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April 16, 2010

Getting Terrorism Wright
Posted by Patrick Barry

There’s been a lively debate based on Robert Wright’s NY Times blog post questioning the efficacy of targeted killings as a means of fighting terrorism. While I’m persuaded by the evidence that special ops, predator strikes, etc. alone cannot diminish an extremist group’s effectiveness, I wonder whether it treats counterterrorism in a bit of a vacuum.  Of course, if all the Obama administration were doing to fight terrorism was bomb people hiding in North Waziristan, I think it would be reasonable to point at something like Jenna Jordan's study and say, “hey, maybe this isn’t working out so well.”  But the fact is the Administration’s counterterrorism policy is MUCH more comprehensive than that, involving efforts to reclaim American legitimacy through engagement, intelligence gathering, law enforcement that’s consistent with our principles, international cooperation as opposed to unilateralism, etc.  We shouldn’t discount the possibility that strikes against Al-Qaeda’s leadership, complimented with this range of other initiatives, could be effective.

Of course it’s also possible the opposite is true.  Kinetic operations in places like Pakistan and Yemen may be damaging, not just in isolation, but in relation to the larger counterterrorism strategy.  Extremists have used Predator bombings to enhance recruitment, and spur on anti-Americanism.  And as senior Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders die, younger, more radical individuals have often taken their place.  But the continuity between this Administration and last with regard manner in which it hunts down terrorist organizations may have even greater consequences at the strategic level.  As Marc Lynch wrote two weeks ago, for all the administration’s pains to emphasize principles and the unwinding of the global war on terror mindset, its kinetic actions often take place “outside the rule of law and without any due process, with neither checks and balances nor accountability.”  These actions can have serious repercussions for perceptions of the U.S., constraining its ability to claim the mantle of legitimacy as it acts to keep American interests safe from extremism.   Considering the stakes involved, it makes sense to do as Andrew Exum suggests and dig deeper into the “the effect of decapitation strategies when paired with broader, more comprehensive counterinsurgency or counter-terror strategies and the effect of decapitation strategies when conducted in isolation from other initiatives.” 

One final thing for the Administration should keep in mind as it studies the effects of its counterterrorism policies is the role of politics in explaining extremism.  As I wrote last month, its often political concerns that trump other factors in creating a demand for terrorist activity.  A successful response may rest as much on how strategists account for these concerns as achieving the appropriate balance between disparate, sometimes conflicting policies.


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Very well sharing here.I would like to appreciate for that.I would like to say as a part of my HVT research Jordan's piece was very helpful.He had been picked up by Studies in Conflict and Terrorism soI hope there will be a published version sometime in the next month.I will bookmark this page and share it with all my friends.

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I can say this was a great sharing.We should not forget that Jenna Jordan has done a study of the effectiveness of assassinating the heads of terrorist groups in stopping the group's terrorism.

There are many possible reasons for this. Serwer is smart to cite the politicization of terrorism, which so far has made it extremely difficult for administration to do some of the things it had promised. The GOP in particular seems perfectly happy to block the WH's efforts to close Guantanamo, despite the effect such a move would have on "stanch[ing] the flow of new recruits into a terrorist organization." Another thing to remember is that turning around the negative perceptions of the U.S. that can fuel terrorism rests on policy outcomes that take time to achieve. Withdrawal from Iraq is happening, but slowly. Progress toward Middle East peace has stalled. Resolving these challenges will go a long way toward undercutting the message of extremist groups like Al Qaeda, but it won't happen overnight.

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