Uncategorized

Community Forum: Haviland Smith, Nature of terrorism is evolving

America’s success in domestic counterterrorism depends on two critical elements: the extent to which the American people descend into “terrorist paranoia” and the extent to which we alienate our Muslim citizens and residents.
Fifty years ago, terrorism was seen primarily in dissident national groups working against the nations in which they lived.
Today the world of terrorism has changed. The primary authors of 21st-century terrorism are found in radical Islam.
The dominant radical Muslim terrorist modus operandi used to be operations mounted from abroad against enemy countries in which terrorists were recruited, trained, equipped and directed on trips from their homelands to radical Muslim centers abroad.
Now those operations are conceived and run autonomously from abroad, mostly from Syria and Iraq. The recruited terrorist may never leave his home country. The recruitment, training, provisioning and execution of the operation are likely to be run entirely remotely via encrypted internet from abroad. All of this complicates our efforts to counter terrorism at home.
These realities have reinforced the decades-old international conclusion that the only truly effective counterterrorist measures are intelligence and law enforcement operations.
The best allies that law enforcement and intelligence organizations have in the conduct of current counterterrorist operations are moderate Muslims. In a perfect world, one in which they are living undisturbed lives, moderate Muslims are the most likely people to be able to provide critical information on the potential terrorist activities of radical Muslims living in the same country with them. It should be stated clearly here that there is no coercion involved.
Moderate Muslims are appalled by the activities of their radical cousins and see them as a threat to their own peace and well-being. They are natural enemies of the radicals and see the national law enforcement and intelligence personnel and organizations of the countries in which they live as their natural allies — the only organizations that can protect them from the radicals.
All of this requires a relatively benign environment in which moderate Muslims feel comfortable and unthreatened. In a hostile environment, if American personnel are involved, the moderate is faced with a dilemma. Does he support the American who he sees as part of the group creating the hostile environment, or does he support the fellow national and Muslim, regardless of his radical positions? United States experience in the Middle East indicates that, as often as not, under these conditions, the radical will be supported over the American.
As long as the moderate Muslim feels comfortable and unthreatened, he will be anti-radical. When that changes, all bets are off. He may be drawn to the radical side simply because they are former co-nationals or co-religionists. At that point even moderates can become dangerous to our country.
How then do we alienate or threaten these moderates? We can indiscriminately single them out as somehow dangerous.
We can denigrate them and their religion. We can identify them and expel them from our country. We can refuse them entry, even when they have endangered their own lives by supporting our troops in the Middle East as translators and interpreters. We can refuse entry to all Muslims, including those whom we have already vetted exhaustively and judged not to be threats to America. In short, through executive order and popular harassment, we can make their lives almost unbearable.
In addition, some in America are clearly interested in causing a high level of anxiety in our population when it comes to terrorism. Every act of terrorism carried out anywhere in the world is tweeted and reported extensively in the media. It seems to be working. Even though the likelihood of being injured or killed by a terrorist is minuscule, particularly when compared to automobile, gun or virtually any other kind of death, we hear constantly about vigilance and terrorism. We are being converted to terrorist paranoia.
It would seem safe to say that a combination of terrorist paranoia and the disaffection and alienation of our own Muslim population will have a profound effect on our country. We are already beginning to see indiscriminate anti-Muslim acts taking place around the country, fed by administration actions and negative statements.
The current administration’s stressing of the “growing terrorist threat” and the increasing discomfort of moderate Muslims in America will likely prove important factors in our ability, or lack thereof, to control the level of radical Muslim terrorism here at home. We desperately need those moderates on our side. 
Haviland Smith is a retired CIA station chief who was focused on the Soviet Union. He was also the CIA’s first chief of counterterrorism. He lives in Williston.

Share this story:

More News
Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Op/Ed Uncategorized

Hector Vila: The boundaries of education

There is a wide boundary between the teacher and the student, found most profoundly in col … (read more)

Naylor & Breen Uncategorized

Naylor & Breen Request for Proposals

Naylor and Breen 042524 2×4.5 OCCC RFP

Share this story: