The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Review of: Liston, Robert. Terrorism. New York: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1977.

By Scipio Cepiacanus

This short and very insightful book by journalist Robert Liston first appeared in 1977, at a point in history when religious fanaticism within the two separate Islamic sects known as “Wahabbism” (also known as “Salafism”) and Shi'a Islam began widespread use of the methods of terrorism as a means to achieve their philosophical goals. The term “philosophical” should be read for the euphemism and propaganda it is. For terrorism as a method of war is simply a tool of implementing a political agenda, even, and especially, a religiously-inspired political agenda. Faith-based political agendas of the Islamic-type seek one end. As it applies to any denomination of religion or fanatic & ideological bent (like Marxism) that would use violence or threats of violence, the users of terrorism want their socio-political beliefs to rule over others who do not agree with them, who oppose them, or who defy the “revealed truth” of the agenda.
Terrorism is not a strategy. “Pure” strategy in its most simple form is defined as the creation and placement of material and personnel resources. “Grand” strategy remains the realm of political decision-making, a unified policy where the agendas, platforms, manifestos, and the like are decided. The achievement of the agenda demands that all efforts in peaceful or violent enterprise must lead toward the aim of the policy, otherwise peace has no meaning and war itself becomes the real enemy. War without political policy (agendas) would have no purpose, besides mass senseless murder, genocide or the complete extinction of human civilization. And terrorism does not mean a specific tactic, as a tactic would be suicide bombers blowing up school buses. If insurgency is a strategy using the resources to achieve a political policy aim, then terrorism is the active means by which an insurgency fights. Terrorism is a doctrine of activity, the direction of grand strategy, “pure” strategy, and single activities toward the unified goal, victory. Suicide squads, road-side bombs, and car bombs are the single activities terrorists take to fulfill the agenda.
Terrorism as a method of war for insurgent uprisings goes back thousands of years. The Biblical David, before he became a king, was an insurgent. Later in history, the mighty Romans fought Spanish guerrillas defying the power or Rome. In the years of Rome's occupation of Iudea (modern Israel and Palestine), the third Jewish revolt of 132-136 A.D. (or C.E., “common era”) led by Bar Kokhba required overwhelming force and patience by Rome to suppress. To define terms precisely, insurgency is conducted by guerrillas, those organized and taking arms against an enemy power. Guerrilla warfare by practice IS the use terrorism. Guerrilla-Terrorist (G.T.'s ) is symbiotic and synonymous.
Terrorism is strong violence, and also can be the threat of violence or its mere ghostly appearance, applied by one group against their enemies isolated weak points, most often government leaders or supportive civilians; small portions of the enemies military, police, and paramilitary personnel and bases; or even the enemies military equipment or capital infrastructure (like power plants, bridges, public buildings, etc).
Guerrilla-Terrorists aim early for a simple arithmetic of power, whereby they add to their power in numbers of members and civilian supporters, amounts of equipment, and credibility among neutral or third parties, and subtract the power in those same categories from whatever enemy that opposes them. G.T.s build strength to a point when they have sufficient strength to operate in wider areas of territory, using the population, friendly or otherwise, as a source of supply and money, cover for undetected movement and bases, and for information. Guerrilla-Terrorists, in order to survive and have a chance of winning their political goals through military means, need to force upon the enemy what Lawrence of Arabia described as the “geometry of an insurgency.” This geometry not only means spreading the enemy's armed and police forces over a wide physical space, where isolated small units can be overwhelmed by concentration of effort by the insurgents. It also pertains to dissipating the moral authority of the enemy over its subjects, whom it can not defend or whom it persecutes and relocates (or accidentally kills and maims) as part of an anti-terrorism campaign. And finally, the geometry helps the insurgency by making the enemy politically corrupt, and oppressive, but also, ideally, financial broke from fighting an endless war of attrition. The cost of replacing soldiers, etc. and equipment becomes too great to bear. Either the enemy is annihilated or offers negotiations.
Liston's explanations of the phenomenon of terrorism were quite receptive in 1976/77. Most terrorism before that time reflected anarchist, nationalist or Marxist political agendas, all post-modern and Industrial Age forms of politics inspired by 18th and 19th century experiences. Liston correctly surmised that religious terrorism, in particular Muslim terrorism, would dominate future global politics between the West and the East, but also the Northern vs. Southern Hemispheres. “Terrorism” as a word, Liston explains, derived from the 1792-1796 (roughly) period of The Terror during the middle of the French Revolution, when enemies of enemies, and more enemies, took power, denounced each other, and sent the unlucky ones to the guillotine. No one could foresee in the 1970s the Islamic suicide bombers, undeterred, and unwilling to negotiate; who preferred martyrdom for the causes of their religion.
In the world-wide-war against Muslim terrorists, the insurgency tactics globally of Al-Qaeda and associated affiliates follows this pattern described. Liston admonished any political policy that would give terrorism legitimacy in eyes of the public. By calling any terrorist group (friendly to the US or not) “freedom fighters,” “soldiers,” etc. causes sympathy in public opinion for terrorist. Liston suggested labeling terrorists what they are: Murderers, extortionist, vandals, and simple criminals. Fighting terrorists publicly with military means, and not by discrete special forces, law enforcement, criminal legal proceedings, etc. gives terrorist what they most desire, the status of legitimacy, which makes getting recruits, supporters, and money all the easier.
The questions Liston asks readers and leaders to consider are the same today as then. But do answers by leaders and led differ today over 1977? Liston's obscure book can at least give different viewpoints to today's readers. And the reality of war and terror today require such viewpoints to be formed and heard from all corners of society if democracy will survive an age of terror.


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