In this day and age, various methods for the war on terrorism have been suggested: Strengthening state security, putting greater military pressure on terrorist organisations, choking off the funds of terror organisations and making political agreements with these organisations. States mostly adopt the first three methods and seek a settlement with terror organisations when the first three methods don’t work.
In order to reinforce and increase the security of the state, the state monitors and strictly examines financial transactions, spies on mass communication systems, and imposes restrictions on freedom to travel during states of alerts.
Customs controls and the number of security guards in airports and at border gates are increased and security controls are performed more frequently with more powerful and more expensive detectors. All of these will not only increase costs, but also burden the economy unnecessarily by decreasing the volume of transactions. Since the September 11 attacks, research has shown that the cost of added security and monitoring systems has increased between O.5-3%, adversely affecting the economy.
The precautions against terrorism can also cause a greater threat perception than what it really is. As a result of increased precautions and more fear, people psychologically may begin to lose confidence, and lack of consumer confidence can lead to delayed investments and purchases, further exacerbating an already difficult economy.
Furthermore most of these precautions and restrictions are not sufficient to solve the problems, and temporary restrictions on civil freedoms often become permanent constructs of the civil societies and their legal systems. For example, pursuant to the precautions taken for the war on terrorism in England, the security forces are allowed to detain terror suspects without a criminal charge for 28 days. In 2001, in accordance with the Nationality Law in the US, it was allowed to detain immigrants indefinitely.
All these steps taken in the name of preventing terrorism are gradually expanding the power of the governments by restricting personal liberty. Legal procedures and rights can and often times are violated. One of the best examples are the facts relating to Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba is excluded from the jurisdiction of the US Supreme Court. According to the European Convention on Human Rights, the suspects held at Guantanamo Bay do not have any legal rights, and they have been subject to maltreatment and torture.
As it is understood from the examples above, the steps taken for strengthening the security of the state in the name of the war on terror endanger liberal-democratic freedoms. In many democratic states, the balance which must be kept between freedom and security is often times disrupted by the state. Decisions made to try and reduce the threat of terror lead not only to unintended consequences but also result in opposite outcomes. For example when violence is used through military options, extremists are able to recruit more people to participate in terrorist activities. Violence begets violence.
Often times it is also the goal of terrorist organisations to elicit exaggerated responses by governments, prompting governments to behave in such a way as to create a sense of panic amongst the public at large. For this reason, the precautions taken in the name of the war on terror mostly enable terrorists to achieve their goals more easily.
Military intervention is the most popular and common method used against terrorism. It is impossible to say that this method works. For example, In 1998 the US carried out intensive attacks on targets in Afghanistan and although Taliban were affected negatively, over time they withdrew their forces over the Pakistan border and regrouped and became effective there. In spite of all the operations against it, today Al Qaeda has the capacity for staging activities in Africa and the Middle East.
In military operations against terrorists, it is often difficult to make a distinction between civilians and terrorists, which ultimately brings about the loss of many innocent lives. This causes the operations to have results contrary to what is desired. The fact that the operations of the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen caused the deaths of large numbers of civilians has raised anti-Americanism to the highest level in those regions.
The option to make political agreements is also a dead-end. Negotiation between states and terrorist organisations is considered as a moral retreat and departure for the state from having faith in its own system to achieve the necessary results. It also legitimises these organisations, increasing their support and making them more powerful. Political agreements can often put the state at risk of being divided, leading to less sovereignty.
Each negotiation encourages a terrorist organisation in other places around the world and leads to further widespread terrorism.
Besides, extremist groups like IS or Al Qaeda that base their support on the extreme interpretation of religion doctrine are impossible to stop using political methods. Thus far there hasn’t been a model developed using political methods to stop terrorism or to stop terrorists in their aim from trying to abolish liberal-democratic foundations and principles.
Political demands of these organisations are not limited to a particular area like those of the IRA or ETA. They offer a model based on a totalitarian ideology and aim at bringing an end to democracy and a lifestyle based on western-type freedoms. Therefore, it is not technically possible to carry out a negotiation process which can dissuade them by making concessions.
Many countries, particularly the US, are trying to combat terrorism by using methods which are ineffective. This situation makes it compulsory for the world to find a more rational method of struggle, one that is not based on violence. This method is education of a counter ideology.
Adnan Oktar's piece in Gulf Times: