The Decade of the Terrorist

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Before September 11, 2001 most terrorist attacks were tragic at the local level. They were thought of more as a nuisance than as something substantive. Those events were dramatic and made headlines, but they did not change the course of America or the world. September 11 did.

From a terrorist point of view, September 11 was a “success.” It provoked actions by the Bush administration that fractured the country politically and weakened alliances abroad. It made us expend many dollars and lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, if we withdraw our troops from both locations, those places would quickly return to being hotbeds of terrorism.

So far, we have killed many terrorists in the current Iraq war, but they still have support and financing from places like Syria and Iran. The most infamous terrorist group and terrorist leader, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, are still alive and running, safely ensconced in Pakistan where they are out of reach. Yet, the U.S. will not launch a massive air assault on Pakistan.

Although there hasn’t been another terrorist event on our home soil, the world has failed to respond to the threat in a meaningful way. The recent attack in Mumbai should serve as a wake-up call. One reason nations have been ineffective in responding to these attacks is that they are divided on how to deal with them. But that is exactly what allows terrorists to accomplish their goals.

Let’s take a look at the main players to see why countries are so divided over countering terrorism. The main players can be divided into three classes: active abettors, terrorists and passive abettors. First and foremost we have the Russians supporting Iran and Syria. Those three countries are the active abettors. The Russians need the price of oil to be 100 dollars a barrel, not 40. The best way to get the price up is to knock out the competition, and a war fought between Iran, Syria, Israel and the U.S. would likely damage oil production in the Middle East, Russia’s main competition.

Russians may not want too many Americans dead, but Syria and Iran want Americans and Israelis dead. For years, Syria and Iran have been arming Hezbollah, Hamas and the Iraqi terrorists. They use the Palestinians as their stooges. Iran even instigated the 2006 Lebanon-Israeli war.

Then we have the real terrorists. They use everybody to accomplish their goals. They’ve been very effective this decade and there is no reason to believe that they haven’t been emboldened by their “successes.” Who can forget the train attacks on Spain which toppled a government and caused an immediate Iraq pullout? Worse, they will launch even more horrific attacks in the future.

The group that lets this all occur is the passive abettors. This group includes Europe, China and those in America who believe that Bush let this all happen or that America deserves it. The passive abettors believe terrorism isn’t a serious problem and that it will go away once the U.S. changes its ways. This group doesn’t support sanctions against rogue nations.

So what’s to come? I believe the Mumbai attack was the beginning of the next series of terrorist attacks. Strategically, it makes sense for bin Laden to cause fights between India and Pakistan. Tension over their border will mean the Pakistanis won’t be focused on going after him. On top of this, the Israeli-Arab war has been restarted. This seems to be a well-planned provocation to escalate the war in Iraq.

If another attack happens in America, the major damage will, once again, be to our national unity, our Achilles heel. In turn, this will begin anew the political blame game. Those who voted for Obama will say that Bush was ineffective against the terrorists and those who voted for McCain will say that it would not have happened if their man got elected.

Either way, it is clear that the last seven years has proven that terrorism cannot be successfully fought by a divided world. Perhaps the Chinese and the Europeans will wake-up and realize that they should not only start protecting themselves, but also join the fight against global terrorism. Allowing their biggest customer to fall into harm’s way isn’t good for terrorism or the world’s economies. No country can afford to let that happen again.

Seymour Friedel is the managing director of Phoenix Hawke LLC a consulting company specializing in product strategy & development. He can be reached at
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