News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Pragmatism and Terror

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pragmatism and Terror

In an interesting and insightful interview, sociologist Neil Smelser provides some uniquely pragmatic approaches to taking on terrorism and defeating it. Smerler's comments about the proper approach to terrorism provide a contextualized analysis that produces some pragmatic suggestions which, if followed, would probably result in more headway aginst terrorism than the heavy-handed, us-against-them strategy currently advocated by the Bush administration. ...

In response to how the US can best tackle terrorism, he notes:

I don't rule out the hard power. I think a reasonably intelligent use of military force did occur in Afghanistan. We somewhat botched it up afterwards, but nonetheless, here was a case where there was a terrorist base in a nation run by a national group and we were getting at it. I do not argue against military interventions, though I argue strongly about how selective they have to be and how targeted they have to be, and that war is not a very good weapon against terrorists. I try to do kind of a cost benefit analysis, if you will, or a costs and gains analysis of the different approaches to the world. You see, it seems to me that most of the post -World War II success of the United States, when it emerged as the hegemonic (if you want to use that word) power is it never used all the power it had. There was a lot of shoving around, a lot of influencing and a lot of sanctioning, and some war making. But the triumphs of the recovery of postwar Europe, of the maintenance of the basically stable, if unhappy, situation in the Cold War, and so on, all depended on a kind of restraint. That's tough in a society that is so strong and a country that is so powerful in all the ways we've mentioned. You're tempted to just muscle through because you can. And that's particularly true of war. We're the champion war-makers, and unchallengeable by conventional war at the present time. The tendency is to take that literally and to muscle the world around. Well, the world isn't that simple. The costs that I tried to fix on, both international and domestic, are such that you simply have to come up with a much more contingent view of how we work to solve these intractable problems in the world.
This analysis has realistic depth to it. It also recognizes that the realistic depth must be joined with inventiveness and imagination when you are dealing with a phenomenon as squishy as terrorism.

No comments: