Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

19 Iyar 5763 - May 21, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Policing Terror

America won the war in Iraq but it is still far from evident if its operations there can be called a success. There is no doubt that deposing Saddam Hussein was a good thing, and there is no doubt that he is gone as the ruler of Iraq. The big question that remains is what will take his place.

So far the Americans have not managed to restore public order. Looting and lawlessness continue, and services have not been fully restored. Iraqi civil servants, including police, have not yet stepped forward to reclaim their jobs. If the American intervention in Iraq is to be successful, America must soon make Iraqi society work.

However good it was for the people of Iraq, the American intervention certainly did not squash Moslem terror. Last week was a terrible week, including coordinated murderous attacks in Saudi Arabia, then coordinated attacks in Morocco and then a series of attacks in Israel.

Saddam Hussein's criminal behavior and his open defiance of international norms were certainly an inspiration to terrorists everywhere. The fact that he was finally deposed will certainly give them pause. (And that is why it is important to depose Yasser Arafat who is also strongly identified with terror.) Yet the regimes of Syria and Iran, while obviously worried, have not changed their fundamental willingness and even enthusiasm for terror against the West. Al Qaeda, despite the setbacks it has suffered in the past two years, showed in Morocco and Saudi Arabia that it can and will continue to murder.

It is well known that the Americans like to tackle things head on and solve them "once-and-for-all." They made a big effort in Afghanistan and once again in Iraq, and they would like to think that they have "solved" a problem.

Of course they have not. Islamic terror is a broad problem that is embedded in Moslem communities throughout the world. Even though most Moslems are not terrorists, there are still too many terrorists and they are too spread out to be able to stop them permanently with concentrated military action.

In Clausewitz's famous dictum: War is a mere continuation of policy by other means. War is a political act and it takes place in the political arena. It is fought by armies and directed by political leaders.

Terror, on the other hand, is not run by a single, centralized power center. It can function well even when its people are diffuse and distributed all over the world. Also, very importantly, it does not have the focused goals and the obvious interests that a central authority does. As a result, its actions are much more similar to crime than to war.

This is an important observation because it shows the futility of any hope for a once-and-for-all solution. Crime can be controlled but it is virtually impossible to wipe out completely. The police forces must be constantly vigilant and must work all the time to suppress it. Police work can be effective to control crime and ensure that it does not surpass tolerable levels, but there is no reasonable hope of eradicating it completely.

This is also the response to those on the Left who always intone that the desire to commit acts of terror is in people's hearts and cannot be erased by military action. This is true but beside the point. Evil may always lurk in the hearts of men, but that does not imply that we should not seek to deploy effective police forces to curb it.

The only ultimate solution is found in Torah.

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