FIGHTING TERRORISM: Need To Be Prepared! [Archives:1999/01/Viewpoint]

January 4 1999

The lessons learned from last week’s tragic violence should be taken to heart. The killing of innocent people, especially foreign visitors, is one of the ugliest things that could happen. That is why it is important to draw lessons from last week’s tragedy. That is also why we should help the authorities in fighting this senseless violence. But, we need to prepare for the fight against terrorism. I suggest the following three steps.
Lesson 1: Creating a Special Force:
Most of the soldiers and officers who confronted the kidnappers and terrorists last week did not have adequate training. I think the authorities should look into establishing a small commando unit to be used for such occasions. We have had many repeats in our confrontation with terrorists. A small, highly trained force to meet the challenge is necessary.
More and better training, both physical and psychological, is needed. The training should also include education regarding legal aspects, human rights, ways to deal with the media and the public, etc. This force has to be well-equipped. It should be armed with the most up to-date weapons and communication systems. It must be highly-mobile.
International assistance can be solicited in this regard.
Lesson 2: Professionalism:
Our authorities have to be professional in their handling of these situations. They have to realize that full and honest cooperation with other countries is an important element in building trust and confidence in our management of such crises.
That was not the case in the botched-up operation last week.
Sometimes, our top officials are fed wrong information by the officers and bureaucrats who work for them, especially from the security apparatus. Our leaders (president, prime minister, etc.) then make decisions based on half-truths. The junior officers and bureaucrats mis-report in order to cover their shortcomings. The top people should be able to see this.
Last week, Dr. Iryani, the Prime Minister, was given to believe that the kidnappers started to shoot their hostages before the assault. I believe this is most unlikely as the hostages are more valuable to the kidnappers alive.
Even worse, the authorities began a cover-up to promote their version of what happened. Local journalists and stringers for international and regional media organizations were nudged to report on that basis. Some reporters obliged. But that was very short-lived, as the world was told otherwise by the hostages who survived the ordeal.
Lesson 3: Moral Upper Ground:
I keep repeating that the relationship between those who govern and those who are governed are guided by a social contract. Those who govern are expected to serve the public. The people in return obey the authority of the rulers.
This contract is up-held by a morally-acceptable behavior on the part of the rulers. If the rulers do not live up to their end of the contract, the people will not obey their authority. That is why the rulers and their proteges must live within the rule of law and must work to serve the general interest of the nation.
I believe that those 3 points are important in our fight against terrorism.