Without passion, Louise Richardson presents a factual and in-depth study of what makes terrorists and terrorism exist. Unlike a great many pundits who think they know what terrorism is, this author speaks with authority.
First of all, she contends that you cannot have a war on terror. To her, it is a war on a tactic, a fear that is a war on an emotion. She insists that you cannot wage a war on either. As long as anyone can commit a terrorist act, it debunks any contention that such a war is being won.
The author declares that terrorists seek three essential elements to their acts: revenge, renown, and reaction. In the destruction of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA, they achieved all three. Richardson explains that all terrorists and their organizations seek revenge for a humiliation or defeats real, imagined, and unknown to us. By declaring a "War on Terrorism and al-Qaeda we provided them with renown. By pursuing a war in Afghanistan and Iraq and by giving them Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo we gave them a reaction beyond their wildest dreams. "by using the extreme language of conviction that bin Laden uses, by declaring war, even a crusade, against him in response to his war against us, we are mirroring his actions. We are playing into his hands...elevating his stature...permitting him to set the terms of our interactions."
For terrorism to succeed, terrorists require personal dissatisfaction, an enabling society and legitimizing ideology. Their personal dissatisfaction comes from our support of Israel beating them time and again with US built weapons, killing of their civilians, and occupation of their lands. According to Richardson, being the only superpower and having the most influence in the world, also incurs their enmity. The author claims that terrorism are always acts of weaker or inferior forces upon a larger, stronger one. An enabling society is one that provides sanctuary to them, and sees them as heroes. In fact, they cannot succeed without this key ingredient. Their belief that they are doing the right thing or God's will is the ideology.
The author does provide a blueprint for defeating or disabling terrorism in a way we have overlooked so far. Talks with terrorists directly or through intermediaries provides us with something we have lacked so far--information about the opposition. We must deny terrorists the support of an enabling society by gaining that society's trust and belief in our cause. She claims that in a democracy it is especially important to maintain our own liberties. Declaring American citizens as enemy combatants, spying by Americans on Americans, creating a Patriot Act, calling unsupportive Americans traitors, plays right into the terrorists' hands, and gives them a victory. She makes it clear that such restrictions do not provide addtional security, and that such temporary security measures tend to become permanent.
Richardson never comes across as a terrorist sympathizer or a neo con zealot. Her arguments are based on in-depth research, interviews and a voluminous collection of data. She has evaluated our actions against her extensive knowledge of the topic. Our actions provided sufficient reason for critiquing our response to terrorism. The reader can only come to the conclusion that the Bush administration has tried to douse the fire of terrorism with kerosene.
After reading this it may make you wish that someone had consulted her on 9/12 or earlier. She would have provided in-depth answers that would have been more profound than, "They hate us because they hate our freedoms." There's one more thing Richardson makes clear: we must learn that democracy cannot be imposed from without, and elections do not constitute democracy--a lesson this past administration has obviously failed to learn.