Terrorism and War

Terrorism and War

Nobody likes to hear the words ‘declared war’ however provocative the cause. The escalation of rows, especially those involving violence, leads inexorably to greater violence and a deteriorating chance of improving the situation. Punches and guns are sometimes needed but they resolve little more than who has the bigger bulk or the greater cash.

So much has been written about the consequences of recent terror attacks – especially those in France – that you may think adding to the volume of thought and advice is superfluous. There are, however, two aspects of the current situation that are threads we think should be drawn together if the future response to, and handling of, terrorism are to be successful.

Seemingly insane acts of violence are the result of pent-up feelings of ill-treatment and hatred that can find no other expression than attention-getting murder and self-immolation. The universal response that we will not allow minority groups to disrupt our normal lives is exactly what is needed to send a message of invincibility. It doesn’t help those wounded for life, physically because of the acts of terror themselves or emotionally because of the loss of, or damage to, those they love. As the price of ‘business as usual’ is further violence, society must equip itself to handle more humanely the consequences for those who suffer. It is the only ammunition a government can give people in ‘the front line of normal living’.

Society has a poor record of dealing with wounded troops and those bereaved by violence. Now is the time to correct that to show that those who suffer in the pursuit of normal living are not abandoned when their courage turns to disaster.

Terrorists are no longer simply frustrated individuals or people with warped minds. They are people of belief, possibly as fervent faith as any we have seen in the world in the last two hundred years. They are recruited, trained and motivated as assiduously as any political or religious movement ever has been. Their purpose is to get the headlines as bloodily and as cheaply as possible. They have the resources to achieve that. For me, just writing about them poses the troubling question ‘am I not doing exactly what they want?’

Our response to terrorism must include teaching the young why life well led is worth more than a series of danger-rushes and destruction. Religions used to do this, albeit with the heavy hand of the threat of hell as the principle motivator. That still drives some people but for many it simply doesn’t work today. We have lost the religious reasons for living well but we have not provided the secular reasons for doing so. Secular education has largely failed to impart, at least to those who are terrorist-potential, the need for – and rewards of – positive curiosity and discovery. Re-educating today’s terrorists may be impossible; educating tomorrow’s potential rebels is still possible. It requires a change of the purpose and method of education at levels from which tomorrow’s terrorists will be drawn.

Both of these threads are about community which, in turn, is about the other person. Breeding a selfish world has led us to the inevitable consequences of excessive egocentricity. Educating and providing for a less selfish world is a long-haul task.

It is one that involves everyone on the planet and it is one we can start any time we choose.