How Do We Stop Terrorism?

Terrorism is usually defined as, “A person or organization that uses unauthorized force against individuals and governments for political gain.” I think this is a very accurate definition of what terrorism is. We can all agree that those who would destroy innocent lives in order to accomplish any goal is a very morbid prospect. Human life is a commodity to which none can reproduce or rebuild once it is lost, well, atleast not in the individual sense.

After the September 11th attacks, it became paramount that further security methods were needed in order to weed out and circumvent potential attacks on our homeland. Those who would deny the fact that terrorism is a real thing is not living in reality. The truth is, there are mentally ill people who live in our world that do not value human life and will do whatever is necessary to satisfy and fulfill their own prophecies stemming from a paranoid driven fantasized reality imposed upon innocent people with violence. These people certainly need to be stopped. The Oklahoma City Bombings, The Boston Bombings, and the vehicle attacks in Paris were all unjustified terrorist attacks that involved killing innocent people to further a political goal.

However, there is another side of terrorism or should I say, “Counter-Terrorism” that needs to be addressed. If we apply the standards of terrorism today to what the founding fathers did in the 1700s, they could technically be considered “terrorists”. They used unauthorized force against the British government and those who were loyal to the crown. The colonists used violence, refused to pay their mandated taxes, and often used threatening language towards the British government. Ultimately, the British government was overthrown and the American colonists set-up a new form of government which would eventually be known as the United States of America.

We must remember that everything Hitler and Joseph Stalin did was completely legal and considered an authorized use of force under German and Russian laws. Terrorism could be defined as an extreme version of anti-government activity whereas Totalitarianism could be defined as extreme version of governance towards its subjects. If we look at FBI files, activists like Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X where once considered potential terrorists and were under investigation constantly. Ironically, former President Ronald Reagan once labeled the Taliban as “Freedom Fighters”, when they opposed the Soviets.

Alas, Counter-Terrorism is definitely something that we need. Groups like Abu-Sayef, the Ku Klux Klan and Al-Shabaaz will not bring forth anything good or “revolutionary” to its people if left unchecked. However, we must ask ourselves if the prevailing totalitarian governments in the middle east and elsewhere are viable alternatives to this terrorism? In some cases, the terrorist regimes are no worse than the totalitarian regimes, leaving civilians in a tough quagmire. We must ask the question: What brings rise to these types of violent groups and/or governments and how can we use a combination of peaceful diplomacy and/or last resort methods of authorized force to squash these types of organizations?

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As a society, we must be very careful with the term “terrorist”. At one point in our history, a self-proclaimed communist was considered an enemy to the state in the USA and wasn’t allowed to register as a voter. Now, we have those who are openly running as political candidates under these dangerous ideologies. Something WWII veterans probably aren’t too happy about! It appears that time can change the definitions of our language in both healthy and unhealthy ways. The term “terrorist” is a very politically charged term that should only be used in the most serious of situations. Protestors, critics, and social antagonizers are just that — users of free-speech, not terrorists. However, when such demonstrators advocate for the killing of police officers, politicians, or innocent people, their movements can quickly become delegitimized as Martin Luther King Jr often preached.– and rightfully so!

Those who are the victims of violence usually find themselves on the right side of history, whereas those who turn to it prematurely will almost always be seen for what they really are. Bullies! But, we do not live in a dream world. Sometimes force is needed. When free-speech moves into targeted killings or mass murder, governments and individuals have a duty to themselves, their countrymen, and their fellow man to step-up and take measures to stop the violence from growing.

With growing controversy around laws like the “Patriot Act” and the “NDAA”, which many argue violate our 4th amendment rights, we are constantly having a hypothetical battle between liberty and security. Both are equally important. Many claim that they want absolute unregulated freedom as in “Anarchy”, until an explosion happens outside their home, then they cry for a police officer. Many claim they do not care how much they are regulated or spied on by the government, so long as they are safe, until their country starts to look like an oppressive police-state like North Korea, then they cry for a protest! In both cases, it is already too late for a remedy.

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Like most things in life, the middle-ground is usually the answer. In the case of counter-terrorism, this is no exception. The CIA, FBI, and other International Intelligence gathering organizations certainly have a noble use in our society. The men and women who work there are mostly people who have positive aims to protect their countrymen. On the opposite end, many people who are labeled as being “terrorists” usually have some sort of semi-legitimate reason for being angry or upset at some perceived injustice. Yet both groups must make peace with the fact that the true solution to social justice isn’t with the tactics of terrorism or counter-terrorism, but rather with the society at large.

Only when we as a people, can become informed in our elections, educate ourselves on legal principles, take personal responsibility for our communities and families, oppressive terrorism and oppressive counter-terrorism methods will continue to be founded in reality. Martin Luther King Jr showed us what a peaceful million-man-march looked like. Brave policemen and intelligence officers who often thwart operations from Al-Shabaaz and other violent groups show us defending our homeland looks like.

When protestors use passive resistance and refuse to resort to terrorism, they win. When counter-terrorism units use justified methods to stop active terrorism without attacking free-speech or civil liberties, they win. Like most issues in life, the problem with terrorism and counter-terrorism isn’t simple. It is a complex issue that requires deep understanding and mediation between both sides.

If you hate terrorism, accusing everyone of it isn’t the answer to solve it.

If you hate unfair laws or oppression, accusing every government employee of being corrupt isn’t the way to solve it either.

Most protestors are decent people with legitimate concerns. Most government employees are decent people who want to do a good job and protect their country. The problem lies with extremists on both sides who antagonize war between the people and their government officials, when in reality, we are all a part of the same ship! If the people fail, the government fails. If the government fails, so to shall the people.

Perhaps someday, protestors and government officials can find a common love for their respective countries by realizing these simple truths. This is the only true way to stop terrorism, extremism, and totalitarianism.

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by Randell Stroud