“Truth” Beats “War” in Fighting Terrorism
The Bush administration had fantastic dreams of a “Global War on Terrorism” (war on a method?) or even a “Global War on Terror” (war on an emotion of fear?) that could be won by simply killing terrorists everywhere–and never mind the civilians caught in the struggle. Of course, this ended up creating terrorists faster than we can kill them–as was widely predicted by everyone other than the neo-cons. The Obama administration has a more realistic view of the limits of military force, but still thinks military violence a necessary component of the fight against terror networks and their safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Obama administration recognizes the risks of killing innocents and that they could actually strengthen the extremists’ hands–it’s been very open about this, which is a refreshing change. Yet, frustratingly, infuriatingly, the Obama administration also seems stuck in the “logic of death” that is military thinking. It cannot see a way to end the threat of al Qaeda or the Taliban without military violence.
But strong truthtelling seems to work better. As this BBC report shows, the Taliban are losing the hearts and minds of Pakistanis in the conservative Swat area after global exposure of a video of the beating of a girl. Maybe showing more videos of the cruelty and injustice of the Taliban all over Pakistan and Afghanistan will help them lose ground. But photos of dead children, hit by unmanned drone bombs, will undermine this. Civilian deaths, which can be minimized but not eliminated in war, will play into the hands of the extremists.
So, why not try a “war of images,” instead? Truthtelling, bearing witness, speaking truth to power–these nonviolent strategies do not prevent terrorist acts per se, but they go much further than violence in eliminating the support for terrorist groups–and without that support, they whither and die.
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