From the very impressive Change This web site, where experts share ideas and solutions via the web, terrorism expert Benjamin Kuipers lays out a step-by-step process for defeating terrorism. Calling the Iraq war a major step backward in the fight against terror, Kuipers writes that mutual trust between communities is an important weapon against the spread of terrorism, as is trust between those communities and their authorities. Once trust is established, Kuipers claims, people turn terrorists in to the police.
Terrorism can be defeated. To do this, first we need to understand how terrorists are kept away in the best case, then how terrorists can fight against this mechanism, and finally what works and what doesn’t work to foil those aims.
THE THIN BLUE LINE
Although terrorists are not merely criminals, it is helpful to think about what keeps criminals under control in our society. Ask any police officer: it is not the police and the courts who keep criminals at bay. It is the society as a whole. It is the ordinary people who call the police when they hear a problem starting. It is the ordinary people who trust the police and cooperate with them to bring criminals to justice. The “thin blue line” only works when it is backed up by the vast majority of ordinary people.
This, by the way, is why police brutality is so damaging to law and order in our society. If ordinary people lose trust in the police, they won’t call and they won’t cooperate. If they fear that calling the police to quiet down a loud party could result in their neighbors’ kids being shot dead, they won’t call. And they also won’t cooperate in more serious cases. Without community backup, the “thin blue line” starts to feel very thin indeed. And criminals become bolder.