Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Cato Tackles Terrorism

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Cato Tackles Terrorism

Article excerpt


The Cato Institute, a Washington, DC think tank, held a policy forum on Nov. 27 to discuss U.S. strategies for responding to terrorism. The panel featured Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, John Parachini of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the RAND Corporation's Bruce Hoffman, and Ivan Eland from the Cato Institute.

Cordesman began his analysis by citing two "experts": Chicken Little and the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Like those storybook characters, Cordesman argued, the U.S. tends to exaggerate and mischaracterize the problem of terrorism. "We aren't particularly good at pattern analysis," he acknowledged, so "we pick out the parts of the problem we understand."

The other panelists agreed that people need a better understanding of the issues before focused, informed policies can be developed. However, Hoffman observed, this goal was a paradox; for the more we focus and spend on counter-terrorism, the more the American public feels insecure.

Eland expanded on this issue of fear, describing the sensationalism that accompanies the relatively minor problem of terrorism. A greater danger, he warned, lies in the attitude of "cracking down" on civil liberties at home to curb potential terrorists. If pursued, he fears such a strategy would undermine our civil liberties, and would be a "shocking policy for an open society."

Instead, Eland argued that policymakers should focus on the most effective, but least analyzed aspect of terrorism: terrorist motivation. Eland pointed out that other capitalist countries that export their culture, like Switzerland, Germany, and Japan, do not appear to generate the hate that fosters terrorist threats against the U.S. It wasn't "who we are but what we do," Eland argued. For example, a Cato study reported 63 incidents of terrorism that were a direct response to U. …

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