Thursday, September 4, 2008

Demystifing terrorism

Wise words from Jim Harper at the Cato blog:
Reading terrorists their rights, and treating them with scrupulous fairness, would help start to make them boring, and it would keep the focus on their wrongdoing. This would enervate terrorism and deprive terrorist groups of recruits and support. On these grounds alone, we should be all for reading terrorists their rights.
This is spot-on analysis. An overreaction is exactly what a terrorist group aims for when they attack. 9/11 wasn't a hugely successful military action until we made it so by invading Afghanistan and Iraq. If we treat terrorists as ordinary international criminals, then their appeal would drop. The Sayyid Qutb's of the world might start looking for other solutions to their problems.

As we move into post-Bush politics, the question should become less and less, "whose fault is it that we made the mistake of declaring war?" Instead, we should focus more and more on how we will avoid this kind of overreaction the next time that there is a terrorist attack on our soil. This will not be easy, as it will necessitate overriding our innate desire for revenge with cold rationality. Can we do it? Given that it is not even currently a talking point, I have my doubts.