Metaforce: New Ways to End Terrorism

Diane Perlman

Metaforce: New Ways to End Terrorism

By Diane Perlman

Some of us are exploring ways to reduce violence and prevent a new cycle of retaliation. We need to describe, as well as we can, plausible alternative responses that will adress the terrorists, deal with the causes that drive people to terrorism, avoid harm to innocent people, reduce tensions, satisfy the hunger for justice. This is a very tall order.

In making a case against violent retaliation, we need an active strategy, and to be clear that we are not suggestiong doing nothing, or only negotiating and diplomacy. These are intolerable ideas to the American viscera and will be dismissed.

Words like nonviolence and disarmament are the absence of something. They don't play well or give is a vision of what could work. The word peace is also problematic, as it percieve as doing nothing. These don't tell us what to do.

I was most impressed with what I learned from Richard Wendell Fogg of the Center for the Study of Conflict. He has been studying conflict in depth and detail for 42 years, and his insights are based on sound, fact-based understanding of history. He has been my inspiration for understanding the idea of replacing war, rather than abolishng war, and the use of combinations of forms of nonviolence force — including complex strategies using combinations of forms of force, economic, political, psychological, educational, moral, spritual, intellectual, social, physical.

I realized that we have no word to describe nonviolnent force, so I made one up — Metaforce — it is force — and satifies the need to address evil actively — but bloodlessly. It is also accurate — we must meet evil with great force and power — just not violence. We need a new paradigm, beyond to 2 choices of beyond doing nothing or attacking.

I would like us to collaborate on a design for a powerful, effective, scientifically and psychologically valid alternative strategy that will reduce terrorism and violence around the globe, begining now for years to come. Let's collaborate to develop a comprehensive strategy that is plausible.

I called Richard for his advice, and he just completed the piece below. It is among the wisest I've seen, based on addressing the sources of terrorism.

Those who are intensely engaged on the right-wrong dimension and the need for revenge may react to this. However, history has shown that violence begets more violence, even if it is, in fact, justified. This is not a matter of wrong and right, but death and life.

Violent retaliation (as opposed to bloodless forms of force) is like using an antibiotic to destroy a virus — it produces a more virulent strain of the virus that is resistant to the antibiotic. Even though well-intentioned people absolutely believe violent attacks will wipe out the problem, history is full of unintended consequences where things got worse. With the presence of weapons of mass destruction, we cannot afford the predictable escalation.

What is the lesson that we need to learn from this experience? Will our refusal to learn it come back to haunt us?

A long-range, sustainable solution requires a counterintuitive outside-the-box approach. Addressing the causes of terrorism, the social forces that drive people to support evil leaders, while prosecuting the leaders, will reduce thier power. Retaliation will certainly magnify their power and popularity and the drama of the war between the fundamentaists and our image as "the Great Satan." If we feed into that we will see more and worse violent attacks aganist Americans.

If we can get off of the right-wrong axis, and commit to using this crisis as an opportunity, perhaps we could reverse the trends and prevent the escalation that will eventually involve weapons of mass destruction and cause massive suffering, and threats to the planet, way beyond what we have just seen.

If you have ideas to add, please send them to me,, and I will try to combine them. The overwhelming desire for violent retaliation is in motion, but we must do what we can. We at least need a compelling alternative strategy.

Suggestions must be psychologically sound, and consistent with historical patterns and scientific. Please pass this on.

Thanks, Diane

Diane Perlman, PhD

Deal with Moslem Grievances

By Richard Wendell Fogg

We should respond to the terrorism here by considering Moslem grievances. We should do this with respectable political and religious leaders in the Middle East. We should grant grievances that most people in and out of the Middle East think are just, negotiate ambiguous ones, and expose any spurious ones there may be. The aim is to remove the reasons that people committed terrorism and to remove the support they rely upon.

Of course, we also should increase our antiterrorism forces and try to catch terrorists. When possible, we should arrest them rather than kill them so we can study terrorists' minds.

There are principles for controlling violence that are so basic that individuals, groups, and countries can use them.

One of these principles is that evil activity has causes that often can be removed. Hitler gained support from enough of the German population because the reparations at Versailles were excessive, were not reduced later The situation was worsened in the '20s when Prussians assassinated the German finance minister, who was succeeding in improving the German economy and reducing poverty among the people. The Prussians said that their reason for the assassination was to damage the economy in order to gain public support for a war to avenge the loss of the First World War. Stanislav Renski, a resident portrait painter in the employ of one of the Prussian plotters, said that he overheard his employer say that about the avenging plot. In hindsight, we can see that the Allies should have damaged their own economies, at least initially, to help the German one.

Another principle for controlling violence is needs theory. It says that if you find a decent way for parties to get what they want, most of them will use that way and stop the indecent way, leaving evil people unsupported.

Whether or not bin Laden is connected with this terrorism, his grievances give us a view of those of many Moslems. What does he want that many other people, including nonMoslems think is justified?

A former U. S. ambassador claimed that she had found out what bin Laden wants: She said he hates the U.S. He probably does, but the point is to find out why he does. If this ambassador is typical of our leaders, our government is bereft of people who understand needs theory. Such a lack is possible: John Burton said he could find none in the Reagan government. He was a former head of the Australian foreign service and a primary theoretician of needs theory.

Some of the reasons for bin Laden's hatred, most of them given in Bill Moyers' TV program of September 13, are:

U.S. troops should get out of Saudi Arabia, home of Mecca and Medina, the two holiest Islamic places.

The U.S. should stop propping up dictatorships in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and others, as it did in the Gulf War, which bin Laden claims was not requested but was decided upon by the U.S.

The U.S. should stop using its influence to keep the Palestinians from having a homeland they control.

The U.S. should stop trying to make Middle East countries more modern and secular. (A brilliant article on this position appeared in The Atlantic Monthly for September, 1990).

The U.S. should stop the embargo on Iraq.

Some nonMoslems support these grievances. How many millions or even hundreds of million Moslems support some or all of them? Of course these reasons do not justify the means the terrorists used. But terrorists' ends tend to be widely supported, including by Americans.

If the above grievances were granted, how would U.S. interests be hurt?

There is a useful analogy: In the twenties and thirties, Japan came out of isolation and wanted trade and other relations with its neighbors. The West prevented these grievances of Japan from being satisfied. Therefore, Japan took part of China and started taking other countries. It attacked Pearl Harbor, not to start a war with us, but to signal us to stay out. We went to war, and many people were killed. When Japan surrendered, we gave them trade and other relations with their neighbors! It would have been hard to do that right after Pearl Harbor. But we could have predicted that there would be many casualties in a war; could the potential casualties have made the West grant relations? Should it? Everyone now thinks Japan should have such relations. Can we grant commonly agreed matters of justice to Moslem countries now?

Are we denying Moslems trade and other relations? If so, will it cost us more to grant or negotiate these things, despite costs to us, than to withhold them?

The policy of negotiating Moslem's grievances is not to negotiate with terrorists, but with respectable leaders.

We give American criminals many rights, such as religious freedom. If we find these rights denied, we immediately grant them. We should give unquestionable rights to groups that include terrorists.

Needs theory is so basic that it is useful with individuals and groups. An individual analogy, admittedly somewhat stretched, to granting countries' grievances is this: When my daughter had her first tantrum with me, rather than isolating her, I sat through it with her. I didn't tell her to stop yelling. At the end she more clearly said what she wanted. I gave it to her on the spot. Dr. Spock wrote not to do this because children will learn that tantrums pay. Alison did not; she never had another with me. She learned — immediately — that reasoning pays.

A group analogy is this: In Boston, teens in gangs were killing each other in large numbers. Then, for three years, no teen in Boston was murdered. Why? Authorities told gang leaders that killing and carrying weapons would be punished severely. But they also provided what teens need: jobs, recreation opportunities, etc.

It is a lot easier to satisfy terrorists' legitimate grievances than to find terrorists, arrest or kill them, and stop countries from harboring them. Rather than increasing violence by showing that it pays, this policy reduces the causes of terrorism and thus decreases the chance of violence in the future, particularly by others than the original terrorists.

At Harvard, I took a doctorate in Social Studies Education (a field that studies the methodologies of many disciplines) and minored in conflict resolution. I founded the Center for the Study of Conflict in 1982. It is an independent, politically nonaligned tax-exempt corporation.