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Author Topic: How should terrorists fight their war?
aupton15
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I think most people agree that taking children hostage is not an acceptable act in any circumstances, even war. But how exactly are terrorists supposed to fight when they are clearly overmatched around the world? They can't take up arms and march against our military, because it will eventually beat them. Are there other tactics that they use that you find "acceptable" based on international law regarding war? In other words, assuming that they feel they must fight, how should they fight in a way that is not "cowardly", but is still effective?
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Robertson, Ugly and Nohow
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First define: What's the goals of their war?
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Robertson, Ugly and Nohow
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In the case of Chechnya, what do they want? Independence? They had it until they started blowing up things in Russia.

The Palestinians had some pretty tempting offers on the table before they started blowing things up too.

I think that violence tends to hurt their cause.

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Robertson, Ugly and Nohow
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If they wanted to change the cultural/religious face of the world, there are plenty of ways they could do that:

If the middle east wasn't known as a dangerous place, they could attract tons of tourism. There's a lot of rich culture and history there. A less belligerent face would bring more conversions.

If their leaders invested the proceeds from oil into developing the nation, they could become an economic powerhouse (beyond just their influence over oil).

They also could out-populate the world. If their birth rate stays high and the rest of the first world countries stays low, they could gain greater influence if their wiling to wait a generation or two.

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TomDavidson
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"In other words, assuming that they feel they must fight, how should they fight in a way that is not 'cowardly,' but is still effective?"

The replies seem to indicate that no one here believes that they should fight.

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aupton15
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I think we should assume for the purposes of this thread that they feel oppressed by the Western world, and they feel that attacking is the best way to deal with it. I'm not saying that it really is the best way, but some groups clearly think it is. Assuming that they are at war, how should they conduct it successfully while still maintaining some degree of dignity and civility (i.e. not killing children and minimizing innocent casualties).
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aupton15
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Tom, I'm asking the question based on responses I've heard about how the 9/11 attack was cowardly, as well as responses to the taking of children as hostages. I'm not saying whether I think they should fight or not. I'm just wondering how people would suggest they fight successfully without resorting to the tactics that have been called "cowardly".
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ATW
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The main problem with these popular front terrorist organization is that they aren't popular. In general, they are a small groups of fanatics who couldn't scrap together a crowd for a decent demonstration. Exceptions to every rule, of course.

They're the bad guys. They're doing a lot less breaking of the unwritten rules and a lot less terrorizing than I'd be doing if I were in charge of operations. Though I think that speaks more to their incompetence than to any ethics on their part.


EDIT:

Basque separatists in Spain have a history of blowing up targets with like empty government office buildings rather than trying to rack up a body count.

You could do all kinds of terroristic things that are disruptive but don't have the object of killing people.

Carjack an 18 wheeler and jack-knife it in the Holland Tunnel.

Blow up water purifying facilities or power plants.

Dress as the butler and kidnap people one by one on one of those murder mystery cruises.

Spraypaint Graceland.

Poison a bunch of fish then throw them dead into the lake where a city gets its water supply.

Kidnap a whole theatre of people and force them at gunpoint to watch "Ishtar" or "Farenheit 911".

[ September 07, 2004, 01:24 PM: Message edited by: ATW ]

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aupton15
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LOL ATW

I think you should include 24 hours of the BeeGees as well.

I didn't even think of this before, but disrupting oil lines in Iraq would be another relatively ethical way to conduct a war against a stronger opponent. It doesn't hurt anyone (that I'm aware of) but it does economically hurt both the interim government and the countries that are supplied by that oil line.

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potemkyn
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If terrorists desire to win, then they most strike hard, fast, and relentlessly. There must be no pause between attacks but a steady wearing down of the enemy. If terrorists are able to target those members of society who are in control (firmen, police officers, city officials) fast and without pause, then society will crumble. Targeting communications and transportation networks will also help in accelerating in the fall of said society. It's possible, but under the current doctrine of Al-Queda and other terror networks, I see no sign of these ideas being adopted. Unfortunately, I do see evidence that Al-Queda and Islamic terrorists are adapting and trying new tactics (targeting weaker allies of the US as opposed to the US itself, using multiple bombs in a short time span). These are not good signs.

Check out http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=16;t=000035 for some thoughts on why terrorism now doesn't work. And some ideas on how it might work in the future.

Potemkyn

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Hannibal
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the terrorists doesnt have the capacity to do what you suggested petemkyn
ATW, i dont know if you aimed to be humorous in your post... but if i was a terrorists i whould defenetly use some of your suggestions.

i will give an example from my country, in the 30's and 40's the Hagana was considered by the brittish a terrorist organization. but the Hagana, thought against brittish instalations very rarely, it used force mostly on defence against arab attack on jewish settlements. and the Hagana used lots of resources to bring jews to israel and to sway politically the brittish to hasten the foundation of israel.


do you see any palestinian organization doing the same?

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Jesse
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The IRA is pretty good example...the IRA of Micheal Collins era. First, there has to be an element of guerilla war, the willingness to engage and defeat the armed forces of the opponent. It does a lot to make the enemy and more importantly your own people take you seriously.

Also, targeted assination of vilified officials of the enemies goverenment. Serious attempts to refrain from harming women, children, and civilians. Have a military objective to every target so that what is really a terrorist campaign appears to be a military one.

Like a "real" military you have to establish what are viable and non-viable targets. You create the ethical landscape and then adhere to it. "Government officials, Police, informants, and all armed members of the occupation force" would a be a pretty good example.

I think we all know that a concerted pacifist movement by the palestinians would push Israel back to the 48 boundary in a week and bring them floods of foriegn aid, but would they be anywhere near as villanized if they limited their attacks strictly to armed targets?

The Haganah murdered, at the very least, hundreds of Palestinian civilians Hannibal. I'm not saying that vilifies all of them or even their command structure, the US army was guilty of the Mai Lai massacre too.

The British, of course, have always held the view that anyone who defeated them was breaking the "rules of war". They considered un-uniformed colonial militia men "illegal combatants" during our war for independance...but they saw nothing wrong with using un-uniformed colonials against the French a few years before that in the seven years war.

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Pete at Home
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Aupton, you've posed the question in a way that makes it impossible to answer. The only thing that all "terrorists" have in common, is the use of terrorism. "How should terrorists fight"? If they fought, rather than terrorized, then they would not be terrorists. So you have posed a really silly question.

To pose an honest question (as opposed to a rhetorical "question"), you should have asked "how could Palestinians/Anti Abortion Activists/Pan Islamists like OBL/Animal Rights activists/Basque liberation activists fight, if not by terrorism?"

Then, suddenly your question becomes easier to answer. Because there are Anti-Abortion activists who fight for their cause, without using or supporting terrorism. There are Animal rights and Basque liberation activists who fight, without using terrorism. They use the Democratic process to fight. Terrorism really only works against Democratic societies, which is why it is such a cheat and an abomination -- there is always, another way. (Notice that dispite its vicious campaigns against Muslims in its eastern lands, that the PRC doesn't suffer terrorist attacks?)

Most Palestinians and Pan Islamists don't exist in a Democracy, but use terror against Democracies. Well, Ghandi was in the same situation. Even when you aren't a franchized member of the democracy that you are resisting, you can use the freedom of that democracy to get your message out, and win. Just ask Ghandi. Ask Martin Luther King. If the Palestinians had used Mahatma tactics starting in 1968, rather than cheering the butchers of Munich, they'd have been enjoying their own nation by the 1980s, at latest.

Or look at a mixed approach: do you think that Apartheid ended because of the nonterrorist actions of Mr. Nelson Madela and his allies (the world community with sanctions), or because of the terrorist actions of Mrs. Winnie Mandela and her allies, the murderous Bantu supremacists? If anything, Mrs. Mandela prolonged the life of Apartheid, giving white South Africans reason to fear giving political power to people like her.

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Pete at Home
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Agreed with Jesse that there's a difference between Terrorism and Guerilla warfare.

Edited to add: this is the sort of nonsense that happens when you don't distinguish between Terrorism and Guerilla warfare:

quote:
MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that mid-level officials in the U.S. government were undermining his country's war on terrorism by supporting Chechen separatists, whom he compared to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Putin's charge, made in a meeting with a group of western foreign policy experts, came just days after hundreds of people, mostly children, died in the bloody end to the Beslan siege.

This is no time to argue logic with Putin, but for the rest of us, there's an obvious difference between Chechen separatists that use terrorism, and those that do not use terrorism, and even loudly denounce it.

[ September 07, 2004, 06:13 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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aupton15
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Whatever Pete. I see clearly that you and everyone else here understood my meaning and has responded accordingly. I'm sure that if they took the tactics suggested here, they would still be called terrorists by most, even if they did not fit the rigid definition. My question was not unanswerable, as it has been answered quite nicely by several people already. You can answer my question or ignore it, but it is the question I WANTED to ask, so it is the one I will stick with.
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aupton15
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For further clarification you can actually read my first post, rather than just the title I put on here. You might find those questions more appropriate and "honest". I respect the esteem in which you hold the democratic process, but I am working under the assumption that they cannot or choose not to use those means. You can always create a different scenario to ask about if you don't like those assumptions.
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stayne
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Civilization has determined that, even in war, there are limits. If you are not strong enough to wage war within those limits, you must resolve your conflicts in some other way, or be branded a barbarian.
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Another Person
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I don't see how they hope to gain independence by killing children.
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Jesse
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I think they intend to radicalize and control the nature of a future chechnian state, by making the (false, IMO) claim if and when such a state comes to exist that they are it's "founding fathers", so to speak.
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Snowden
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quote:
They're doing a lot less breaking of the unwritten rules and a lot less terrorizing than I'd be doing if I were in charge of operations. Though I think that speaks more to their incompetence than to any ethics on their part.
Sometimes I think the same about the White House.
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kelcimer
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If I were the Chechnyans I would not conduct any activities outside of Chechnya. the arguement should be "we just want to be left alone to go our own way. We don't have issue with you except that you are here on our land." Within their land they have three options: Martin Luther King/Gandi style protests, conduct gorillia operations (but not terrorist operations) or field an army like the South did.

As far as Al Queda is concerned. Conduct a successful revolution in a counrty, build from there. Once they have one country support similiar rebelions in other nations. If they build up their forces sufficiently they could invade to effect regime change and thus work on building Khalifate. Once that is done it would then be time to turn eyes to the rest of the world.

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Pete at Home
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Aupton, I apologize for misusing the word "honest." What I meant was "realistic." I did not mean to impugn your personal honesty. I honestly don't know what you mean by "ignoring" your question -- did you stop reading after the first paragraph? I said

quote:
"how could Palestinians/Anti Abortion Activists/Pan Islamists like OBL/Animal Rights activists/Basque liberation activists fight, if not by terrorism?"
Was this not the question that you meant to ask? Because I thought that I answered it:

quote:
Because there are Anti-Abortion activists who fight for their cause, without using or supporting terrorism. There are Animal rights and Basque liberation activists who fight, without using terrorism. They use the Democratic process to fight. Terrorism really only works against Democratic societies, which is why it is such a cheat and an abomination -- there is always, another way. (Notice that dispite its vicious campaigns against Muslims in its eastern lands, that the PRC doesn't suffer terrorist attacks?)

Most Palestinians and Pan Islamists don't exist in a Democracy, but use terror against Democracies. Well, Ghandi was in the same situation. Even when you aren't a franchized member of the democracy that you are resisting, you can use the freedom of that democracy to get your message out, and win. Just ask Ghandi. Ask Martin Luther King. If the Palestinians had used Mahatma tactics starting in 1968, rather than cheering the butchers of Munich, they'd have been enjoying their own nation by the 1980s, at latest.

Or look at a mixed approach: do you think that Apartheid ended because of the nonterrorist actions of Mr. Nelson Madela and his allies (the world community with sanctions), or because of the terrorist actions of Mrs. Winnie Mandela and her allies, the murderous Bantu supremacists? If anything, Mrs. Mandela prolonged the life of Apartheid, giving white South Africans reason to fear giving political power to people like her.

Aupton, if you think that I did not read your questions and first post, or that I did not reply to what you asked, please reconsider what I said.

quote:
A: I respect the esteem in which you hold the democratic process, but I am working under the assumption that they cannot or choose not to use those means.
Gandhi, Mandela, and King did NOT work within the Democratic process. They appealed to Democratic ideals, through a process analogous to terrorism (in that it was a form of extreme PR), except that their methods were MORAL. And they appealed to the best in us, wheras terrorists appeal to our fear. You are mistaken to speak of terrorism as if it were a form of war. Guerilla war is a form of warfare.

Terrorism, on the other hand, has the same relation to Advertising, as War has to Diplomacy.


quote:
But how exactly are terrorists supposed to fight when they are clearly overmatched around the world? They can't take up arms and march against our military, because it will eventually beat them.
Do you think that the military of Israel could not eventually beat the Palestinians, if it was allowed to? Or that the US Armed Forces could not eventually exterminate the Mullahgeddons, if we freed their arm?
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Jesse
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It's a bit silly to only fight within boundaries known to the enemy, I think the Korean war showed that pretty clearly.

There is a certain degree of "terrorism" in any guerilla campaign, since part of your objective has to be to destroy the supply lines and direct support apparatus of your enemy, and to attack their civil adminstration (in cases where the war is waged against an occupying force).

There is, I believe to all of us, a huge difference between a subject people attacking the judges, police, and military support personnel of an occupying enemy and what happened in that school.

Fielding a traditional army isn't really a viable option, the Soviets may be 20 years behind us in most military technologies but they still don't have any major problem targeting enemy strongpoints or massed units of men.

Don't mean to nit-pick, just saying that no military should hamstring themselves from attacking forces a few miles to the other side of an imaginary line.

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WarrsawPact
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I saw something interesting in US News & World Report's editorial this week.

Abu Musab Zarqawi (terrorist leader in Iraq) fired off a memo to al Qaeda. In it he said:
"Democracy is coming. There will be no excuse for terrorism thereafter in Iraq."

That really says it all, doesn't it?

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aupton15
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"As far as Al Queda is concerned. Conduct a successful revolution in a counrty, build from there."

Wouldn't you be concerned that international forces (France might even go in with al-Qaeda running a country) would immediately put an end to any such regime? If not the international community, certainly the U.S. wouldn't allow such a regime change to take place without a fight.

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aupton15
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"Aupton, if you think that I did not read your questions and first post, or that I did not reply to what you asked, please reconsider what I said."

I was responding directly to your criticism of the thread question. What I meant was that if you read my first post, you would find that I had clarified the question in a way that I think is both answerable and realistic.

"Do you think that the military of Israel could not eventually beat the Palestinians, if it was allowed to? Or that the US Armed Forces could not eventually exterminate the Mullahgeddons, if we freed their arm?"

From the perspective of the enemies of Israel and the U.S., it doesn't really matter what they COULD do. Only what they are willing to do. Given what our forces are willing to do, it is not feasible for our enemies in Iraq to confront our military except with guerilla tactics, and even then they often suffer heavy losses as well. Given that military assault isn't feasible, what ethical options do they have to combat their enemies. I understand that your examples of civil disobedience and cooperation with allies do answer that question...but I think it's safe to assume that their allies do not have the strength to change the rest of the world's mind with sanctions. So I'm wondering what they can do militarily, and ethically.

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potemkyn
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aupton,

I was wondering, is winning considered moral? Is it an ethical thing to "win" a war? How much is the ends worth on the ethics scale? Because if it is ethical to win, then it is the warriors' duty is to do everything in his/her power to win.

quote:
Given that military assault isn't feasible, what ethical options do they have to combat their enemies.
This depends on their perception of their enemy. If it is that their enemy will stay until forced out, then they will use deadly force. If the US entered Iraq for oil, then it makes sense to deprive them of oil. If the US entered to build democracy in Iraq, don't let them. If you deprive your enemy of what they want and what they have (their lives), they should leave.

Now if your goal is a democractic Iraq and you think the US will leave on its own, then cooperate and get them out of your hair. If you both have a goal in common (such as Al-Sistani wants elections but no US), then they should target the US in particular and not the Iraqi government (as Al-Sistani does).

I'm not sure if this is what you wanted, but this is what came to mind.

Potemkyn

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potemkyn
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All that being said, terrorism is an effective strategy when it is coordinated with other strategies. The main goal of terrorism is destructive, not constructive. Its only purpose is to destroy the existing order by destroying, what Hobbes called, the Leviathan. If the government appears to lose control and be unable to protect its citizens from gruesome death, then it will fail and that society will crumble. That being said, it is very hard to pull off, which is why there have been few if any instances in history where terror has worked.

The best example, IMHO, is that of Nazi Germany's blitzkrieg through Holland and Belgium. The Germans smashed several defensive lines and were poised to move further, but they devestated the major cities of both countries from the air. Specifically targeting civilians. Dutch and Belgium resistance collapsed almost immediately and both governments surrendered soon afterwards.

The Leviathan was challenged and finally defeated by a combination of the terror from above, and an inability to do anything about it. Terrorists have to master an ability to terrify and ellude the authority and then strike again if they are to crumble a society.

This is beyond the means of any international terror oganization right now and in the near future, but it is not impossible for a terror organization to do this, just very difficult.


Potemkyn

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aupton15
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Potemkyn, I don't think "win at any cost" is moral personally. I think all wars have crossed some ethical lines over the years, but some have been more ethical than others. Taking children hostage and beheading captives is pretty low in my opinion, and I'm wondering if terrorists could pursue other successful, and more ethical routes in there struggle. I'm not sure I'm looking for a particular answer, but I think you raised some good points.
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ATW
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quote:
Originally posted by Hannibal:

ATW, i dont know if you aimed to be humorous in your post... but if i was a terrorists i whould defenetly use some of your suggestions.


Both humorous and serious.

There's several things I've suggested over the years that have come to pass, like hijacking a passenger jet over New York City and ramming it into an office building (@ 1982 letter to the editor they chose not to publish for some reason). And many things I've suggested that haven't yet come to pass.

I generally would like to know my audience a bit better to confirm a lack of Feds and terrorists before I start giving out wish lists. [Smile]


In any case, I'm flattered you'd think these suggestions were worth using:

Dress as the butler and kidnap people one by one on one of those murder mystery cruises.

Spraypaint Graceland.

Kidnap a whole theatre of people and force them at gunpoint to watch "Ishtar" or "Farenheit 911".

[ September 09, 2004, 08:59 AM: Message edited by: ATW ]

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KenBean
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Hi ATW
That was funny...but the aftertaste is awfully bitter isn't it? Thankyou

TO ANSWER THE ORIGINAL QUESTION HERE...
If I were a "Palestinian freedom fighter"...I might consider a neat trick the Mexicans and other Latin Americans with a preponderance of Siberian genes would do...(there ARE no native Americans [Smile] )
I would emigrate to Israel, fight in their Defense forces, earn my citizenship thereby, raise a bunch of neat kids...and shoot terrorists on sight!
KenBean

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WarrsawPact
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Thank God nobody's used my "U-Haul full of thermite" idea.

If you think 9/11 was horrifying, it could have been *MUCH* worse had there been two trucks parked downstairs instead.

[ September 09, 2004, 07:43 PM: Message edited by: WarrsawPact ]

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potemkyn
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aupton,

quote:
Taking children hostage and beheading captives is pretty low in my opinion, and I'm wondering if terrorists could pursue other successful, and more ethical routes in there struggle.
I think this can only be answered by what you fear the most. What would terrorize you? Because isn't that the point of terrorism? To make your enemies so afraid of you, that they don't react at all, they just tremble in their basements and pray you pass by. A terrorist organization that can achieve this is a winning one.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that terrorism is a strategy which requires total commitment and a single minded determination. Half measures will fail in a terrorist campaign. It's like a good blitzkrieg. If you are single minded and smash one point in the line, the front will collapse and you will have your breakthrough. If you have no axis of attack, your attack might take you somewhere, but it won't win and most likely it'll hurt your side a lot more.

I'll try and do this again...terrorism, in a winning form, is not a moral way to conduct war/politics/whatever. I don't believe it can be done. Of course, you are looking for a different answer or else you wouldn't be asking, but I am of the opinion that it cannot be accomplished.

KenBean,

quote:
TO ANSWER THE ORIGINAL QUESTION HERE...
If I were a "Palestinian freedom fighter"...I might consider a neat trick the Mexicans and other Latin Americans with a preponderance of Siberian genes would do...(there ARE no native Americans )
I would emigrate to Israel, fight in their Defense forces, earn my citizenship thereby, raise a bunch of neat kids...and shoot terrorists on sight!

You lost me here...I'm not sure if this is a joke (and if it is, why its funny [Razz] ). Would you care to flush these ideas out a little more?

Potemkyn

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