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Embracing them might be the only option /Integration dürfte die einzige Option sein

Alternativen zum "Krieg gegen den Terror"

Von Cornelia Beyer *

Dieses Papier argumentiert, dass die Beziehung zwischen internationalem Terrorismus - hauptsaechlich lokalisierbar im Mittleren und Nahen Osten - und dem "War on Terror" der USA sich als "Gewaltspirale" beschreiben lassen. Gewalt einer Seite wird beantwortet durch noch mehr Gegengewalt der anderen Seite. Die Schlussfolgerung ist, dass sich dieser Konflikt nicht mit weiterer Gewaltanwendung loesen lassen wird. Alternative - weiche - Massnahmen sind notwendig um den Konflikt zu de-eskalieren. Diese Massnahmen werden unterteilt in:
1) die Anwendung von Macht (im Unterschied zu Gewalt), 2) Kommunikation, 3) rechtliche Massnahmen, 4) Gewaltverzicht und die Etablierung von Kooperationsmoeglichkeiten, 5) Integration.
Moeglichkeiten, konkrete Schritte in diesen fuenf Kategoerien vorzunehmen, werden diskutiert.

The process of de-escalation can be inspired, promoted and fulfilled by the application of at least five different principles: power, law, communication, non-violence and integration. These principles (adapted from Funk 2002), and in which ways they can be used for de-escalation and in which ways they should not, will be discussed in the following. Let us therefore apply these theoretical assumptions to possible processes of de-escalation in the conflict between international terrorism (and other actors) from the Middle East and the United States as a foreign policy actor. These are arguably highly 'unrealistic' proposals, but apparently the more 'realistic' proposals so far have not led us very far on the path of de-escalation.


Outside interventions are generally possible, but they should not try to suppress the conflict with further unnecessary violence (as the interventions in Afghanistan or Iraq). Rather, their task should be to prevent further violence. They could, for example, be employed as peacekeeping troops in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Also, power could be exerted by a third power (who that should be under current international conditions is uncertain) who establishes the maintenance of the status quo and prevents further violence by being able to deter or respond to unjustified (any non-defensive) violence without the necessity to engage the two parties. This third power would have to maintain absolute neutrality and rationality (in order not to be drawn in into the spiral of escalation itself) and would need to provide over enough power to interact with the two parties without being put under 'stress' (overengagement, leading to escalation) itself. Currently, no such power is available, as the strongest international power itself (the United States) is engaged in the conflict on one side. The solution, therefore, would have to come from a transformation of the United States itself. It would need to distance itself sufficiently from the conflict in order to act more neutrally within it and in order to prevent further escalation. The paradox here is that one of the conflicting party - due to the necessities of the international system - would have to take over the role of the neutral third party, the negotiator and intermediator. This, apparently, is a very difficult and painful transformation. However, alternatives do not seem to be available.


Rhetorical politics between the two actors should be replaced by open communication. Each side would need to start to communicate their real interests (primary and secondary) to the other and perceiving (listening to) the other sides interests without using communication as a tool of further warfare. Currently, rhetorical and information warfare is still ongoing: Propaganda has been widely used in the struggle for influence, particularly with respect to the Middle East, as "part of a broad effort underway within the Bush administration to use information to its advantage in the war on terrorism" (Mazzetti 2004, compare also Taylor 2002). Directly after 9/11, for this purposes the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) was established, but shuttered in 2002 "after reports that the office intended to plant false news stories in the international media" (Mazzetti 2004). Plans had been established "such as e-mailing journalists and community leaders abroad with information that undermines governments hostile to the United States" and using 'black propaganda' (i.e. the planting of fake stories in foreign newspapers, BBC 2002). However, Mazzetti goes on to state that the OSI's mission (using information as a tool of warfare) has been assumed by other offices within the US government. However, Hoffman in interview states that the 'diplomatic' efforts in the Global War on Terrorism are still quite weak compared to the military efforts or the 'diplomatic' efforts in the Cold War:

"during the Cold War, we used to have the United States Information Agency, whose mission was public diplomacy and information operations. Now that's just an office within the State Department, and that's a reflection of under-resourcing, and also a neglect of what I think is an important component in the war on terrorism" (Radio Free Europe 2006).

The other side (Al Quaeda) uses propaganda to a similar same extent, particularly via the internet.

The only option for de-escalation, however, is open communication. The results of open communication ideally should be: Finding values and interests at conflict with the Middle East and other regions where anti-US terrorism occurs; trying to find the 'common ground' and high-lightening these common interests and values in further exchanges, whereby limiting the promotion, presence or presentation of the conflicting values and interests. Interestingly, democracy as such might not necessarily be the most conflicting value, as many forms of Islam promote their own version of democracy. Actually, the most conflicting value might be about control of others and the 'self' or the 'nation'! To find the real differences and commonalities at stake here, open communication is the only way.


Treaties and agreements could be used in order to establish demarcation lines of achieved progress, signalling progress in the process of de-escalation. Treaties, even if they will have to be revised after continued communication and interaction, give proof of ongoing principal interest of both parties 1) in de-escalation, 2) in finding a common ground, and 3) in approaching the common ground. With regards to Al Quaeda, agreements could, for example and of course after intensive mutual communication, be established on certain forms of 'code of conduct' or 'law or warfare'. This not only would further the interests of the United States in protecting their population; it also would increase the rationality and controllability of the conflict.


Retaliatory and military measures have been shown not to be able to reduce terrorism (Lum et al. 2006, Kriesberg 2006). The only solution to end violence of this kind -- which can be understood as counter-violence -- is to stop military interventions! Here, the stronger actor (in this case the United States) would need to stop using violence first (a result of tit-for-tat under asymmetric conditions, see Beyer 2008). Furthermore, violence after this can maximally be applied as 1) a direct response to incidents of terrorist violence and targeting the perpetrators and 2) only to the degree which is justified (i.e. comparable to the terrorist violence). However, ideally responsive violence would rather take the form of non-cooperation or other forms of sanctioning. Particularly, the senseless killing of innocent people has to stop. Therefore, pre-emptive forms of violence have not to be used, as they only lead to further escalation!

Secondly, positive sum games could be introduced. This could happen, for example, by engaging critical states of the Middle East in new, more equal forms of cooperation; in supporting the creation of economically beneficial forms of cooperation (i.e. international organizations and regimes) between these countries and offering these states benefits in return for reforms (socially, politically, economically). However, in the process of decision-making on these benefits and the required changes, the interest of the target states (here: Middle Eastern states and actors) would - again - have been looked at. These benefits should not be detrimental to the principal (original) interests of these actors or their populations. Presumably, it is more difficult to find intrinsically beneficial proposals than to think about making these proposals as such (currently the United States are already linking foreign aid to reforms in the target states). The issue, how to benefit not only the local governments but also the populations, is important as otherwise such a conditioned support again would lead to further frustration, hence motivation for extremism and terrorism.

Principally, any non-defensive attempt at control should recede to be applied towards these actors (be it in military, political, economic or cultural terms). Control is generally responded with either compliance (if the controlled see the possibility to achieve benefits via submission) or by withdrawal (rejection, in case the controlled do not see this possibility). But generally, control inspires frustration, particularly if the benefits are not achieved or are decreasing, or are just not reaching certain parts of the population which is controlled. The target interaction modus should be free interaction, signalling one's intention by applying a tit-for-tat strategy (which implies the strict application of cooperation first, and control, non-cooperation and violence ONLY as reciprocal self-defensive tools).


Finally, as both actors are interdependent and even if they are already cooperating, the underlying tensions (interests at conflict) have to be addressed. It is not enough, therefore, just to establish law and cooperation (agreements on mutually beneficial behaviour towards each other). These can only be the first steps. In the final step, both sides have to research the reasons for their tensions (i.e. mutually exclusive interests, which are not compatible but which are exposed to conflict due to the interdependence between the actors and therefore the need for compatibility). The interests at conflict would probably not result in any conflict as long as they can be realized in separation, but by the fact of being exposed to interdependence, both actor's scales of freedom are reduced and have to be brought in accordance to each other.

This final step indeed might be the most difficult one, it is also the most crucial one. As long as the tensions - which inspired the conflict - are not resolved, escalation towards violence can always occur again on the same grounds. In some cases, it might be possible to preserve the interests by just separating the two actors and ending interaction. However, as mentioned in the beginning, I here assume inter-dependence and the impossibility or impracticality of separation.

This process is in all likelihood the most painful and difficult one, and it requires the application of high levels of trust and reciprocity (hopefully created by the former four steps) in order to avoid the creation of new tensions and resentments. It can - first - imply negotiating on the expressions of the values: if, for example, they formerly have been regarded as universal, a possibility would be to accept them to be one's own, to apply them only to the regarding actor and to accept difference and learn tolerance for other values. Secondly, it implies to find a least common denominator: where do A's and B's interests coincide? What do A and B have in common? If this common ground is found, both have to try to focus more on these interests, strengthen them, and try to work around or put less stress on other -- conflicting -- elements of the interest set. As all interests (such as sovereignty, autonomy, provision over resources, the realization of cultural, social or religious systems, peace, economically beneficial cooperation) can be broken up into a number of subsets, this is in most cases possible.

What sounds impossible in the first moment might not be so after all. If steps one to four are applied, enough trust might have developed in order to be able to freely communicate about the real interests at stake (which currently are highly opaqe) and to break them down into their smaller components. For example sovereignty as an interest can be broken up into issues such as: 1) Which kind of government should be taken? 2) How much power should the government exert over its people and by which tools? 3) How shall the territorial borders be dealt with? 4) What kind of relation/ interdependencies should exist and how much power should be receded to other (equal) actors (in our case nations) or higher level actors (for example the United Nations)? If every of these issues is broken down into these elements, it might be easier to find compromises on a number of them, which can be accepted by both sides. For example: A free choice of style of government and secure borders might be accepted in exchange for the submission to the United Nations Charter and a reduced use of violence against a states people (please note: these are just theoretical examples to illustrate a logical point, not policy recommendations. What kind of bargains can and have to be struck in a particular situation has to be decided in these particular situations by both sides). Another example: the interest of 'end of US imperialism' could possibly (please note: this again is just a theoretical application, in the end this would have to be applied in the communication with the actors themselves) be broken down into: 1) withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Saudi Arabia etc.; 2) end of support for oppressive regimes; 3) a stop of covert interventions in the Middle East; 4) more equal economic exchanges between the Middle East and the Western states, and so forth. These topics, then again, could be even further reduced to small scale actions and interests, which might be negotiable. For example, the final agreement one the topic of withdrawal from Iraq itself could be: Reduction of the troops, strict compliance with the principles of self-defence and/or non-violence, creation of 'green' (security) zones, etc.

  • Beyer, Anna Cornelia (2008): Violent Globalisms - Conflict in Response to Empire. London: Ashgate.
  • BBC (2002): Pentagon plans Propaganda War, Febuary 20, 2002, available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1830500.stm, accessed: 12.03.08.
  • Funk, Nathan C. (2002): Peace Paradigms: Five Approaches to Peace. In: Gandhi Marg, 24:3, available at: http://www.mkgandhi.org/nonviolence/peace%20paradigms.htm, accessed: 20.04.08.
  • Kriesberg, Louis (2006): Assessing past strategies for countering terrorism,
  • in Lebanon and by Lybia. In: Peace and Conflict Studies 13, 1 -- 20. Lum, Cynthia et al. (2006): The effectiveness of counter-terrorism strategies, available at: http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/CCJG/reviews/CampbellSystematicReviewOnTerrorism02062006FINAL_REVISED.pdf, accessed: 20.04.08.
  • Mazzetti, Mark (2004): PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror, in: Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2004, available at: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/1201-01.htm, accessed: 12.03.08.
  • Radio Free Europe (2006): World: Analyst Assesses The Global War On Terror, December 22, 2006, available at: http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/12/41f0508e-ccc5-46b5-a2c7-c89930bfbef6.html, accessed: 12.03.08.
  • Taylor, M. (1976): Anarchy and Cooperation. New York: Wiley.
* Cornelia Beyer, Lecturer in Security Studies, University of Hull (England)

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