on the USS Cole.  I don’t know what he may or may not have done to strengthen our security or to act via undercover operations against these threats, but anecdotal evidence suggests he did do some of both.  He didn’t start a traditional ground war against the guerrilla tactics of terrorism.  He didn’t give the terrorists a lot of press.  Clinton didn’t beat terrorism, but it also didn’t seem to get significantly worse on his watch.  Our rights didn’t erode.  We largely managed to maintain the high ground as a compassionate and brave country.

Bush had to deal with 911 on his watch.  Worse, by far, than anything Clinton had to deal with.  His reaction was to create the War on Terror using traditional warfare methods.  He gave the terrorists a ton of press and used terrorism to manage a fear-based campaign against our rights here.  Our borders do appear to have been strengthened, but terrorism as a whole has grown. 

Neither was wholly right or had complete knowledge, but Clinton had the better approach.

My belief:

  • Terrorists want attention.  Going to war with them gives them exactly what they want.
  • Terrorists want to scare us into giving them what they want (which is often unclear, but usually associated with male dominance, right wing religious beliefs, and a desire that things go back to some idyllic past that never existed in the first place).  The worst reaction we can have to a terrorist attack is to be afraid.
  • Poverty, fear, and lack of education breed terrorists.  Lack of hope breeds terrorists. 

I’m betting the incoming administration will bring more hope to the world.  If we’re lucky, it will also bring more equity, more education, and more freedom to both the US and the rest of the world.  Let’s hope Obama focuses on the best things about being American, and helps us all be brave enough to teach terrorists there are better choices, and better outcomes. Lets be an example.

Let’s be a country the world will be thankful for.

Related posts:

Terrorism: A Call to Positive Action