Uprooting terrorism needs force and vision [Archives:2003/646/Viewpoint]

June 30 2003

Just yesterday, I heard the news of more attacks against US and other forces in Afghanistan. The attacks continue despite the alleged collapse of the leadership of al-Qaeda's network. Brute force was used against the al-Qaeda and Taliban camps in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Today, we see that the end results in a secure Afghanistan with no or little violence has not been achieved. On the contrary, attacks in large numbers have continued to take place in Indonesia, in Saudi Arabia, in Iraq, in Afghanistan itself, and in many other countries. Hints were given that those may well be part of an enlarged al-Qaeda network still in operation.
Why can't we derive a lesson from what happened in realizing that force alone is not enough. There also needs to be a vision. Vision is important to understand why those elements are carrying out those activities. Those willing to uproot terrorism need to have farsightedness that would allow them to find the root of the problem instead of finding temporary solutions that would only allow the breeding of more terrorists and fundamentalist ideas.
In order to remove an evil tree forever, one needs to pull out its roots from the ground. Trying to chop the tree off and expecting it to die will be in vain because the evil tree will grow again.
Unless the root of the problem is resolved, terrorism will continue to grow and flourish. I am not saying that force is not needed, but forces along with vision are essential for best uprooting of terrorism and ridding the world of it for good.
Similarly, Yemen should also learn from the US experience that uprooting terrorism requires a deep understanding of the motives, ideas, and means of the terrorists when acting in such a fashion.
I admired the step taken by the president in deciding to send scholars to some fundamentalists arrested after being involved in some terrorist organizations. The mission of the scholars was to know how and why they think in the way they do and help rehabilitate them to become less fundamentalist and open their eyes and minds to the world.
The Abyan conflict that occurred last week was an indication that the government is using force alone in trying to destroy this terrorist cell. However, it is also wise to know how this group originated and means to cut off any flow of ideas or finances to such organizations. Only through such wise steps will we be able to uproot terrorism in a correct manner and avoid committing the same mistake of the Americans.