The Softest Power
The terror watch list is a secretive database filled with suspects to be subjected to enhanced screening. The current tactic is to match travelers to this list and then “watch and screen”. A passive list must inherently wait for suspects to be caught in the net. It is the Constitution which forces authorities to use proper evidence for an arrest; the mere suspicion which lands people on the list is insufficient.
On December 24th I wrote an article highlighting the obvious fracture point of the list scheme; identification. A person can slip past security with ease using false identification (or proper identification obtained by false documents). The system is able to identify but not prevent. What if there was a better method than tagging these people and hoping they use proper id?
Why not contact suspects? What if a counseling center existed that could reach out to those the list has flagged?
This plan would engage the person as opposed to the terror organization. From detailed accounts of terrorists, they are not savage beasts but rather racked by guilt, insecurity, and wholly unsure.
To sell this concept it would require society to grasp the nature and roots of terrorism. Individuals may feel dejected, lonely, hateful, indoctrinated, or compelled to act in the name of God … but the common thread is that there is a reason and rationale. Instead of battling these people once they commit to an act, a wise opponent would subvert the motive and deter it entirely. What if all a suspect needed was a sane person to reach out and offer help?
Is this so radically different than a suicide help line?
Statistics confirm that terrorists come from a comfortable middle class background; the enemy is intelligent, logical, and deliberative. Flip this advantage into a weakness, use human contact and reason as a weapon and exploit it.
The continual use of the dispassionate authoritative approach (hard power) against those seduced to violence ignores the human element. Personal contact, even if unsuccessful, would yield highly probative information about the subject. It would increase the accuracy of the algorithms which isolate which suspects are of highest concern. But for the integrity of the program and to encourage cooperation, information gathered should not be admissible in a court.
Counselors at high schools, universities, and from human resources departments regularly make contact with people whom they have a concern. On this micro level, the administrative body receives a report and corrects negative behavior before it becomes dangerous. Programs that take a human approach have seen very successful results. Narrowly applying this program to those in danger of being seduced by radical ideology could prevent the next terror attack. It is foolish to let extremists have sole access to a person in crisis. Bring these people back from the edge.
Conversion may be the single most effective method in fighting certain types of terror. While it would be illogical to use this approach against the Taliban whom fight for a country, it may be useful against domestic and educated people. Remember, a conspiracy network can be broken by a single weak link that decides to talk. The precise and calculated approach is superior. A lesson to be remember when combating any foe.
A new way of thinking after a decade of fear – Happy New Year 2010.