CTX Journal Vol. 6, No. 2
From the Editor
We have a snide saying in the United States: Those who can, do; those who can't, teach. It's nonsense, of course, probably made up by someone who wasn't a good student.
I'd like, however, to offer a variation of that saying: Those who can, do; those who can't, destroy. People who believe they must burn down the world so a version that suits their ideals can rise in its place aren't actually going to create, build, or nurture anything. More than 100 years ago, anarchists ran around blowing people up so a government-free paradise could magically emerge. Left-wing terrorism tore cars, children, and neighborhoods apart in the 1960s and 1970s, with the aim to replace bourgeois capitalist values with benevolent socialist ones. Now religious extremists in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe are trying yet again to use violence to usher in a fantastical paradise that will exist nowhere but in their own fevered dreams. Destruction is quick and easy. Three-year-olds are really good at it. Creating and planning, building and nurturing take patience, knowledge, skill, time, and a lot of hard work. The people who devote themselves to death and destruction aren't going to build paradise, now or ever. They don't have what it takes. Because they can't do, they destroy.
Fortunately, the rest of the world is still full of creativity. We are pleased to begin this issue with a photo essay by veteran photojournalist Robert Nickelsberg. He presents black-and-white and color portraits of people we would otherwise never see: Afghan women who have lost their husbands to violence and who now struggle to survive and raise their children in a country that makes no place for them. The struggle to foster peace and rebuild communities in Afghanistan can seem endless. One of the most important and difficult tasks in the fight against the Taliban has been to build up indigenous security and police forces that can operate effectively in cooperation with a nascent legal system. Major Birger Soerensen describes how one Danish task force accomplished this work despite both predictable obstacles and unexpected diversions.
Following this, Lieutenant Colonel Sylvester Perera, who wrote about his experience fighting the Tamil Tiger insurgency in Sri Lanka for the November 2015 issue of CTX, returns with a thoughtful look at the Sri Lankan army's role in the process of rebuilding infrastructure, livelihoods, and most importantly, trust in the aftermath of civil conflict.
Next, Dr. Chris Harmon notes that some Western news media seem reluctant to apply the word terrorist to the violent Islamist groups that are attacking targets across the Middle East and in Europe, for fear of appearing chauvinistic. Dr. Harmon shows us that anarchists and insurgents have embraced the label of terrorist for more than a century and suggests that, when we avoid applying it where it belongs today, we only help empower the killers. In the last of our feature articles, Dr. John Arquilla tells a ghost story intended to frighten anyone who thinks seriously about strategy. He raises three specters who, he argues, continue to haunt strategists and misguide decision making long after they should have been laid to rest.
For the CTAP interview, Africa specialists Dr. Letitia Lawson and Colonel Michael Mensch talked with Nick Tomb about security, counterterrorism, and prospects for the future across Africa's diverse nations and regions. This is an "extremely big question" as Dr. Lawson notes, about "an extremely big continent going in many different directions." Finally, ethicist George Lober takes us back to 1975 and the final days of the Vietnam War to ponder the question, Do you hold any principles you believe are worth fighting for, whatever the cost? As he tells us, one man was put to the test in Saigon and still wrestles with his decision, 40 years later.
Be sure to check out the latest essays from JSOU in our publications announcements.
We welcome your feedback, criticism, and suggestions regarding anything you read in CTX. Write to us at CTXEditor@GlobalEcco.org. You can send your essays, artwork, and movie and book reviews for possible publication to CTXSubmit@GlobalEcco.org.
Remember, we're here because you're there, and we depend on you, the global counterterrorism community, to be both our readers and our contributors. Keep up the good work, and stay in touch.
Managing Editor, CTX