Saturday, June 20, 2009
The Unfinished Business Of War On Terror
First it was the GWOT (Global War On Terrorism), then for a time it was known as the SAVE (Strategy Against Violent Extremism) before it later became the CONTEST (Counter Terrorism Strategy) complete with its "4Ps": Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare.
Now, albeit unofficially, their being called OCOs (Overseas Contingency Operations). When it comes to counter-terrorism, there has been no shortage of acronyms popping up in the bureaucracies of the security and intelligence communities in the United States and the United Kingdom. The GWOT sprang up immediately after September 11, 2001, when President George W. Bush pronounced famously that "you're either with us or you're with the terrorists", perhaps understandably under CD the circumstances. To the credit of the then French president, who was the first foreign head of government to visit President Bush, less than two weeks after 9/11, Jacques Chirac expressed reservation over the choice of the word "war".
Chirac understood the danger that using the expression "war on terror" could elicit the notion of the war of the Christian "crusaders" against Islamic "jihadists" among France's Muslim community, the largest in Western Europe. It would play into Al Qaeda's strategy of provoking tension between the "Christian West" and the "Muslim East".
But the GWOT became a popular rallying cry among right-wing and hard-line "security first" politicians in North America and Western Europe. It captured the imagination of bureaucrats who pushed for tighter domestic security policies against potential Muslim "sleepers" or "Trojan horse" subversives. Then the SAVE came into fashion around 2005-2006, when the "global war", pursued in Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, persuaded politicians in the US and UK that a successful long-term strategy against Muslim terrorism had to go right to the "cultural roots of the problem" in a particular country. Kinetic-based counter-terrorist actions, including the use of special forces and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles operated from Nevada often inadvertently targeted innocent civilians suspected of involvement in terrorist acts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Over the past decade, intelligence chiefs throughout South East Asia have exchanged notes on handling home grown, regional as well as internationally linked radical groups that often utilize terrorists attacks to manipulate Islamic teachings about "jihad". Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have undertaken "re-integration programs", in which suspected terrorists or those convicted of violent acts are provided with "remedial programs" that incorporate welfare related schemes with educational rehabilitation sessions in the hops of guiding ex-radicals down the true path of Muslim moderation.
The Indonesian Military (TNI), particularly the Army, has discretely but effectively recalibrated its role to provide Territorial Capacity Building (TCB) programs. Its twin track scheme of providing governance capacity building for villages, by ensuring better management of townships, and at the same time supporting economic development is working. Reinforcing governance capacity and providing economic support (repairing irrigation canals, bridges, rehabilitating house of worship in areas previously ravaged by sectarian conflict, teaching arithmetic and Bahasa Indonesia in isolated areas) and in general creating a positive environment of "nation-building" and "nation replenishing" at the grass roots level are all included in this strategy.
This is the other side of the GWOT, the SAVE and OCOs. The real issue is matching the satellite-based and airborne technology of with the ground-level anthropological challenge of winning hearts and minds. The GWOT, the SAVE and OCOs can only succeed if these ground level issues are resolved at the scope and speed willingly agreed to by local leaders.
Juwono Sudarsono, Jakarta. The writer is Indonesia's defense minister.