9/11 an­niver­sary:

Why ter­ror­ism per­sists

The Week (US) - - 16 News -

Six­teen years af­ter the cat­a­clysmic events of 9/11, it’s time to “take stock of where we stand,” said Tom Ni­chols in TheHill.com. Have we “faced down the threat” from Is­lamist ter­ror­ism? Or have we “sur­ren­dered to it, per­haps in ways we don’t even un­der­stand?” Osama bin Laden knew in 2001 he could never “de­feat us by force.” The al Qaida leader wanted to “bait us into de­feat­ing our­selves”—to make us “aban­don our val­ues and lash out in ways that would make the rest of the world turn against us.” Well, mis­sion ac­com­plished. More than a decade and a half later, Amer­i­cans re­main ir­ra­tionally “ob­sessed” with ter­ror­ism, de­spite our suc­cess in lim­it­ing its toll. We’ve spent tens of bil­lions build­ing “a new na­tional se­cu­rity state,” ac­cepted mas­sive in­fringe­ments on our pri­vacy and civil rights, and com­pro­mised many of the coun­try’s defin­ing prin­ci­ples— all in the quest for an “ab­so­lute se­cu­rity” that isn’t pos­si­ble.

The threat of Is­lamist ter­ror­ism may not be fully ex­tin­guished in our life­times, said Robin Wright in NewYorker.com. In the past, ter­ror­ist groups such as FARC and the IRA ended up “ne­go­ti­at­ing to achieve their po­lit­i­cal goals.” Other ter­ror­ist groups were crushed by the state in which they op­er­ated, or fell apart when their leader was killed. But the same won’t hap­pen to ISIS, al Qaida, or the Tal­iban. Their ide­olo­gies are com­pletely at odds with Western val­ues, mak­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions next to im­pos­si­ble, and they’re too scat­tered and re­silient to be erased with bat­tle­field vic­to­ries. Un­for­tu­nately, tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances are mak­ing ter­ror­ism eas­ier, said Daveed Garten­stein-Ross in Fortune.com. ISIS reached mil­lions of po­ten­tial re­cruits on so­cial me­dia with “slick and ef­fec­tive pro­pa­ganda.” Ex­trem­ists can now groom ji­hadists on­line with­out ever meet­ing them.

Per­haps the most danger­ous de­vel­op­ment, said for­mer FBI ter­ror­ism spe­cial­ist Ali So­ufan in The At­lantic.com, is the Is­lam­o­pho­bia that’s taken root in the U.S., in­clud­ing in the cur­rent White House. It would de­light bin Laden and his acolytes, who hoped to turn Amer­i­cans against Mus­lims. He’d also be happy with the “deep di­vi­sions plagu­ing Amer­i­can so­ci­ety,” which make us weaker and more vul­ner­a­ble. Mean­while, Is­lamist ter­ror­ism re­tains its “toxic po­tency,” and myr­iad ex­trem­ist groups have sprung up in such failed na­tions as Syria, Ye­men, Libya, and Afghanistan. This is likely to be a gen­er­a­tional war; to win it, our ideas and val­ues must be stronger than our en­emy’s.

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