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  1. Step Back: Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy from the Failed War on Terror | Cato Institute
  2. Eighteen Years On: The War on Terror Comes of Age
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Complementing the attack on havens is a global intelligence campaign against the jihadi movement. It might help with technical assistance in particular, as many developing world governments fighting jihadis are weak in this area. The United States can also coordinate multiple intelligence services. The FBI has undertaken a far-reaching campaign to identify and disrupt potential terrorists on U.

Internet companies are taking down their content, and governments are monitoring their accounts to identify followers and disrupt them. Indeed, would-be terrorists in the United States who are active on social media are more likely to be caught, not less.

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Although foreign fighters are rightly billed as force multipliers for jihadi groups and were responsible for some of the deadliest jihadi attacks on the West, zero foreign fighters have perpetrated attacks on U. Part of this success is because the United States is now able to target and disrupt them at multiple stages: arresting them before they travel, detaining them when they go back and forth, killing them in a war zone, or arresting them on return. When they post information to recruit and travel on social media, they are more likely to be discovered.

What Has Gone Poorly? Yet the optimistic view, which this author usually shares, has several weaknesses and limits, and when judging the overall threat, much depends on which factors are considered. Perhaps the most obvious limit is that the jihadi groups remain active despite 18 years of direct clashes with the United States, and they have spread their influence throughout the Muslim world. The list of countries in the Middle East with civil wars that feature jihadi groups now includes Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, with Egypt also suffering significant unrest.

How dangerous the threat jihadi groups pose to U. Libya, Mali, Somalia, and Yemen have never been important U. Even countries that matter far more due to oil reserves or other strategic factors, like Algeria, Nigeria, and Pakistan, usually face violence contained to their periphery that is horrific for those affected but has not impacted oil flows or otherwise jeopardized traditional U. Spillover remains a constant risk, and indeed violence in Algeria, Libya, and Mali has spread to almost all of West Africa, but key regional countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey do not seem at risk of civil war.

Although the risk to traditional interests has proven limited, the increasingly global presence of jihadi groups has led the United States to become enmeshed in a series of low-level but grinding, and seemingly endless, civil wars in the greater Muslim world. The United States has forces in 80 countries involved in the fight against terrorism.

However, political support in the United States for military operations is far weaker. The leaders of both political parties are now skeptical of high levels of U. Nor has the United States always been able to hand off counterterrorism responsibilities to local forces. Ideally, local forces would provide security to residents, administer justice, and uproot the jihadi infrastructure, backed by U.

In reality, many U. When a small detachment of 1, Islamic State forces approached Mosul in June , the approximately 30, Iraqi troops stationed there panicked and fled. However, they represent one faction within a small Syrian minority group, and they are not politically acceptable to Turkey and to some local communities in Syria.

Many U. Partner regime policies often perpetuate or exacerbate these problems. Scholar Mara Karlin has found that U. In response to these many problems, rulers often politicize their militaries.

Corruption is also common. Not surprisingly, local powers try to resist pressure or co-opt it, and U. Jihadi groups exploit these problems and try to portray themselves as able to deliver law and order more effectively and even to provide better social services than the government. The United States is not well-positioned to resolve these deep governance problems. The budgets of the State Department, USAID, and associated programs are increasingly a rounding error when compared with the overall defense budget. Putting its budget questions aside, the State Department is not bureaucratically committed to the governance mission and instead focuses on elite diplomacy.

The counterterrorism mission has also led to significant opportunity costs. The United States and its key allies have devoted considerable time and resources to this challenge. In so doing, other problems, like a more bellicose Russia and the rise of China, received less attention.

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That is the central focus of the maps and Figures in this report, and each of its major sections. None of these limitations mean that the START data, or the various analytic groups that draw upon it and are used in this report, do not provide information that is broadly correct or fail to reveal key trends. In practice, each clearly defines the major uncertainties in its data and methods. They do, however, make it difficult to make country-to-country comparisons, make it difficult to know exactly when military actions are — or are not-treated a terrorism, and falsely exempt state actors from legitimate charges of terrorism.

Another key problem in such reporting on terrorism is that it does not address the causes of terrorism and insurgency or address the issue of why major terrorist activity or civil violence should end. Reporting focuses on acts of terrorism, direct human costs in death and injuries, and perpetrators, and not on its causes and efforts to address them.

There not only is at least a partial decoupling of most of the statistics on terrorism from associated insurgencies and civil wars, there is a near total decoupling from the civil side of counterterrorism and counter insurgency, the equivalent of stability and civil-military operations, and success in reshaping and reforming national politics, governance, and economics.

Step Back: Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy from the Failed War on Terror | Cato Institute

This has been particularly true of the United States since , which focused the U. It has also been accelerated by the U. The mix of causes varies sharply by region, country, and often divisions within a given country. As noted earlier, causes include state terrorism, violence, and repression. They also, however, include ideological, sectarian and religious divisions and tensions, and ethnic, racial, tribal, and nationality divisions — all often involving major aspects of discrimination by a given government.

At the same time, as the World Bank, IMF, UNDP, and Arab Development reports have shown, they include poor to terrible governance, failed rule of law, corruption, poor development and income, and population pressure and unemployment — often all interacting in the same country or state. Afghanistan Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, the Sudan are all examples of failed states with broad ranging causes of internal dissent and violence. While terrorism and extreme violence can never be justified in ethical or moral terms, no strategy that attempts to deal with terrorism can be successful that not recognize the nature and seriousness of its causes.

Addressing these problems is not the responsibility of counterterrorism experts in the narrowest sense of the term, but fighting half a war is a good way to lose one. The U. Like far too many other states, this means it only has half a strategy, and has taken a largely "hole" in government approach to counterterrorism. While the U. This has limited terrorist and extremist gains in the cases where the U. As in Vietnam, however, it is far from clear that U.

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This has led to a situation where an increasing number of U. They increasingly are seeking ways to end or sharply reduce the U.

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The practical problem, however, is that simply reducing the U. Even full military success does not address the causes of extremism and internal violence, prevent rise or renewal of violence or terrorism, or ensure any form of lasting peace.

Eighteen Years On: The War on Terror Comes of Age

Losing by leaving will also inevitably make things worse — at least in the country involved. That rate could be far higher for peace settlements in countries where the terrorist movement appears to be contained or defeated, but all of the causes of internal violence remain. The same is true of leaving massive divisions and tensions along sectarian, ethnic, tribal, and regional lines that are almost inevitably compounded by past fighting, failed efforts at recovery and rebuilding, and a decline in development during the years of major terrorism or war.

More than that, Petraeus's question needs to be modified to "Why does this war end?

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The data on the trend lines in global and regional terrorism and extremism that follow show that our current wars largely affect three key movements in three countries in a world where this represents a small portion of the total levels of terrorism and extremism. The data on Afghanistan are anything but reassuring after seventeen years of war.

Fifteen years later, we are no closer to an answer than we were then in Iraq, and we seem to have empowered an unstable "victory" by Assad's state terrorism in in Syria. The purpose of war is never to simply win military victories. The grand strategic purpose of any form of war should be to shape a peace that serves the lasting strategic objectives of the nation that fights it.

Not only Iraq and Syria, but Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and the other much smaller fights against terrorism and extremism in west and east Africa. This analysis addresses these issues by showing the rising global scope of terrorism, how it is evolving by region, the spread of terrorist violence in the Muslim world in spite of the current "wars" on terrorism, the fact that the threats extend far beyond a few current threats like ISIS, Al Qaida, and the Taliban, and the interactions between counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and key perpetrators in America's current wars.

They all help set the stage for putting the trends in a given movement, cou8ntry, or region in perspective, but each also provides some additional insights:. Figure 7 to Figure 9 use the same sources to compare the trends in terrorism by region. These trends are particularly important because both regions are largely Muslims or high a high percentage of Muslims — trends explored in more depth in the next section.

Like the previous maps tracing the global patterns in terrorism, these Figures do, however, highlight a key problem in U. One person in London would cross the road every time he saw me walking in his direction. Second, once I had convinced a person I was not working as a spy, I was asked about the source of my research funding.

At a youth club in London I initially introduced myself to a youth worker and talked about my research. The following day at the youth club, his brother was also present. Qasim was in the middle of a PhD, and so, was familiar enough with research funding processes and research proposals at university to interrogate me. Who was funding the research? Was it a research council or a university scholarship? What were my research questions?

What methodology was I using? What was my hypothesis? Had I reached any conclusions? I came to expect these kinds of questions as a natural consequence of the fears of surveillance in Muslim communities. In this article I have demonstrated that from the Prevent strategy an infrastructure of surveillance has been created and embedded into Muslim communities.