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Last Updated: 12/01/2005Ten Imperatives to Prevent Deadly Conflict and Terrorism
Dr. John Richardson and Mark Hamilton
Since that fateful day September 11, 2001, questions of terrorism have become etched in US collective memory. In the four years since, government responses have stretched budgets, spread troops, started wars, and cultivated a security-first mentality. All but lost in such responses, however, is a coherent and multi-pronged strategy to deal with the roots of terror and deadly conflict.
As argued in the recent book, Paradise Poisoned: Learning About Conflict, Terrorism and Development from Sri Lanka’s Civil Wars, today we know more than enough to choose policies that help prevent protracted conflict and terrorism. We also know more than enough to avoid policies that cause such mayhem.
Our state of knowledge is analogous to our knowledge about the relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. We know that smoking is a principal cause of lung cancer, though there are other causes. We know that refraining from smoking is the best way of avoiding lung cancer, though some abstainers may still contract the disease. A proactive strategy for preventing deadly conflict and terrorism can be summarized in ten imperatives. Relevance extends well beyond Sri Lanka, to Kosovo, Kashmir, Israel-Palestine, Sudan, Afghanistan and, in particular, Iraq.
The ten imperatives are these:
We believe policymakers and citizens in the US and abroad would do well to heed these recommendations, developed through nearly twenty years of work integrating a systems analysis framework with political-economic research, targeted interviews, and detailed historical data analysis. Terrorism, deadly conflict, and failed development policies have long been locked in a vicious, systemic circle. We repeat: our state of knowledge is analogous to our knowledge about the relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Today we know more than enough to learn from past mistakes and choose policies that prevent protracted conflict and terrorism. The question before us, then, is what we will do about this!
This essay draws from Dr. Richardson’s recent book, Paradise Poisoned. Richardson teaches at American University in Washington DC, where Hamilton is completing doctoral work in International Relations.