Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 1, 2009

Turkey Leftovers

Filed under: International HLS — by Christopher Bellavita on December 1, 2009

From conference notes I took in Ankara several days ago, participant quotes about Islam, Al Qaeda, radicalization, homeland security, and perceptions of U.S. foreign policy.  This post closes with a reminder from 1848.

Al Qaeda

  • “Al Qaeda is present in anywhere from 60 to 90 different countries.”
  • “It used to be said that Al Qaeda wanted a few people killed, but a lot of people watching.  Now, Al Qaeda wants a lot of people dead and a lot of people watching.”
  • “Al Qaeda’s biggest victory was getting ‘Islam’ and ‘terrorism’ used in the same sentence.”


  • “There is no religion untainted by terrorism.”
  • “There is no one version of Islam, no one Islamic culture.  So how can there be a class of cultures?”
  • “There is nothing wrong with Islam.  But there are some things wrong with some Muslims.
  • “The Qur’an, like any holy book, you open it and read it.  But it also reads you.”
  • “There is an Islam of Identity and an Islam of Truth.  Two competing identities will fight each other.  Two truths will cooperate.”
  • (An annoyed university professor after another speaker’s presentation about Islam and homegrown terrorism) “I know we are in a seminar setting where there is free and open discussion.  And that is good. But it is important to remember that Islam and jihad are two sacred words to Muslims. And one should be careful using those words in conjunction with terrorism.”
  • “The primary responsibility for combating extremist ideology should fall on the shoulders of the Muslim community.”
  • (Islamic scholar citing  a quote from Muhammad) “You will kill each other over interpretations of the text.”


  • H.R. 1955 (cited by an Eastern European university professor) —  “The term ‘homegrown terrorism’ means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
  • “In the 1960s, left wing terrorists [in Europe] were motivated by communism.  We did not call them ‘homegrown terrorists.’ But that’s what they were.  Why do we use that term now?  Is it a coded way to say ‘Islamic terrorism?’ “
  • “There is very little evidence to support the claim that the internet is an effective channel for radicalization.”
  • “There are more than 5,000 radicalization websites; there are fewer than 100 counter radicalization websites.”
  • “Most of the online Al Qaeda stuff is dense and boring.  Very few people will plow through that [on line] material.”
  • Singapore has a strategy (described here) to rehabilitate those who have been radicalized.  It is based in part on the idea that those who have been radicalized “… are the faithful, but they have gone the wrong way.  They need to be taught the correct way.”

Homeland Security

  • “In some places in America, ‘community policing’ is evolving into ‘homeland security policing.'”
  • “Does the proliferation of and language about homeland security contribute to the production of terrorism?”
  • “While there may be no universally accepted definition of terrorism, we can more easily agree on definitions of terrorist acts.”
  • “I am an advocate of homeland security.  My critics call me an ‘agent of a repressive state.’ I wear the label proudly.”
  • “What comes after ‘homeland security?’  How about ‘human security.‘”

US Foreign Policy

  • A Pakistani officer’s suggestion for U.S. policy makers: “Take your soldiers out of Afghanistan.  Allow us to deal with the problem.” [For another perspective, see Jessica’s “Afghan Policy – Making A Presidency” immediately below this post.]
  • A senior Pakistani army officer just back from the battlefield talking about not knowing who they are fighting. “It’s not Al Qaeda or Taliban. We go into a village.  Everyone is friendly to us.  We leave and they start shooting….” Who is the enemy? “Someone is providing the enemy with massive quantities of powerful weapons,” he said. He suspects “U.S. interests” – whatever that means. He said the US is making more enemies in Pakistan than friends. “Every death affects 10 people.  It’s your soldiers dying. But it’s our people and our children who continue to suffer. We are not like you where everyone can earn a living.  For us, one person earns a living for 10 people.” He gives us 2 years to find a way out or “It will be worse for you than Vietnam.” The man seemed a little sad, a bit desperate, a lot resigned. As if he were under a sentence of death.
  • We were reminded that “The U.S. allowed Iran “to purchase a small [nuclear] … research reactor for Tehran University. In 1967, Tehran’s research reactor was fueled with highly enriched uranium provided by the United States.”
  • Eastern European army officer: “I am worried that [the U.S.] will go to war against Iran.  Then what will happen?  Israel will get involved.  Then the Arab world.  Then it will be 1914 Sarajevo all over again.  But this time with nuclear weapons.”
  • “If a nation bombs, say, one of your power stations, you will respond with full force.  But what is the proper response if someone uses a cyber attack to shut down your power station?”
  • “Six failures in the War in terrorism: 1) Failure to capture Bin Laden and Zawahiri; 2) Afghanistan — allowing Al Qaeda and the Taliban to re-infiltrate the country; 3) the strategic blunder that is the War in Iraq, with its 3 trillion dollars in costs to the U.S.; 4) the failure to prevent Al Qaeda from using organized crime to move money across international borders; 5) the failure to win hearts and minds of the Muslim world and its diaspora; 6) failure to maintain solidarity and optimize cooperation within the Coalition Against Terrorism.”
  • “Improved cooperation among nations and agencies — even if not perfect — is better than no cooperation.”

Last Word

“We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies.  Our interests are perpetual and eternal, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”  Lord Palmerston, British Foreign Secretary (1848)

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Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 1, 2009 @ 7:14 am

That is an enticing “last word.” 1848 was a year of revolution and counter-revolution across Europe. The Palmerston quote sounds at this remove to be that of the consumate realist.

Yet — much to the dismay of Queen Victoria and many of his political colleagues — Palmerston lent British moral support (and sometimes considerably more) to the nationalist aspirations of many an oppressed minority — even while working to maintain the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires as bastions of stability. The Foreign Secretary, and eventual Prime Minister, was nothing if not comfortable with ambiguity.

In recent years we have heard much of “neo-conservatives” in competition with the foreign policy realists of our time. Palmerston represents another alternative to the sometimes easy cynicism of such so-called realists. He was a liberal interventionist, an arch-realist in how he sought to advance liberalizing principles. There are interesting analogies to consider in the experience of British imperialism in the mid-19th Century and the current American context.

I am not sure what Chris Bellavita had in mind in giving Lord Palmerston the last word. But I will offer a few more words by Palmerston, from a speech before the House of Commons in June 1850:

We have shown that liberty is compatible with order; that individual freedom is reconcilable with obedience to the law. We have shown the example of a nation, in Which every class of society accepts with cheerfulness the lot which Providence has assigned to it; while at the same time every individual of each class is constantly striving to raise himself in the social scale – not by injustice and wrong, not by violence and illegality – but by persevering good conduct, and by the steady and energetic exertion of the moral and intellectual faculties with which his Creator has endowed him.

Comment by Pat Longstaff

December 1, 2009 @ 10:27 am

So, Phil, does your last long quote tell us what interests that are “perpetual and eternal” that Palmerston thought it was his duty to follow? What are they for us in the US in 2010? Is there no situation where “violence and illegality” should be imployed in the defense of those interests? I am thinking of the American Revolution…. What would have made those folks adopt a strategy of “…persevering good conduct, and by the steady and energetic exertion of the moral and intellectual faculties…” ???

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 1, 2009 @ 11:36 am

The 1850 quote does communicate a sense of what liberalism meant to many at the mid-century zenith of the British Empire. I perceive it is a political perspective that emerged, in part, from the failure of the British North America policy of the late 18th Century, so I grant Pat’s point.

I understand Palmerston’s words sound patronizing to our modern ears. But the crafting of a society in which this balance of opportunity and stability is real, remains outside the experience of many, is one of the principal contributors to violent extremism and can easily shift into terrorism.

Ironically, after decades supporting liberal constitutional reform abroad, this Anglo-Irish peer brutally suppressed the Finian uprising of 1865. So I am not offering Palmerston as a beau-ideal of “muscular liberalism.” I do, however, find Palmerston a sort of proto-Niebuhr in his very engaged and active foreign policy.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 1, 2009 @ 6:37 pm

Well my understanding is the British Coat of Arms contains the single word “ENDURE”! Assuming that is accurate then seems whatever label attached Britain has been successful to a degree.

I would argue that the US is not the nation of 1776, or 1812, or 1917, or December 7, 1941! Nor are we the nation that in essence forced two Presidents to call it quits. Yes, Nixon and Johnson were both quitters. Highly appropriate in both cases. My guess is that with the speech tonight, the President has made the decison not to run again and be satisfied with the legacy of his election. Those who hoped for more will be disappointed. Those who hoped for his failure will see their wishes come true. I am not an expert on military strategy or tactics. But what I do know is that today’s Afghanistan is not the place to replay the failed Viet Nam strategy of COIN and Strategic Hamlets. Why? Tribes and ethic fractures are huge and on top of that is a society totally corrupted by the international drug trade. Now beginning to wonder if the real source at bottom of US corruption is also the drug trade. Admission of drug use is no longer a disqualifier, even hard drugs, and wonder what those admissions represent to those who thrive on the personal and political failures of the US polity. Harmid Karzai is a drug dealer and corrupt. He will be practically guaranteed 8 more years in office after tonight. This is the reality whatever the impact on AQ and the TALIBAN and Pakistan. The measure of a man (or woman) does seem to be in the fights they choose. This is not a decision but ratification of failure in AF-PAK! Der Speigel reporting in detail on the Israeli attack on Syrian nuclear facility. Did we give the go ahead?

Comment by christopher tingus

December 2, 2009 @ 6:16 am


What terrific responses to read and share…

Oh, all so true, however despite the failings of American international policy and its supposed good intentions, all is not lost for while I do concur that eight years is far too much an effort w/little result. in fact, we would have been better off using all these “fiat” dollars and bolstering our own borders and everyone and everything in infrastructure and our own society and its numerous dysfuntions beginning with entrusted “elected” public officials who shun the Constitution and the Bill of Rights…

All should let the Afghans quarrel over their own stonewalls for we are not hated by the Afghan, just regarded as outsiders who simply do not have the understanding of disputes and agreements in their stonewalls among one another.

As far as the abundance of drugs, well we have probably far less success in drug enforecment over the last four decades within our own borders.

By the way, forget this image of “America” for we here on Main Street USA are far less impressd ourselves as we see partisanship and self-agenda usurp any of what the forefathers had in mind, tuhus we are bankrupt in so many ways, particularly void in leadership…. and oh, we are so fiscally negligent as a result of arrogance and self-agenda without much transpareny with the final outcome already written, etched in Biblical word. Those with such dastardly intent will fail, yet not because of American policy and strategy employed, but by their own failings and lack of integrity and compassion for their fellow human!

It is time for the US people to become much more proactive w realistic perspective on their local community, beltway antics and realize that one individual can make a difference.

It is time to understand that the world is so riddled with corrupt government leadership here and there that a first hard look should be directed at the Federal Reserve and central bankers for their ongoing charade which must be thwarted.

How fortunate we are to have such an important blog and to be able to read other so informative contributions enlightening us and making us better informed.

God Bless America! We have been the Beacon of Hope to so, so many and the rows and rows of white headstones of those who have sacrificed for us to enable us this our watch depict the premise that liberty and freedome do not evolve without commitment.

Keep a keen eye on gold for we have seen nothing yet…its value will soar as mankind stumbles so as no government since Babylon has survived as corruption, drugs, arrogance and so on and so forth have always superceded rightousness and the need to repent, to clasp hands and make every unselfish effort to help one another, not delve into the depths of hell that so many uccumb to….

By the way, all must be cautious of the stock market(s) and talk of fiscal recovery…one should be skeptical of the world economic and political stability….we are at great peril at a time when technology can be used to the detriment of mankind as well as promising that Life can be extended to 125 and even to 150 years of age or better which will certainly require more commitment from every one of us!

Christopher Tingus
CEO and Managing Director
Bibles With Love, Inc.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

December 2, 2009 @ 11:50 am

“It used to be said that Al Qaeda wanted a few people killed, but a lot of people watching. Now, Al Qaeda wants a lot of people dead and a lot of people watching.”

I think that whoever said that at the conference is confusing a statement used to describe terrorists in general with Al Qaeda in particular. Brian Jenkins of RAND is often credited with coining the formulation “terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead.” Not sure where he wrote that originally, but it can be found in his 1975 paper “Will Terrorists Go Nuclear” (http://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/2006/P5541.pdf).

In the minds of most analysts, that changed with Al Qaeda and 9/11 (though some were prompted to re-examine this formulation in the nineties due to Aum Shinrikyo). As quoted, the individual at the conference seems to be inferring that the nature of Al Qaeda’s strategic goals or tactics have changed over the years, and I’m not sure that is true to the extent suggested by that statement.

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