Why Terrorism Cannot Win

by frankbeswick

In London this week there was a futile and counterproductive act of terrorism.

Late March 2017 and London is grieving the dead, several of them, either stabbed or mowed down by a murderous fanatic. Yet what did he hope to achieve by this brutal and immoral act? He must have thought that it would further the cause which had seduced him, but in fact it makes his cause ever further from realization. He has served the cause of evil, but has only created sadness and bereavement.

Picture courtesy of RonPorter

What Happened

London March 2017 and a nation is grieving its dead and indeed the dead of those who were visiting. The day was typical of Southern England in early Spring and the city was its usual bustling cosmopolitan self when a hired four by four car came down Westminster Bridge that leads across the Thames to the Houses of Parliament. At a certain spot, possibly because the driver espied three police officers, he deliberately veered onto the pavement and began mowing down pedestrians. Some were killed, though the officers survived, two badly injured, but a woman was killed and an elderly man died a day later of his injuries, his seventy five year old body incapable of bearing what had been done to him, and a male tourist perished, his wife among the many injured.

The killer drove on eventually ramming into the metal fence around parliament and then bursting out of the car,  raced round to the public entrance to the Houses of Parliament,armed with a machete and a knife, where he confronted an unarmed police officer, Keith Palmer, who bravely challenged him, only to fall as the killer's machete sliced into his stomach. Keith Palmer died later of his wounds.

Then unchecked the terrorist raced across a courtyard towards the entrance to the House of Commons, the lower house  of the UK parliament, approaching the secretary of state for defence, whose bodyguard  opened fire and planted four bullets into the killer's body. The terrorist, fifty two year old Khalid Masood, [not certain that this was his real name] later died of his wounds. Westminster  was in lock down for many hours as the police  checked whether there were any other terrorists and members of parliament were trapped in the houses of commons and the lords for many hours. One member witnessed the killing of the police officer and went to offer assistance and help the medical teams who were quickly on site.  

So What Did the Killer Achieve?

I cannot know directly the mind of a terrorist,I can only infer motives and interpret actions, but the motive, I believe, contains a desire to rule by terror. The strategy is to make the victim population submit out of fear. The terrorist wants to be seen as so determined to win that nothing will stop him/her, and the victim population will have to realize that even if one terrorist dies others will step into his shoes. Those who argue for appeasement on the grounds that challenging evildoers only makes them worse are party to this strategy, for the assumptions underlying their arguments are that the evildoers have the determination that we don't. This is  the coward's response.  

There is another motive behind some forms of terrorism, and this is that if the terrorist organizations launch world wide attacks and are ready to slaughter millions in the cause in the end only the supporters of the terrorist cause will be left. As the Islamic fundamentalists believe that they go to Heaven while their victims end in Hell, they can afford to die in combat. So they believe that this fact empowers their success.  

But did the terrorist succeed? London went about its daily business, unintimidated. Parliament met next day and publicly defied the murderer and his cause. The population gathered together in services to honour the fallen and the injured. Instead of driving a wedge between Muslims and wider British society the Muslim mayor of London led the people in their grieving. Faiths united in condemnation of the assault. No Muslim has as far as I know been attacked by angry mobs or individuals.

The dead so far included two Britons [the police officer and the elderly man] a Spanish lecturer and an American tourist, whose wife is among the injured. There was a Romanian woman catapulted into the Thames by the vehicle's impact, but she was  rescued, though badly injured. A party of French school pupils were slightly injured. Rather than drive a wedge between nations, those countries whose nationals were injured stood united behind the UK. President Trump, not a man to be intimidated, gave his support, as did the French President, and many other nations. The terrorist has failed, as he has united what he aspired to divide, aroused resistance and sympathy rather than craven submission. Black people, Whites,Asians, Americans, French, Spanish and many others gave their support. There was, we could see on the news, a wonderful spirit in London, quiet but loving and caring, united and defiant against those who would destroy it. Killer, you have lost!

The Fundamental Flaw

The rationale behind utopian repression, the name that I give to those systems that believe that a wonderful world will arise out of terror and violence, is that when the enemies are defeated only the "Goodies" [the terrorist and his side] will remain. Then there will be a perfect world, all will he happy and obeying the right moral laws. We saw this nonsense in action when Pol Pot ruled Kampuchea and it did not work then. It will not work now. As we have seen as the world's nations united versus ISIS, the future offered by the terrorists is so horrific you cannot submit to it. It is a case of fight or die. Terrorism generates a reaction against itself. Ruling by terror is I believe emotionally exhausting, and eventually societies run by terror must wear themselves out. North Korea only survives by the power of China to the North, it would have failed years ago were it not for this support.  

What all societies must realize is that society develops not by huge revolutionary convulsions, but by quiet progress. It is by an organic process of development in which individuals and structures grow and develop through time and pass on their advantages to subsequent generations. I liken this to the growth of a flower. If you damage the plant at some time growth is slowed or distorted. But if you nurture it the plant will flourish towards a fulfilled future. By killing, the terrorist has damaged the great organism that is society, and our progress towards a better future is harmed. Children will grow up without their parents [for the police officer and the lecturer were father and mother respectively.] How will this serve to make a better future for the human race? It will not.

Yet the healing comes in society's reaction. Harm has been done, but there can be mending. Society must come together to support each other and help those harmed in the attack. Growth towards the better future has been slowed, impeded, but it is still going on, and it will not be the future that the terrorist envisaged.  

Updated: 03/24/2017, frankbeswick
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frankbeswick on 03/26/2017

Martin McGuiness had moved on;Khalid Mahmood had not. McGuinness tried to make peace; Mahmood died committing mass murder. Our nation and Ireland have been striving to make peace after centuries of conflict; Islamic terrorism does not seek any peace between nations and religions, but only a ultimate victory for themselves.The two men are thus very different from each other.

I see Martin McGuinness as a victim of history that cast him into a conflict that none wanted and led him to do things that his devout and gentle parents did not accept. I wonder how any of us would react if we had been born into a situation like there was in Northern Ireland where our families suffered oppression and where like Martin McGuinness we saw our parents being clubbed down by police merely for demanding civil rights. Britain must accept responsibility for the historical injustices in Ireland that boiled up in our time and are now, happily,being resolved.

Veronica on 03/26/2017

Frank I am not standing I judgement of him. I am a non judgemental person. I just don't understand the mixed sentiments.

frankbeswick on 03/26/2017

In a cosmopolitan city that London is the victims included people from twelve nations, including British, American and Spanish, and I have so far learned of Romanian, French and Irish among the injured.

frankbeswick on 03/26/2017

As usual Katie you write in a thoughtful and stimulating way, and I will need to reflect on what you have said. Thanks for the stimulating question.

katiem2 on 03/26/2017

Learn better do better, evolve via knowledge. I am inspired with the meaning of this intellectual look at terrorism, has it been around forever? Have we been forced to think about this more due to the vast travel of mass information on a regular basis? Does this mean terrorism is a bigger problem now than it was all those years back in global history? Thought provoking as always, thanks for the great read.

frankbeswick on 03/25/2017

When the Northern Irish war ended I made a decision to abandon animosities, so I decided that Martin McGuiness was no longer my enemy. In Christian terms he had moved on. So had I, and I speak as one who had some personal experience of the Irish troubles, as you know. I do not know what to think of Martin McGuinness, and so I leave him to the judgement of God,who is much wiser, better and more merciful than I am.

frankbeswick on 03/25/2017

I think that behind this statement is the awareness that even if you are physically damaged you can become mentally stronger by the experience.

Veronica on 03/25/2017

I don't understand how in the same week, the UK press eulogise a former IRA terrorist at death and then condemn other terrorists.

I think there is a double standard about terrorism. Look at Boston USA where some IRA bombings in England were cheered in downtown bars and when Boston itself had a terrorist attack in recent years, they changed their tune.

cmoneyspinner on 03/25/2017

@frankbeswick - A common expression we like to use in America is: "What don't kill you, makes you stronger." :)

frankbeswick on 03/25/2017

This was a wise response. It reminded me of my time living on the Northern Irish border in 1969-70 when the Troubles were starting. I was slightly scared of being a target, and fear was a constant lingering emotion. But I learned to cope with the fear and fortunately nothing happened. So yes, I have been slightly desensitized to terrorism, but that is not to say that this desensitization is total. It is just enough to enable me to cope.

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