Dedicated to Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems

Readings on Fighting Terrorism

Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.
     --Laurence J. Peter
The range of opinions and points of view about dealing with terrorism demonstrates the breadth of stakeholders and the complexity of problem definition characteristic of wicked problems. These links were created in the weeks immediately following 9/11/2001; this page has not tried to keep up with the explosion of debate on dealing with international terrorism. (CogNexus Institute offers these readings as illustrative of wicked problems, and does not endorse the opinions or facts in any of these articles.)

by David R. Loy
Like most other Americans, I have been struggling to digest the events of the last week. It has taken a while to realize how psychically numbed many of us are. In the space of a few hours, our world changed. We do not yet know what those changes will mean, but the most important long-term ones may well be psychological. Americans have always understood the United States to be a special and uniquely privileged place. The Puritans viewed New England as the Promised Land. According to Melville, "We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people." In many parts of the globe the twentieth century has been particularly horrible, but the continental United States has been so insulated from these tragedies that we have come to think of ourselves as immune to them -- although we have often contributed to them. That confidence has been abruptly shattered. ...

Anti-Terrorism (link broken 1.21.10)
by William Saletam
President Bush says we're fighting for democracy, pluralism, and civil liberties. Terrorists "hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government," he declared in his speech to Congress last week. "They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other. They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan." Bush concluded, "This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom." ...

by Arundhati Roy
In the aftermath of the unconscionable September 11 suicide attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre, an American newscaster said: "Good and evil rarely manifest themselves as clearly as they did last Tuesday. People who we don't know massacred people who we do. And they did so with contemptuous glee." Then he broke down and wept. ...

A New Kind of Combat (link broken as of 1.21.10)
by George L. Seffers
Intelligence-sharing technology developed by the military may help intelligence agencies analyze information about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and possibly help prevent future attacks. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has offered technology it developed under its Genoa project to the intelligence community. ...

by Sharif Abdullah
About a month after the World Trade Towers fell, the Tamil Tigers attacked and blew up a fuel ship in Jaffna Harbor, a successful suicide attack in one of the most heavily defended waterways on the island of Sri Lanka. You probably didn't hear about it. Sri Lanka is a world where suicide bombings are so routine they don't make a ripple in the international news.

By Michael Kinsley
Now may seem like an odd moment to be worrying that one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. If ever there was a man of violence who didn't pose this issue, it is Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden is triply easy to classify. First, the attack of Sept. 11, assuming he was responsible for it, was on a murderous scale that makes quibbling over definitions seem absurd. Second, his political vision is the opposite of freedom: a repressive clerical state. Third, his method is "terrorism" in the narrowest definitional sense. It is designed to spread terror, almost apart from any larger goal. Nevertheless, the definition of the word terrorism is a problem in what we'd better start calling the war effort.

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