Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 30, 2011

Utøya and us: Analogy and policy

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on July 30, 2011

On the same day the bombing and shooting in Norway killed 77 at least eleven Syrian protesters were killed by security forces, bringing the total for the week to over 50 and the number of Syrian civilians killed since mid-March to 1419. (Sunday Update: At least eighty Syrians were killed in pre-dawn raids today).

On the same day that Breivik was killing his fellow Norwegians,  political violence in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, killed 19.  Earlier in July another clash between adherents of one political party and a recent splinter group killed 100. (Sunday Update:  Ten more were killed overnight in Karachi.)

Each month an average of 38 children are killed by Mexican drug-related violence.  Since sustained anti-cartel operations began in 2008 over 40,000 Mexican civilians have lost their lives in the crossfire… sometime literally.

I could, of course, keep going.  Last week and since there have been significant civilian casualties in Malawi, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan.   In Somalia the death toll from famine — estimated at more than 30,000 and climbing quickly — has been supplemented by battles between African Union and Al-Shabab forces and by inter-clan violence.   Many of those killed are women and children who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have not given nearly the attention to these other deaths that I have given to the Utøya massacre and related Oslo bombing.   By attention I don’t just mean coverage in HLSWatch.  I mean time committed to research.  I also mean emotional investment.  Monday morning I missed a scheduled teleconference because I was distracted by this — sadly not-so-unusual — event. That is not something I do.  But over the last week it has been a personal and professional preoccupation, despite my best efforts to objectify the event and reduce it to analysis.

A weekend indulgence in some public self-analysis — as if you care — but there may be some policy implications:

I cut my professional teeth on post-Tito Yugoslavia.  I began my analysis well before Tito’s passing.   My worst case projections never included the implosion of ethnic violence that unfolded.   Fortunately for my career I had left Yugoslavia far behind by the time the wily Marshall died in 1980.   I was amazed what a few monstrously banal leaders could do when amplified by the hate and violence of a few others and the complicity of many, many more.  It took less than a decade for a peaceful, prosperous, and tolerant nation to descend into genocide.

While some will find this scandalous, I perceive the potential for a banal and/or evil response to Breivik’s actions is — or was — as significant in Norway as it was in the very early 1980s in Yugoslavia, before Milosevic and his circle succeeded in dominating the political culture.  Instead we have all benefited from statesmanlike, inclusive, generous — even redemptive — acts and words across the political spectrum.   While the current Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, certainly deserves a great deal of credit, he has been joined by his principal political rivals, the royal family, every media outlet I can find,  religious leaders of every sort, and by the parents and other survivors of those killed.

Several years ago the then Norwegian Prime Minister caused a few eyebrows to arch when he said, “It is naturally Norwegian to be good.”   I would argue he mistook a socially effective ethic for a natural predilection.  It is wrong — even dangerous — to take this for granted as some sort of   “natural” exceptionalism.   It is crucial that Norwegians — and all of us — recognize the shared habits of empathy, solidarity, forgiveness, and a realistic commitment to justice and accountability are crafted through a million individual choices and all too easy to lose.

I have been preoccupied with “this little country” (as the Norwegians have described themselves this week), not because of its all-too-ordinary experience with deadly violence, but due to its atypically courageous and constructive response.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

July 31, 2011 @ 3:17 am

A worthy post and worth of reflection by all.It would be of interest to know of Norwegian-American contributions to the USA polity? Beyond Garrison Keilor of course. Is it nature or nuture?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 1, 2011 @ 8:52 am

Over the last week I have had some difficulty engaging my colleagues related to lessons-observed from Norway. It is as if we discount positive examples.

Searching for a conversation, I stumbled across this Sunday comment by Iain MacWhirter in The Herald (Scotland). I am not in complete agreement, but thought it worth consideration of HLSWatch readers.

The Herald requires (free) registration, so — inappropriately — I have pasted below his observations in their entirety, but otherwise I don’t think the comments will be read.

Norway showed us the way to respond to terrorism

Published on 31 Jul 2011

I WASN’T going to write about the Norwegian massacre because it has rather fallen from the front pages – then I realised that was precisely the point.

Had it been the al-Qaeda atrocity that many initially suspected, things would have been different. Today’s press would have been dominated by commentary about “Norway’s 9/11” and the “new Nordic?front?in?the?war?on?terror”. We would be told there was now “nowhere to hide” from Islamist fanatics.

As it happened, of course, this was not an act of Islamic fundamentalist terror, but Christian fundamentalist terror. Commentators and newspaper editors have been embarrassed, particularly, the Daily Mail’s Melanie Phillips, whose columns were cited in Anders Behring Breivik’s “manifesto”. Mind you, the Independent’s Robert Fisk was once cited by Osama bin Laden, which just goes to show that you can’t always be sure the right people agree with you when you write opinionated commentary.

But there were no calls for censorship of right-wing views, or any crackdown in Norway against the anti-immigration parties. Norway provided a textbook demonstration of how a civilised country should respond to these rare and random acts of unspeakable barbarity – with stoicism and measure. Despite having been the prime target of the Oslo bombing, the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, avoided the temptation to declare another pointless “war on terror” or promulgate an agenda of repressive measures to “protect the people”.

Instead he turned this tragic event into a chance to unite the country, celebrate liberal values and heal divisions. “The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” he said. The people took his lead, and mounted huge peaceful demonstrations holding flowers to show their respect for the dead and their commitment to their values. Unfortunately, that isn’t as newsworthy as a war on terror, so Norway slipped into the foreign news pages.

Compare Britain’s response to 7/7 in 2005. Within days, then Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, under pressure from Tony Blair and The Sun, had put together an agenda of repressive legislation. Top of the list was 90-day detention for terrorists and the outlawing of what was called “indirect incitement to terrorism” – the nearest Britain has come to legislating against thought crime. The 90-day detention plan was dropped after it was realised this could mean suspects receiving the equivalent of a six-month prison sentence, with remission, without being charged with any offence. But Blair had no qualms about abolishing the thousand-year-old right of habeas corpus – the right not to be held without charge.

A repressive response is precisely what the terrorist wants because it engenders hate between communities. In Chris Morris’s brilliant satire on religious terrorism, Four Lions, one of the suicide bombers insists they should target the local Mosque. That way, peaceful Muslims would be roused to anger against the “kuffar” (non-believers), the government would crack down on them and there would be a religious civil war hastening “the end of days”.

If only, after 9/11, George W Bush had appealed for calm and urged citizens to hold firm to their democratic values. Instead he promised to get bin Laden “dead or alive”, declared war on international terror, and then invaded Iraq, a country that had no connection whatever to al-Qaeda. In doing so, he played right into bin Laden’s hands, igniting a furious response throughout the Middle East to the illegal invasion of a nominally Muslim country.

Of course, there are those who say it was only because Breivik was a “Christian” bomber rather than a Muslim one, that the response was so responsible. Aren’t far-right groups on the march already in Northern Europe? The Freedom Party in Holland, the Sweden Democrats, the True Finns. The Arab News last week slammed the West for hypocrisy, saying the Norway shooting was played down because it didn’t fit the “racist” mould of “Islamic terrorism”.

There may be an element of truth in that. Certainly, UK papers which had prematurely pronounced the massacre as the work of al-Qaeda, curiously became less interested after it was discovered the perpetrator was white and right-wing.

But if the killer had fitted that profile, I don’t believe the Norwegian response would have been markedly different. The security services and the Norwegian police – who were heavily criticised for their delayed reaction to the events – might have stepped up security at immigration points and known Muslim extremists might have been questioned. But there would have been nothing like the British reaction to 7/7.

So, why has Norway reacted so calmly? Let’s put it the other way: why was Britain’s first reaction a repressive one? Britain is a phlegmatic country with firm values, not unlike Norway. For three decades, Britain took the IRA terror bombings in its stride and even Margaret Thatcher, a target of the IRA Brighton bombing in 1984, never proposed detention without trial on the British mainland. Why was Britain so different in 2005?

Perhaps the presence of Rupert Murdoch, the “24th member of Blair’s cabinet” according to former Number 10 staffer Lance Price, might have had something to do with it. Blair was obsessed with pleasing the tabloid press. In Norway, they don’t allow foreign proprietors to dictate government policy. But more importantly, Norway is a small, robust and relatively homogeneous community, used to adversity, and confident in itself and its democracy. Belligerence is a sign of weakness. Let’s hope political leaders learn from Norway’s example, because we will probably be here again.

Comment by John Comiskey

August 1, 2011 @ 11:07 am

Reflecting on a “big” country (USA) and the world on August 1, 2011.

My wife and I drove to the beach yesterday morning to watch the sun rise. We sipped coffee and got our feet wet before the day’s first event.

It is our time to reflect. We take this time to talk about most everything and especially our children and families, our next vacation, and our planned retirement home. We know that things are mostly good on our home front.

But we know things are not so good elsewhere. Reflecting on the world is most unpleasant. While hope abounds –despair and horror pervade the real world and the news.

In a recent life I have seen some of that horror. Touching the world is visceral and sometimes haunting. I offer my prayers to those who, today, prevent and mitigate today’s horrors and tomorrow’s potential horrors.

Reading about and studying the world can be haunting too. In 2003, I wrote a graduate thesis that argued that cognitive development could be promoted by studying moral dilemmas. The thesis focused on the Holocaust and the many personal and collective decisions that enabled genocide in what was thought to be the epicenter of civilization. The study haunted me: What would I have done had I been put in a position to aid and abet or oppose the final solution? I pray that I would have chosen the latter.

On August 1, 2011 the world faces hunger and despair and war and terrorism and piracy and mad gunmen and pockets of evil/dysfunctional governance.

Reflecting on the lessons learned in Utoya in 2011 and the lessons learned and not learned by the US post-9/11 is hard. It sometimes seems that we are resolved to not resolve some things. My thesis also promoted the idea that history is the result of personal and collective decisions and those decisions are ours. Might we resolve to resolve some things to include the following?

1. Identifying our core values.
2. Accepting that the world has changed and continues to change.
3. Putting our cards on the table: Where are we as a Nation today and where do we want to be in 5, 10, and 25 years from now and NOT where do we want to be the day after Election Day.
4. How do we harmonize security and democracy in the 21st Century?

Decisions must be made to ensure both security and democracy. Those decisions must be made now. Those decisions are ours.

Re: comparing Norway 2011 and the USA 2001

I do not categorically condemn the Bush administration for the revolutionary transformation of parts of our government and governance. Much of it was necessary and overdue. As we near the 10th anniversary of Tuesday September 11, 2011, I ask that we consider where we were in time and place and what “we did” the good and not so good.

Those that oppose some of the Bush administration’s policy and especially preventive detention are lax in offering alternatives: What do we do with those detainees AND who will assume responsibility for their future actions?

IMHO, we will not know (in this life) what might have been had we not invaded Iraq. Where would the world be if Saddam Hussein were left in power? The US, U.K, and other allied Intelligence analyzed correctly that Hussein had “intentions” to acquire WMD. They analyzed incorrectly, at the time, Hussein did not have the “capability” to acquire WMD.

Are not the lessons on Munich applicable; do we appease Hussein-like-megalomaniacs like the West appeased Hitler in 1939?
I repeat: #4. How do we harmonize security and democracy in the 21st Century?

For the record and IMHO, the US and allied invasion of Iraq was a mistake mostly because Hussein’s threat checked the Iranian threat to the US and US interests. That said and again IMHO, 50 years from now history will say that the US invasion of Iraq contributed to the democratization of the region.

I hope that my children have the opportunity to one Sunday morning drive to the beach, sip a coffee, get their feet wet, and watch the sun rise on a better world.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 1, 2011 @ 1:17 pm

John, I appreciate your substantive feedback and consideration. In addition to your four steps — or perhaps embedded in your second — I would offer a “suspension of confidence” or, maybe, the adoption of intellectual humility sufficient to really listen to and consider opinions, judgments and observations which we are initially inclined to reject. We may still reject them. But before doing so I think we owe everyone involved an honest listening, including a careful questioning. And if we choose to reject the opinion, judgment or observation of another, we ought try to do so in a way that honors the dignity of the other. What I have seen in the Norwegian response to Breivik and his horrific acts is a style that carries a lot of substance.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 1, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

How does one become a citizen of Norway?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 1, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

Bill, according to the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration:

If you have a valid residence permit in Norway, you can apply for Norwegian citizenship. For the application to be granted, you must, among other things, meet the following requirements:

Be above the age of 12 (does not apply to stateless persons or children for whom citizenship is applied for concurrently with their mother or father, or children with a Norwegian mother or father)
Have documented or clarified your identity. As a principal rule it is a condition that you provide a passport as proof of your identity. The passport shall be valid when the Directorate of Immigration makes a decision on the application.
Be resident in Norway and intend to continue to live here
Meet the conditions for a settlement permit
Have stayed in Norway for a total of seven years during the last ten years on permits each of which must have been granted for at least one year (see exemptions below)
Have completed 300 hours of tuition in the Norwegian language or have documented sufficient skills in Norwegian or Saami (NOTE: Applies to persons aged between 18 and 55, whose applications are submitted after 1 September 2008). For further information, see http://www.imdi.no.
Must not have been convicted of a criminal offence or been ordered to undergo enforced psychiatric health treatment or enforced psychiatric care (good conduct requirement)
Must have been released from your original citizenship unless it automatically expires when you become Norwegian

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 1, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

Since the July 22 massacre I have several times heard Norwegian crowds singing Til Ungdommen. With the help of a friend (thanks Jennifer) and, I understand, friends of hers in Norway I finally have access to a few translations. Below I offer my own rendering, depending heavily on a literal transcription by Morten Årstad.

The original poem was written in 1936 by Nordahl Grieg in Norwegian with the Spanish Civil War in mind. I am told it became an anti-Nazi hymn during the German occupation of Norway and the collaborationist rule of Vidkun Quisling.

I am impressed by the paradoxical realism of the words and sentiment. There is recognition of very real danger. The call to courageous action is combined with recognition of full vulnerability… and the ambivalent potential of the most noble action. Success is possible, but far from assured. As Prime Minister Stoltenberg has said, “no naivete.”

The popular embrace of this particular song in this particular moment offers, it seems to me, an interesting insight into the sources of resilience within Norwegian society.

You can hear the original Norwegian at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irfB9GUdjPE&feature=related

Surrounded by enemies,
embrace this moment!
Within a bloody storm –
devote yourself to struggle!

Maybe you ask in fear,
vulnerable, open:
with what shall I fight
what is my weapon?

Here is your defense against violence
here is your sword:
faith in life,
humankind’s worth.

For all our future’s sake,
seek it and cultivate it,
die if you must – but:
increase it and strengthen it!

Silently roll the grenades
one after another
Stop their death spiral
Stop them with your spirit!

War is contempt for life.
Peace is creative living.
Throw your strength into it:
Death shall lose!

Love and enrich with dreams
all that is great!
Go towards the unknown
wringing answers from it.

Unfinished workshops,
unknown stars.
Create them, with spared lives’
bold minds!

Noble is humankind,
the earth is rich!
If there is need and hunger
it is by deceit.

Crush it! In the name of life
injustice shall fall.
Sunshine and bread and mind
belongs to all.

Then the weapons sink
powerless to the ground!
By creating human worth
we create peace.

Those who with their right arm
carry a burden,
precious and inalienable,
cannot murder.

This is our promise
from brother to brother:
We will be good to
humanity’s earth.

We will take care of
the beauty, the warmth
as if we carry a child
carefully in our arms!

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 2, 2011 @ 1:31 am

WOW Phil! A spectacular comment and find. And I just became a Granddad of a new Granddaughter. First time.

Yes, having children is in fact having “hostages to fortune”!

Comment by Tina Olson

August 2, 2011 @ 5:14 am

Hi Philip, I am Jennifer’s friend living in Oslo and have enjoyed reading your articles! Can I just point out 2 interesting facts?

Regarding your quote: Several years ago the then Norwegian Prime Minister caused a few eyebrows to arch when he said, “It is naturally Norwegian to be good.” This was actually said by a SHE – the Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland said this in her speech on January 1st, 1992. It has become a famous quote. She was also at the camp Utøya on the same day as Anders Behring Breivik, just missing each other by a few hours. The papers have later reported that later said Bruntland was a target.

The song “Til Ungdommen” was reported to have been sung by one of the females survivors as she swam the long distance in the cold water to safety. She said it gave her the strength to keep going.

Just wanted to share. Oslo is different, yet the same.

Best wishes,

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 2, 2011 @ 5:54 am

Tina, Thank you for your help and correction. The quote was a vague memory. With your additional help I have found the original: Det er typisk norsk å være god.

So… I am guessing it is “typically” Norwegian to be good… but perhaps “naturally” is not misleading.

I had not heard/read the story of the survivor singing the song, that adds dimension to what was already an extraordinary context.

I am concerned we — meaning the rest of the world — have not given enough attention to what Norwegian society might teach us in this case. As you and your neighbors examine cause, response, and next steps, I hope you will help us more accurately interpret your context and the implications for the rest of us.

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