You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

The war against terrorism: A question of will-power.

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 15/11/2015 Joergen Oerstroem Moeller

The war against terrorism: A question of will-power.
By Joergen Oerstroem Moeller.
It is agonizing amidst human suffering following the terrorist attack at Bataclan hall, Stade de France and other places in Paris to analyze the background and what needs to be done, but never the less it has to be tried.
Starting well before the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York the war against terrorism is unique in its characteristics. It is a war of will- power, a war of attrition, and a war far beyond pure military instruments. It is about resisting mainly religious groups taking the law into one's own and invoking God to impose societal systems on other people. It may stretch over decades as a new thirty years war like the one ruining Central Europe from 1618 to 1648. If civilization as we know it shall survive it is a war that has to be won irrespective of how long time it will take.
The challenge for policy makers is the popular demand for quick actions, results here and now, and in many cases retribution. This is understandable, but it won't work. The terrorists have set this trap hoping Western countries will take the bait. They want to destroy 'our' societies by luring us to turn free societies into police states, to sow hatred among peoples, and invite people hitherto living inside the same nation-state to distrust each other - do like them, be like them, and act like them.
The plain fact, which may sound strange after the attack in Paris, is that the terrorists are not winning; the war is going against them. Al Qaeda is far from the force it used to be. IS (ISIS, ISIL) have been put on the retreat in Syria and Northern Iraq. They have not succeeded in rallying a large number of people in the Middle East or in Europe to join them - some yes, but not the number they looked for and the West feared. The dream of establishing a Caliphate sealing of tracts of Syria and Iraq has come to nothing. A number of leaders are allegedly killed dealing a severe blow to their capability of waging a successful war. The porous border between Syria and Turkey is not yet sealed, but turning into a much more difficult obstacle for 'fighters' from Europe to join IS in Syria and 'fighters' to move from there into Europe.
Tactical victories against terrorism and IS have been garnered. Their prime objective of establishing a foothold in the Middle East has been thwarted. They were too weak. The various coalitions fighting them proved to be too strong.
The Paris attacks (and there will unquestionably be more to come) is a reminder that these tactical victories have not yet, far from it, turned into a strategic victory. The enemy is still there.
The task ahead is to build on the experiences gathered over the last two decades.
The core is to narrow and in the long term eliminate the recruiting base. It can only be done by social policies rejecting the first immediate reaction: Police state methods. Yes, intelligence needs to be strengthened, infiltration of terrorist networks enhanced, various security measures at public places improved, and military actions undertaken to seek out hiding places to destroy them, but 'we' must maintain the kind of society we defend. What is the idea of learning from the terrorists and gradually incorporate their mind-set and behavior in 'our' societies to win the battle if that means that we lose the war - to defend 'our' free societies.

Like the refugee/migrant crisis this poses an existential question for Europe. Are the Europeans willing and ready to engage in such a war to roll back the onslaught by upholding everything European civilization stands for even if that means a long war and human sufferings of a kind Europe have not witnessed before?
If yes 'we' must reject those among us that preaches discrimination and even some kind of racism and hatred against people of other races or adhering to other religions, primarily Islam. It may be difficult knowing that almost all the terrorists come from this group, but suddenly turns out to be easier recalling that they constitute an extremely small minority of their own people. The more 'we' push them outside society, the easier it becomes for IS or like-minded groups to recruit. If 'we' send the signal that they are not part of our societies obviously they will turn against Europe.
The other side of the coin is that the migrants and those having settled in Europe over recent decades must realize that they have relocated from one place to another. They now live in Europe. They cannot go on with the same lifestyle as the one they had - they need to adapt to Europe and cannot expect or ask Europe to adapt to them.
Military actions are certainly needed to win this war, but it will be decided by two main elements. Are the Europeans willing to stay the course and pay the price in human sufferings to demonstrate why the European model is better than life where the refugees/migrants come from? Are the refugees/migrants moved from outside Europe into Europe willing to draw the consequence, which is that they are now Europeans with time to adapt and adjust, but they need to do so?
This is why it is a war of attrition, and a war of will-power. A strategic defeat must be forced on the terrorists demonstrating to their potential supporters that the life they offer is less attractive than life inside Europe as Europeans.
Joergen Oerstroem Moeller
Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.
Adjunct Professor Singapore Management University & Copenhagen Business School.
Honorary Alumnus, University of Copenhagen.

More from Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon