The RAND corporation hsa published an excellent monograph by Brian Jenkins: Unconquerable Nation. Jenkins served as a Captain in the U.S. Army Special Forces during the Vietnam war, and he is now one of the nation's foremost experts on terrorism. In an article excerpted from the book, Jenkins argues that we have allowed ourselves to succumb to fear.
At home, we in America have spent the past five years scaring the hell out of ourselves... What else but fear can explain the readiness of Americans to tolerate tossing aside the very Geneva Convention agreements the United States had fought to implement? What else but fear could have led Americans to even entertain public arguments in favor of torture and against any restrictions on how we might treat those in custody?
Instead of scaring us, Jenkins says the government should have been reassuring us and helping us defend ourselves.
In the wake of 9/11, Washington’s continual reminders of imminent threats induced Americans to think of themselves as victims instead of protagonists... But the federal government does not provide homeland security. Citizens do. Our most effective defense against terrorism will come not from surveillance, concrete barriers, metal detectors, or new laws. It will come from our own virtue, our courage, our continued dedication to the ideals of a free society.
Perhaps most provocatively, Jenkins says that at least some of the terrorists can be redeemed and transformed into a force for good.
Those in custody should be offered the opportunity to quit jihad, repent, publicly recant. We should not let our desire for revenge or our determination to see justice done get in the way. We must be pragmatic. We are not settling blood debts... Would it not be better to try to enlist at least a few detainees as spokesmen against al Qaeda’s brand of jihad, having them tell their stories to would-be jihadists - explaining their initial illusions and their eventual disillusionment?
Jenkins writes much, much more than I have quoted here. His book is the most lucid discussion I have ever read of how we should be fighting terrorism. It opened my eyes, and I highly recommend it.