About Power & PolicyPower & Policy is a virtual forum for explaining and debating the exercise of American power in the world. The core participants are renowned Harvard Kennedy School faculty members and associates who have spent decades studying how power works.
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Tag Archives: terrorism
By Hui Zhang Senior Research Associate, Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Chinese president Xi Jinping said in his address at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit that, “we should place equal … Continue reading
By Simon Saradzhyan This is an extended version of the author’s “Mixing Turncoats and Terrorism” op-ed published in The Moscow Times on September 9, 2012. Events of one August day in Russia’s volatile republic of Dagestan have once again … Continue reading
By Sean M. Lynn-Jones On June 4, a missile fired from a pilotless U.S. drone reportedly killed Abu Yahya al-Libi, said to be al-Qaida’s second-in-command, in a remote region of Pakistan. Just over a year earlier, U.S. special forces stormed … Continue reading
By Matthew Bunn Associate Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; co-principal investigator, Managing the Atom Program, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Olli Heinonen and I have written a piece just out in Science (log in required) on … Continue reading
By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen Belfer Center Senior Fellow I am a Norwegian-American. My parents were immigrants who came to the U.S. seeking an opportunity to make a decent living and raise a family. They became part of the American dream. Like … Continue reading
Some hawks have cited the skillful military operation that killed Osama Bin Laden as proof that terrorism must be dealt with by hard power, not soft power. But such conclusions are mistaken. A smart strategy against terrorism also requires a large measure of soft power.
Terrorists have long understood that they can never hope to compete head on with a major government in terms of hard power. Instead, they use violence to create drama and narrative that gives them the soft power of attraction. Terrorists rarely overthrow a government. Instead, they try to follow the insights of jujitsu to leverage the strength of a powerful government against itself. Terrorist actions are designed to outrage and provoke over-reactions by the strong.
For example, Osama bin Laden’s strategy was to provoke the United States into reactions that would destroy its credibility, weaken its allies across the Muslim world, and eventually lead to exhaustion. The United States fell into that trap with the invasion of Iraq. According to a May 6 article in the National Journal, “By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the United States at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down.”
Killing Bin Laden does not end terrorism. In the short run, it may even lead to a spurt of decentralized revenge attacks, but in the longer term it deals Al Qaeda a severe blow. Over the past decade, Al Qaeda became a loose network, almost a franchise, where much of the activity was developed by local terrorist entrepreneurs. Now the value of the brand name is diminished, and that makes the franchise less valuable.
As I describe in The Future of Power, terrorism is not about military strength or military victory. In an information age, it is not always whose army wins, but also whose story wins.
The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum By William H. Tobey (Before he became a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Will Tobey was Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration. … Continue reading
The Power & Policy Fellows Forum By Arnold Bogis The latest diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks are filled with descriptions of smuggled radioactive materials. Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter recently testified to the House Permanent Select Committee … Continue reading