Combating terrorism on all fronts

With the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai, India, the global community once again stands on the brink of chaos, and at no worse a time than a global recession.

While Islamabad fiercely denies the accusations that Pakistan was somehow part of this attack, Pakistan’s High Commissioner claimed there was evidence that India wanted “to teach Pakistan a lesson,” as reported by the BBC. The years spent in forming the now tenuous peace shared by both nations has been threatened by these global terrorists.

Both nations have received threats from within to destabilize their current governments. Both nations possess nuclear weapons and are firm allies of the United States. If war between the two powers of the region were to break out, the only certainty would be mass casualties on both sides and huge losses for the global community.

But in the height of emotions, how can we begin to combat terrorism?

Terrorism is insidious yet carried out with a goal in mind. It is not simply fear that terrorists wish to instill with the murders of 200 people, but a fear that will cause endless wars and the killings of tens of thousands.

If war breaks out between India and Pakistan, terrorists win, regardless of the country that claims victory.

There are lessons we must learn if we are to combat the real problem.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates stated “The use of force plays a role, yet military efforts to capture or kill terrorists are likely to be subordinate to measures to promote local participation in government and economic programs to spur development, as well as efforts to understand and address the grievances that often lie at the heart of insurgencies.”

We must begin to realize that these are not nations of terrorists but rather nations held hostage. The war on terrorism is not on individuals but on the hearts and minds trapped in hopeless poverty and oppression. Relieve a society of its burdens, and more is won than in any invasion.

Now, I am not advocating a passive approach that neglects military efforts. Certainly, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border must be neutralized by force before the threat begins to cease, yet this, coupled with proactive humanitarian efforts, will reclaim the peripheral men and women who are only acting out of hungry stomachs and for their sick children.

Like cancer, we must learn to fight terrorism at its source rather than simply eliminate its symptoms.

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