"The appeal of terrorism is waning," said Mathew Burrows, head of long-range analysis in the office of the director of national intelligence. According to The New York Times, a new report from the National Intelligence Council, representing all 16 American intelligence agencies, predicts that "Al Qaeda could soon be on the decline, having alienated Muslim supporters with indiscriminate killing and inattention to the practical problems of poverty, unemployment and education."
As American and Indian intelligence continue to point to the Pakistani militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba as responsible for last week's attacks in Mumbai, I hope Pakistani and Indian officials have seen this report. It is not news that poverty, fear, and wide civilian casualties provide a breeding ground for terrorism. Economic stability, education, and infrastructure can be some of the most effective tools to undermining the terrorists' credibility and deflating their claims.
Reading these stories brought back to my mind an op-ed piece Kofi Annan wrote as he was retiring, on the lessons he had learned during 10 years as secretary general of the United Nations. The first two of those lessons were:
First, in today's world we are all responsible for each other's security. Against such threats as nuclear proliferation, climate change, global pandemics or terrorists operating from safe havens in failed states, no nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over all others. Only by working to make each other secure can we hope to achieve lasting security for ourselves. This responsibility includes our shared responsibility to protect people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity....
Second, we are also responsible for each other's welfare. Without a measure of solidarity, no society can be truly stable. It is not realistic to think that some people can go on deriving great benefits from globalization while billions of others are left in, or thrown into, abject poverty. We have to give all our fellow human beings at least a chance to share in our prosperity.
Last week I was in the U.K. and visited the Globe Theatre with my 10-year-old son, who was working on a school project. It reminded me of a scene from Shakespeare's Henry the Fifth, as English troops are marching through France. Henry forbids his men from attacking, harming, and harassing peasants, "For when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner." Henry knew that the bravery of his men on St. Crispin's Day would mean little if their cruelty to the French people undermined their victory.
With al Qaeda losing their support through ignoring the basic needs of the people they claim to fight for, my hope and prayer is that India, Pakistan, and our next administration capitalize on this weakness through a foreign policy that strikes to the roots of terrorism by addressing those needs.