Q&A: Terrorism's ethical components
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The terrorist will have none of that. The terrorist simply says, "I'm right, you're wrong, this is the way it has to happen, and we're going to do it." In fact there's so much lack of concern for human life, that they end up being willing to take their own lives. That's not a mentality, necessarily, that you reason with.Skip to next paragraph
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And that brings up a fundamental question: If you're going to deal with this, you're not dealing with the terrorist themselves. What we need to create is a circumstance whereby those who generally support the terrorists begin to withdraw their support. Where they begin to say, "Yeah, the United States is making progress, the rest of the world is making progress, there's some signs for hope. We think it's kind of silly that you folks are out there trying to practice terrorism."
That is a broad diplomatic process; that's not a question of sending in some cruise missiles or sending in some people. And the largest moral hazard of all, would be to go on as we are, educating the next generation of Americans with as much limited global understanding as we're currently educating them.
We're in a peculiar situation of being the nation that is without question the global leader in all sorts of ways, and that global leadership is supported by a citizenry, which is probably per capita, more ignorant of the affairs that go on in other countries than are the citizens of any other country in the world.
We don't speak languages, we don't travel abroad. I'm talking about the broad mass of the American public. There is no market in this country for international news. We just haven't learned to care. We don't understand. We haven't been taught what the rest of this world is about.
The real puzzle is how can you work with people who have all these claims and troubles and disturbing and violent concerns around the world unless you start by having some understanding of where they come from so you can get dialogue going and you can listen to the message before the message turns into violence.
csmonitor.com: What preventive measures could the US take to guard against future terrorist attacks? To what extent could and should the US follow the Israeli lead in preemptively assassinating suspected terrorists?
Kidder: I don't think you do that at all. There's a quotation that's fascinating: "If, in order to defeat the beast, you yourself become bestial, then the beast has won." If we move down the road of assassination, we've become the terrorist, and that's precisely what they want. They want to back us into that corner, because then it's easy to lash out at them. Then they build more and more support, not less and less. We cannot fight terrorism with its own weapons.
We are a democracy. We care about human rights. We regard the processes of justice. We are not a vigilante organization. We've got to do this in the right and legitimate way. I'm convinced the way you do this is not so much through weaponry and violence as through intelligence gathering and insight. If there's one flaw, it's that we've allowed ourselves as a nation to be talked into the notion that somehow the CIA, the NSC, the various intelligence-gathering organizations, are not important.
The best way to combat terrorism is to not have it happen at all. The best outcome for Tuesday would've been for somebody to have understood that it was going to happen and prevented it. Now, we can get to that point, but it's a long, slow process of re-education of the public, and that's where we've got go in all of this.
Clearly, there will have to be, in the short term, justice in the sense of finding out the immediate perpetrators and bringing them to justice. I have no objection to that. But you don't do it ... from assassination. You do it through the rule of law.
Â You can read Rushworth Kidder's biography at http://www.globalethics.org/seminars/presenters.html .