IJWP 36:1, March 2019, pdf

IJWP 36:1, March 2019, pdf


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Our first article, “Human Security, Terrorism, and Counterterrorism: Boko Haram and the Taliban,” looks at the issue of terrorism and the counterterrorist actions that governments have taken to thwart it. Even democratic governments have frequently abandoned their concept of human rights when it comes to responding to heinous terrorist attacks. While terrorists often show no remorse over killing, raping, torturing, hostage-taking, and plundering innocent victims, the harsh overreaction by governments often includes extrajudicial punishment, detention, and torture. This often serves to reinforce the terrorist group beliefs about the evilness of a regime and furthers the justification for criminal terrorist acts.

After studying the cases of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Boko Haram in Nigeria, the authors, Israel Nyaburi Nyadera and Mohamed Omar Bincof, conclude that universally recognized standards of justice should be applied to terrorists: right to life, freedom from torture, due process and fair trials: universal definitions of terrorism that do not single out or favor some group identities, and civil rights. Such behavior will earn government’s legitimacy in the eyes of third parties and rational people. International law recognizes a sovereign state’s right to self-defense, but requires a response with only necessary and proportional force. Government responses to terrorist acts should be consistent. Further, the authors argue that fair trials are important for justice and that military tribunals often employ shortcuts that do not adequately respect human rights.

Many governments are insufficiently capable of living up to these standards, either institutionally or financially. Afghanistan and Nigeria are countries where terrorist groups can survive because the governments are weak, lack skills and resources, and are unable to administer both strong and fair justice to terrorists. Since the basic mandate of any sovereign government is to protect its citizens, a government’s inability to successfully combat terrorism is a symptom that it may be a failed or failing state.
What happens when a state fails to adequately protect its citizens? The United Nations has recently developed policy about the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) to help UN workers and other innocent civilians in terrorist-ridden or war-torn countries.

Our second article, “R2P and the UN Security Council: An ‘Unreliable Alliance’,” by Tor Dahl-Eriksen, notes the difficulty of implementing this policy and begins with the question: Why are R2P objectives difficult to realize through the UN Security Council, viewed from a policy implementation perspective? Institutional dynamics play a major role in the effectiveness of policy implementation and are not adequately understood by most policymakers. Merely creating an agency or social institution with a mandate to solve a social problem does not guarantee that the institution will actually carry out its mandate.

The UN Security Council has been asked to implement R2P, but it does not have the capability to effectively implement it. The UN Security Council is a heavily politicized body where one must expect decisions that reflect the interests of the permanent members and the constant changing of the non-permanent members. The result is selective political response to humanitarian crises, exemplified for instance by the difference in Security Council responses to Libya in 2011 and Syria in the years following.

Dahl-Eriksen discusses the concept of “organized hypocrisy” in relation to social institutions whose structures do not match their mission. The UN adoption of R2P did not have any connection to the original tenet of the UN Charter to respect the sovereignty states. Sending troops into a state without being invited is a violation of its own charter. Recently, there has been an attempt to redefine “state sovereignty” as applying only to states that meet the fundamental requirement to responsibly protect their own citizens. This evolving concept of state sovereignty will have ripple effects through the entire UN organization.

There is the question about how much military force the UN security forces can legitimately use. There is an ongoing learning curve on this and other issues as state and the United Nation’s policies mature.

Our third article, “Policing Aviation and Keeping Peace: Intelligence-Fed Security,” looks at the response to terrorism by corporations, primarily in the transportation industry. Airlines, railroads, ships, busses, and subways have all been terrorist targets. Here again, balancing human security and human rights is a major trade-off. The author, Sarah Jane Fox, is particularly focused on the nature of gathering intelligence on terrorists, and argues that requirements by governments to collect vast amounts of data on passengers not only violates passenger rights, but is often a counterproductive intelligence-gathering technique.

Particularly, mandatory passenger name records (PNR) requests by governments since 9/11 place huge burdens on the transportation industry and violates privacy rights of passengers without having led to any serious reduction of terrorism. Government agencies are incapable of effectively handling the vast amounts of data collected and are burdened with its management. Fox refers to PNR requests as creating “terrorist risk assessments on all passengers.” She argues that there are better methods of gathering real intelligence on terrorists and protecting passengers than collecting mountains of data on everyone. Intellegence-fed security is not intelligence-led policing, but it is unfortunately becoming the norm.

Much information about terrorists is contained in PNR records, Facebook and Google user information, and other data. But when does the need for security turn into a violation of privacy rights? Perhaps an infatuation with the capabilities of modern information processing and a desire to solve problems without traditionally dangerous fieldwork motivates PNR and other data requests on everyone. However, like the traditional requirement for a search warrant to enter a house, perhaps security agencies should be required to ask only for information related to follow up on real intelligence leads.

In the end, government and corporate responses to terrorism will reflect cultural attitudes towards violence as a legitimate method of responding to frustrating social problems. Violence is an instinctual fight or flight response to danger or deprivation programmed into human genes. But socialization and psychological development involves learning how to address these problems nonviolently. Terrorism is, in the end, a symptom of the failure of culture.