"War does not, and cannot, defeat terrorism, even nuclear terrorism. In fact, war is an ineffective and dangerous response to terrorism. War has traditionally been waged against identifiable adversaries and their infrastructure within specific boundaries. Terrorism, by contrast, is not a place or a country. When terrorists hide among an indigenous populace, it is counterproductive if not impossible to bomb them. There is no finite number of terrorists, and, because they often operate independently, they are not always under the control of a central authority. That makes it difficult for them to negotiate in the way discrete countries traditionally negotiate. Terrorism itself is a strategy, a tactic. It is impossible to win a war against a strategy in the way nations have historically won wars against nations. A 2008 study by the conservative think tank Rand Corporation found that 43 percent of past insurgencies and terrorist movements dissolved by inclusion into political processes, 40 percent were contained by effective police and intelligence work, and only 7 percent were overcome by conventional military initiatives.
"The respected international mediator John Paul Lederach has asserted that going to war to defeat terrorism is like hitting a mature dandelion with a golf club . . . It only creates another generation of terrorists. We saw the truth of this in Iraq, where al-Qaeda was not initially present, but certainly became present later, whether as an offshoot of Osama bin Laden's original movement or as an autonomous franchise, in response to what was perceived as a neocolonial occupation by a foreign power.
"In his book Dying to Win, Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago examines in depth the phenomenon of suicide bombing. His research reveals that though religious conviction or revenge may play a role, suicide bombings always include the primary motivation of trying to push out foreign occupiers. According to Pape, a number of stereotypes about terrorism turn out to be less than accurate, such as that terrorists are poor or uneducated, or that suicidal terrorism is part of a broad-based Islamic strategy to conquer the world.
"Much as we are tempted to preserve a unique level of outrage for the nineteen men (fifteen from Saudi Arabia, one from Egypt, two from the United Arab Emirates, and one from Lebanon) who perpetrated the horrors of September 11, 2001, it may turn out to be more useful in the long run to have remained with a definition of such people as violent criminals. Adherence to an international legal system could limit the activities of these criminals more effectively than old-style national war making. It is far more efficient for the community of nations to intensify the cooperation of police around the world and to bring terrorists before existing systems of justice. And all countries have a common interest in helping one another account for every ounce of nuclear-grade material globally, guarding it securely against theft or black-market sale.
"Going to war and dropping bombs that kill innocent people who do not initially condone deeds of terrorism only perpetuate and enlarge a cycle of violence. When Timothy McVeigh bombed the Federal Courthouse in Oklahoma City, no one suggested we should bomb his hometown. Instead, our criminal justice system was set in motion, identified him, and brought him to justice."