'Terrorism is rational' (Extract)

Extract of an article in Issue 8, August 4, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. Counterterrorism and counterinsurgency expert Bruce Hoffman argues that governments' responses to terrorism are often counterproductive As the tenuously-kept, temporary truce between Israel and Gaza continues, terrorist organizations, such as Hamas in Gaza and Hizballah in Lebanon, appear to be gaining strength. Jerusalem has experienced two terrorist attacks in the past four months, the attack on a yeshiva in March and the bulldozer attack in early July, leaving a total of 11 dead and dozens wounded and raising fear of the possibility of a recurrent wave of suicide terrorist attacks. And persistent reports in the international media reveal the resurgence of al-Qaeda, relocated to Pakistan and Algeria. Despite efforts by Western governments, terrorism continues to grow and develop. According to Bruce Hoffman, professor at Georgetown University's Security Studies Program,terrorism, which comes in many forms, is neither random nor irrational and is the product of rational decision-making on the part of the terrorist organizations. Recently in Israel, Hoffman told The Jerusalem Report that governments should respond strategically rather than tactically to terrorist threats and activities. The Jerusalem Report: Your research has led you to conclude that terrorism is ultimately effective. Bruce Hoffman: Targets and victims always declare that terrorism cannot and will not succeed, but apologists and terrorists say it does. Terrorism has persisted for at least 2,000 years and has even become increasingly popular in the 21st century precisely because it does achieve the goals it intends to achieve. In most cases, terrorist activity cannot dramatically change the course of history, and the terrorists know this; but it is a historically undeniable truth that terrorism acts as a catalyst for either wider conflagration or systemic political change. Terrorist violence is an entirely rational, carefully calculated instrument of warfare. You have spoken about the anti-British Mandate Irgun group (led by Menachem Begin) as a prototype of modern terrorism. The Irgun's sustained and unrelenting campaign established a revolutionary model that has been emulated and embraced by both anti-colonial and post-colonial era terrorist groups alike, throughout the world. The Irgun was the first organization to target the institutions of government in order to attract worldwide attention; diminish the government's prestige; undermine confidence in its ability to maintain law and order; and force the government to respond with repressive countermeasures that further alienated the community. And it worked. The Irgun didn't win Israel's independence single-handedly - but it definitely was a significant factor. Extract of an article in Issue 8, August 4, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.