Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Winning the War on Terrorism With Free Trade

Hi Again,

Bush and the Republicans want us to believe that there is no alternative to their approach to the war on terror. Their approach is to wage a series of wars designed to overthrow the target regimes and intimidate others. But this assumes that the critical ingredient to global terrorism is support for terrorists by "rogue states." However, there is a lot of reason to believe that Al Qaida represents a radically different kind of terrorism.

In the 1980s terrorists like Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal opperated with the backing of various national governments in the Middle East without a really firm commitment to a particular state's cause or ideology (there are even rumors that Abu Nidal assassinated some PLO leaders for Israel). The groups run by these men were something of a cross between mercenaries, gangsters, and spies. They hired themselves out to states to execute missions on behalf of those states but with enough separation for those states to deny any connection. When these guys became a liability to the states that hired them - or made too many enemies by playing both ends against the middle - they were often assassinated (as Abu Nidal was in Iraq) or arrested.

But Al Qaida is different. Al Qaida seems to operate without much state support. It chooses targets on its own without input from states and without coordinating with any governments' foreign policy. Yes, Al Qaida did benefit from its association with the Taliban in Afghanistan but calling the Taliban a "government" in the traditional sense is being rather generous. Also, the fact that an Al Qaida cell is operating in a country doesn't necessarily mean that country backs Al Qaida. Al Qaida can function effectively so long as its leaders can avoid being arrested and many countries in the world have remote areas where police authority is tenuous at best.

So what does this mean? It means there is not a military solution to the "War on Terror." This is a political problem. We will win when groups like Al Qaida are as marginalized in the slums of Pakistan, Indonesia and Egypt as they are in the cities of the developed world. How do we achieve that?

I think that ultimately the best thing we could do to weaken terrorism is improve the trade flows in the developing world. The most important thing we can do in that direction is stop the pernicious and wasteful subsidies of Big Agriculture in the developed world. By allowing the rural poor in the 3rd world to benefit from a trade relationship with the West, we will build prosperity there which will encourage better local government which makes it harder for terrorists to hide and harder for terrorists to convince people that the West is their enemy (because we'll be their biggest market).


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