NYTimes- No society should “live with terrorism.” Our collective goals should be to eradicate it.
Before 9/11 law enforcement filled that role. Since then, nations, led by the United States, adopted a military approach, and terrorist attacks have only risen.
To eradicate terrorism, we need a much more honest discussion about what terrorism actually is. If it means the use of force against civilians to achieve a political goal, than that should include all such attacks on civilians, and not merely the ones launched by nonstate actors. In practice, we limit the term to include only nonstate actors.
The victims of state-led attacks are considered collateral damage, or unfortunate but necessary killings. This framework effectively diminishes the value of their lives making it much easier for the world to tolerate excruciatingly high death tolls and absolve the states that caused them.
This paradox is not lost on most of the thinking world, especially where those losses are highest, on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, in southern Yemen and in the Gaza Strip.
It also means being more honest about the perpetrators of the attacks. All attacks have been attributed to Islam writ large without considering the assailants’ instability, mental illness and propensity to violence that may make them more similar to the assailants in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., than to the ISIS militants who killed scores of Iraqis in crowded Baghdad markets and Muslim worshipers in Qudayh.
Are we ready and able to make these distinctions so that we can deploy a more effective policy aimed at discerning what we describe as “terrorism” from what we describe as “mass violence”?
There is no viable future that copes with terrorism as a way of life just as there is no viable future of living with endless wars as have been perpetrated against the populations of Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the Palestinian people.
Our ability to protect humanity, literally and figuratively, depends on our ability to draw connections between the terrors inflicted on all civilians and to stem those attacks without a counterproductive and inaccurate framework of “just vs. unjust uses of force” based solely on the perpetrators’ identity and status.