Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action

Fighting Islamism head on in a war of words for the malevolent force that it is is all well and good, but to make strides in the struggle, the transatlantic community should also look to the virtue of international development...

Identity politics are a major aspect of the transatlantic community’s ongoing struggle with terrorism.  Ideology, religion and ethnicity all play a pivotal role in generating the friction that has on too many occasions reached an emotional intensity that has lead to repulsive and indefensible acts of terrorism.  Yet, in managing the problem, there is another angle to be explored; the role of development.

Hillary Clinton’s surprise visit to Yemen, the first by a Secretary of State in 20 years, highlighted this stream of consciousness.  "It's not enough to have military-to-military relations [only]," said Clinton.  Instead, she discussed with her audience in Sanaa the need to recalculate US aid to Yemen so as to emphasise social and economic reform. 

Terrorism will likely always occur; as will theft, as will rape, as will murder.  These are sad facts of the human condition.  Look no further than Arizona this week to see that extreme events can occur at the flex of a fanatical lone wolf’s trigger finger.  And so beating terrorism is really about managing the threat.  It is about reducing both the severity and occurrence of terrorist acts and inhibiting the ability of larger coordinated networks to act.

Half the battle is reducing numbers.  There are so called ‘pious’ (read poisonous) clerics who will always incite other fanatics to act.  Here is where we ought to employ the virtue of law enforcement; the reactionary element of a cohesive counterterrorism campaign.  But alongside that, we must focus on development so as to help stop some of those otherwise un-radicalised from becoming so.

Bankrolling Sanaa is not only beneficial for the purpose of allowing Yemen’s government to deal with the Shia Houthi rebels in its north, the secessionist movement in its south and its critical battle with al Qaeda.  No, it can also be beneficial for the purpose of improving infrastructure, enhancing opportunities for economic prosperity and increasing the quality of education for Yemen’s citizens thereby removing a state of being which has driven many to extremism out of frustration.  Of course, it is of equal importance to ensure that the money is spent well and free of corruption, but providing this, the sentiment is clear; more of the same please, Secretary Clinton.

by Dane Vallejo

This blog was originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, 12/01/11, accessed at

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