Terrorism Persists Because It Works

Every time a horrendous terrorist attack victimizes innocent victims we wring our hands and promise to increase security and take other necessary preventive measures. But we fail to recognize how friends and allies play such an important role in encouraging, incentivizing, and inciting terrorism.

If we are to have any chance of reducing terrorism, we must get to its root cause. It is not poverty, disenfranchisement, despair or any of the other abuse excuses offered to explain, if not to justify, terrorism as an act of desperation. It is anything but. Many terrorists, such as those who participated in the 9/11 attacks, were educated, well-off, mobile and even successful. They made a rational cost-benefit decision to murder innocent civilians for one simple reason: they believe that terrorism works.

And tragically they are right. The international community has rewarded terrorism while punishing those who try to fight it by reasonable means. It all began with a decision by Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian terrorist groups to employ the tactic of terrorism as a primary means of bringing the Palestinian issue to the forefront of world concern. Based on the merits and demerits of the Palestinian case, it does not deserve this stature. The treatment of the Tibetans by China, the Kurds by most of the Arab world, and the people of Chechen by Russia has been or at least as bad. But their response to grievances has been largely ignored by the international community and the media because they mostly sought remedies within the law rather than through terrorism.

The Palestinian situation has been different. The hijacking of airplanes, the murders of Olympic athletes at Munich, the killing of Israeli children at Ma’alot, and the many other terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists has elevated their cause above all other causes in the human rights community. Although the Palestinians have not yet gotten a state – because they twice rejected generous offers of statehood – their cause still dominates the United Nations and numerous human rights groups.

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