It’s time to think about fighting terrorism differently

Josh Hartman / Sun Star

“I would bomb the shit out of ’em, I would just bomb those suckers,” Donald Trump said during a speech in Fort Dodge, Iowa on Nov. 12. “I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left.”

These words reflect the sentiment that many people, world leaders included, have about terrorist groups.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed to be responsible for the attack in Paris on Nov. 13,  where 129 people were killed. Just two days after the attack the president of France, François Hollande, authorized extensive bombing of Al-Raqqah, the capital of the Islamic State.

While the bombing is certainly the response that Trump and many others would think is the correct course of action, it is hardly an effective way of stopping terrorism.

Similarly, the vow that many U.S. governors have made to not accept Syrian refugees, a vow which is constitutionally unsound, is a further detriment to fighting terrorism.

Many people think that religious extremism, or in the case of ISIS, Islamic fundamentalism, is the main cause of terrorism. However, there is significant data to the contrary.

Research collected by Robert Pape, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and the director of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, paints a different picture of terrorism.

Using data from 343 suicide terrorism attacks around the world, collected shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 until 2003, Pape found that 95 percent of these attacks were made in an attempt to force a democratic nation to withdraw it’s military occupation from the homeland or valued territory of the terrorists.

This data shows that military occupation, more than any other factor, influences the perpetuation of terrorism around the world.

The cause behind the attacks on Paris and the formation of ISIS is the U.S. military occupation of the Middle East, according to Pape.

There have been 784,000 refugees relocated to the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001. Of these refugees only three have been arrested for terrorist activities. None of the three cases showed evidence of any significant threat to the American people. This information is from the Migration Policy Institute.

Since 1990, not a single refugee coming into the U.S. has committed any act of terrorism, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

“Refugees undergo the most intensive security screening process of any people allowed to enter the U.S.,” Lavinia Limon, from the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, said. “The average processing time is two years.”

By stigmatizing Islam and refusing to accept Syrian refugees the U.S. is doing what a terrorist group like ISIS would hope for. The whole point of terrorism is to inflict as much damage against the recipient as possible for the lowest cost to the terrorist.

When the U.S. governors and others vilify Muslims and refugees they are sowing dissent against our own citizens. By discouraging Muslims and refugees from coming to/ living in the U.S., we provide an incentive to go where they will be accepted, even if that is in an ISIS controlled area.

As we work on dealing with ISIS terrorism or any other group, it is very important to remember to look at the data showing what will provide the most effective method to solve the issue.

One presidential candidate has a solution to ISIS terrorism that would be supported by data and history.

“What we need to do is lead an international coalition, which includes the Muslim nations in that region who are going to have to fight and defend their way of life,” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said.

This coalition would allow the nations involved to negotiate with one another in addition to rooting out terrorist funding, providing logistical support in the region, disrupting online radicalization, providing humanitarian relief and supporting religious freedom, according to Sanders’ website.

A very comparable situation occurred in the U.K. in the 1970s when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was committing acts of terrorism against England. At first the British took a militaristic approach to fighting the IRA, however that just worsened the problem.

The solution didn’t come until the 1980s under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher began holding secret discussions with the IRA and negotiated a deal giving Northern Ireland more political autonomy. These negotiations effectively ended acts of terrorism.

It is not that we as a nation should give up military action entirely, but the time is long overdue that we start thinking about fighting terrorism in a different way.

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