Terror expert warns of a new era of fighting terrorism in 21st Century
Dr. Jonathan White Photo: mlive.com
Patrick Center April 16, 2013 | WGVU
“A terrorist group is going to influence behavior and ultimately that’s their goal. Many times public hysteria, overreaction, political rhetoric that turns into ill-fated policy plays into the hands of terrorism, if we simply would approach it with a very logical and analytical mind, keeping the issues in perspective. For example: Keeping the number of people who died in traffic accidents this past weekend, the number of people who were killed and wounded by firearms this past weekend, the number of social problems that we have diseases, the emerging flu that may come from China, those are things that can create quite a bit of devastation. Terrorism is one problem among many. It is a law enforcement problem, like organized crime, like gang violence, and federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement getting better at handling it.”
I asked international terrorism expert, Dr. Jonathan White, what makes terrorism so attractive in a world of mainstream and social media? Is it the “train wreck” everyone wants to look at?
“That’s what the terrorist is trying to produce. And it’s much like crime because very few criminals are terrorists, in fact almost no criminals are terrorists, but every terrorist has to be a criminal because you have to commit a criminal act in order to engage in terrorism. The audience is not the local group of victims but it’s the wider group that will participate in the event through social media, through the regular media, through word of mouth, through the aura. One of the things that can be used to counter that is to have that informed opinion about terrorism. But, it is here to stay. It’s the way we will be fighting in the 21st Century. We need to develop, and I think we are developing, more effective tools to stop it before it happens. In fact, federal agencies including the lead agency in domestic terrorism, the FBI, have really focused their goal on preventing terrorism. That creates a whole set of issues that wasn’t in the FBI prior to 9-11. We’re getting, law enforcement in general, is getting better at that. Governmental officials are getting better at that keeping it in perspective. We’re getting better at that. However, it’s always going to happen because you can’t be lucky all the time. An old IRA saying from an attempt to assassinate a prime minister and they failed, their response was, ‘You got lucky today, but we only have to be lucky once.’
Dr. Jonathan White is executive director of Grand Valley’s Homeland Defense Initiative in the Frederick Meijer Honors College. He’s an expert in international terrorism and counterterrorism.
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