Every now and then, someone trots out the tired old saw that in order to fight terrorism, we need to “address its root causes.” They usually cite the poverty of the Muslim world as one of those “root causes,” strangely overlooking the facts that 1) nearly all of the terrorists have NOT come out of poverty, but from lives of middle-class or privilege; 2) the vast majority of poor people do NOT turn to terrorism; and 3) the “poverty” of the Muslim world is largely a result of corrupt governments, and not a generally poor nation.
I have no problem with doing this, but I think we ought to deal with the imminent threats first — and THEN worry about these “root causes.” (I have my own suspicions just what those people who talk about such things really mean, but that’s a topic for another time.)
Before, I’ve discussed the flaws of using a judicial model for fighting the war on terrorism. (In brief, it was tried during the Clinton administration and was a colossal failure.) And a purely military model hasn’t worked perfectly well, either (although it was better than the legal model). So, maybe it’s time for a new notion.
I think one idea that might be explored would be the medical model. (Disclaimer: as I am not a lawyer or militery scholar, nor am I a doctor.)
In medicine, when one has a crisis, one deals with the symptoms first, then you go looking for the “root cause.” For example, when a patient is not breathing, you get them breathing again, THEN you start worrying about why they stopped. The first priority is always on short-term survival, THEN long-term concerns. That’s why most medical professionals consider “the operation was a success, but the patient died” a truly obscene joke.
In the war on terror, we really do need to look at what is causing the terrorism. But first, we need to stop it. The repeated calls for “patience” and “restraint” and “understanding” all come with a price tag. And those price tags are almost always affixed to the toes of the innocent.
Once we’ve stopped the bleeding, then we can look for the ulcer. But diagnosing and treating the ulcer won’t do any good for a corpse.