Do we need a zero tolerance policy on terrorism?

This comment was made by Fareed Zakaria on The Daily Show a few days ago:

“What ever the foreign policy disagreement, that’s not a reason to blow up commuters.”

His point was that after each act of terrorism, there are a series of explanations and justifications. Take a look through the recent threads on the London bombings, and each one contains a least one post about how London had it coming.

I know that many of you are reading this and are just desperate to write, “But George W killed civilians in Iraq… The Jews stole land in Palestine… The British colonized most of the world…” And it is that exact sentiment that is fuelling further terrorism.

So, is it time we stopped justifying terrorism? Or does the end justify the means?

It is long past the time for a zero tolerance for terrorists. I’m all for doing whatever is necessary to kill every fucking one of them.

What else is there? Leave Israel to fend for itself? Cease all purchases of oil from the Middle East?

Certainly retribution isn’t a nice thing, but at the current state of human advancement it is still a necessity. So the question isn’t whether zero-tolerance is bad, but rather which side is fighting for the long-term greater good and are the methods employed on that side not excessive.

I’d be more worried about finding them–and even more so of making the Middle East such a wondrous place that there would be no one there to support them. As in the long run this will be the only real solution.

But certainly if you find a murderer and he is found guilty by court, then I have no issue with execution.

It’s not just the Middle East. Islamist scum thrive in at least five continents.

But I’m all for spreading democracy for many reasons, one of which is that it will shut down the supply of new terrorists.

Here’s an article by Victor Hanson which addresses the OP.

It’s not just Islamist scum. What about those bastard kids who TP’d my tree last Halloween, and the little old lady’s next door too. Scared her half to death they did, terrified her! In the spirit of zero tolerance, we should lock little pricks like this up for good, or better yet, execute them.

Yes, and as said, if you find them then whatever.
I’m just cautious of people running about screaming “Kill em all!” Certainly, go ahead and find them and kill them all–I don’t mind that. But I do mind people running about screaming “Kill em all!”

Zero tolerance just mean not letting them get away with it unpunished–not excessive punishment.
Zero tolerance is perfectly fine–the only real question to be debated is whether the methods for finding the perpetrators are being run intelligently and if once found, the terrorists are dealt with as morally as possible.

That’s a very perceptive point…not really. What is this supposed to be, a new credo, a new idea? If it illuminates anything at all, it is the sad misunderstanding that many people still harbor on the roots and reasons of Islamist (but really any kind of) terrorism. Terrorism isn’t about foreign policy disagreements, it is about power relationsships. One side thinks the other side is too powerful – be that political power, cultural power, you name it. If you dumb it down to foreign policy differences, you obviously deprive yourself of the means of understanding the problem.

Yes, I’m sitting here thinking, “let em bomb some more innocent civilians, fair’s fair.” Naw, I’m not. But then I’m not setting up strawmen either.

No, it’s been time to stop justifying violence as a solution for some time; no, the end does not justify the means. What we need are not justifications, but explanations. The mechanisms of terror, the whys of terror, if you will. Those aren’t justifications, even if they end up blaming U.S. cultural hegemony or British imperialism or anything else that would point at US in the west as being the ultimate cause of the terror. Do you believe it entirely impossible that it is, in fact, Western actions that create the situation in which terrorists can emerge? Notwithstanding the possibility that all of those Western actions may be, in fact, benevolent and positive (from our point of view) for the societies that are influenced by them? Granting the possibility that the same sort of action which you consider perfectly decent may be considered a sacriligous offense to the people who then become terrorists?

None of this justifies bombings, wars, or any kind of violence period; but it helps explain, and thus, combat it. If you know the mechanism, you know which wheels you need to block to disable a watch. If you don’t start looking for the mechanism, all you can hope for is that you will hit enough wheels, blinding hammering on the watch, to disable it without breaking much more than is necessary.

When the they TP’d your tree, did anyone make a justification for the action? Did anyone suggest that it happened because your tree hangs onto your neighbours yard and covers it with leaves every fall? Or blame it on the kids parents? Or say that they did it because their agry about the US invasion of Iraq?

The point of this debate is that when terrorists slaughter people on a bus, there isn’t outrage. Instead, their are justifications. That some how it was okay to kill those people (or TP your tree) because of some misguided notion about God.

The “zero tolerance” isn’t about catching and convicting terrorists. Its about the rest of us justifying their actions.

So nuking Kimberly Clark is out of the question?
How else are we going to put the fear of God into these people? :wink:

And that’s exactly my point. To answer your question, no, I do not believe that Western actions alone create these situations. And my annoyance is that we are all to quick to dismiss acts of terrorism because we disagree with US foreign policy.

After two kids went into a Colorado highschool and killed 13 people I heard a lot of people try to justify it. They blamed all kinds of stupid things like bullying, bad parenting, and gun laws. This sort of justification, in my mind, vindicates those two as having some sort of a cause worth fighting. But in the end, each group simply used the incident to promote his/her own cause: If you don’t like guys, blame this situation on guns, don’t like bullying, blame it on that.

The result is that a message reverberates through every on-the-edge murderer that their cause is justified. That because their dad didn’t hug them, some kids picked on them at school, and that Wal-mart sells guns, its okay for him to follow suit.

I disagree. A lot of people did blame a lot of things - video games, gun availability, high school bullying. They were not trying to justify the murder. Mostly they had their own personal vendettas against video games/guns/bullies and used Columbine as an excuse to say “Look! See how bad it is?” Nobody tried to justify kids being killed.

I’d call that a pretty creative answering of my question. Little words with big consequences, no doubt. I didn’t write “Western actions alone create these situations”. You will be pleased to note that when you check my post again. I asked whether you considered it, in fact, impossible that they did create them, without noting specifically whether they did so “alone” or not, granting, on the other hand, that it will be the local reception of Western actions that then creates those situations in which terrorists emerge. I hope that is a helpful clarification.

Also, please clarify your use of the pronouns in the second sentence – who are “we” in that sentence? You and I? Us and Them? First one, then the other? In either case I must be reading the wrong papers, or you may be, for I find none of that dismissal you mention. I didn’t find it in the case of Littleton either, although I again assume that you are confusing explanation with justification. I’m also very unsure, and would almost be inclined to ask for a cite, on the influence that this search for explanations would have on a potential school-shooter or terrorist. I heartily doubt that any of the kids who have been so messed up (and I see no way to avoid the passive in the case of adolescent kids, really) that they resort to shooting schoolmates in the name of revenge or blow themselves up in the name of allah really do so thinking “well, TV said it wasn’t my fault, so I can do it alright”. Not really, wouldn’t you agree?

We can punish and/or destroy our enemies, AND try to understand their motives. It’s a false dichotomy to think otherwise.

And this is the point I disagree with. Terrorism is a sadistic act without reason or logic; as was Columbine and Oklahoma City. These attacks are carried out by terrorists that are so delusional in their beliefs that to them the ends justifies the means. In the latest case, blowing up a subway is okay as long as it gets the US/UK out of Iraq.

To assign a “motive” other than insanity is what I believe fuels further terrorism, and where I see a need for zero tolerance. It gives comfort to those planning future attacks that the world sees it as they do.

“Zero Tolerance” is one of the most moronic phrases going right now. Does anyone think we have a 10% tolerance for terrorism at the moment? Or is it 20%? Whenever I hear “zero tolerance” applied to any situation I generally laugh out loud.

Besides, what are you gonna do when some suicide bomber decides to ignore your ‘zero tolerance’ policy and blow himself up on a commuter bus? Stress again that you don’t ‘tolerate’ that kind of thing? It’s just more liberal touchy-feely nonsense, if you ask me.

Before I reply to Enterprise, I’d like to present a different take on the issue:

I can remember a time when the legal system seemed to simpathize with rapists. And after every rape there would be a series of justifications, or “explanations” such as: she was dressed provacatively, she came on to him, she acted like a slut, she had promiscuous sex, she shouldn’t have been hanging out at that club, she shouldn’t be walking alone. A lot of explanations, but never, “he was a sick sadistic f*ck.”

For the sane and rational, we can strugle to understand these actions and in doing so seak “explanations.” The problem, as I see it, is that those explanations are heard by the insane and irrational as justifications. Instead of a little voice in their head saying, “rape is wrong,” they just keep repeating, “look how she’s dressed, she must want it.”

So explanations to us (the sane and rational, not about to commit crime) are heard as justifications to others (the insane, looking for a reason to blow something up).

That is where I see a need for zero tolerance, and a need to say, "these acts are not sane or rational, no matter what.

I fail to see how trying to understand their motives has anything to do with tolerance. Understanding does not meet tolerating or excusing. Can you give examples of terrorists that have gone free because people tried to understand their motives?

That’s because you skipped the OP and missed the entire point of what zero tolerance was directed at.