How do countries respond to terrorism

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How do countries respond to terrorism?

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How do countries respond to terrorism? How would you feel if someone threw a brick through your lounge window in the middle of the night? What would your family do if this happened again?

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Responses to terrorismBy 11 September 2001, George W Bush had only been president for nine months. How would you respond to the attacks of that day?

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Responses to terrorismOptions 1 and 2 – MilitaryOptions 3 and 4 – Inward focusOptions 5 and 6 – OutreachOptions 7 and 8 – Tighten securityOptions 9 and 10 – Use intelligence networksOptions 11 and 12 – Carry on as normal

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MilitaryOption 1 Use existing intelligence to locate the source of terrorist training camps and take these out with air strikes. Option 2 Destabilise and overthrow governments that are sympathetic to the terrorists’ cause; train up enemies of the government within the countries and maybe send in your troops.

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MilitaryWill you choose Option 1: Use existing intelligence to locate the source of terrorist training camps and take these out with air strikes. This may be a good option. After all, in destroying training camps you will probably kill potential terrorists and stop future terrorists from being trained. It will also show the terrorists that you are prepared to act. But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? Many terrorists may not be trained in camps; how will you reach them? There is a strong chance that you could kill innocent civilians in the air strikes; is this morally fair? Might this undermine your moral standing in the world? The world is a big place; surely you can’t locate all training camps?

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MilitaryWill you choose Option 2: Destabilise and overthrow governments that are sympathetic to the terrorists’ cause; train up enemies of the government within the countries and maybe send in your troops. This may be a good option. After all, terrorists need safe countries to build a base and send new recruits. If these governments can be removed, then where will the terrorists go? It will also show the terrorists that you are prepared to act. But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? By training up people to take on their own government, are you encouraging terrorism? Will the new government be stable? Might this approach encourage terrorists and others to come and fight on the side of the government under attack? The world is a big place; surely you cant stop terrorists from training? This is an expensive option; aren't their cheaper ones?

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Inward focusOption 3 Withdraw your military presence from other countries. Focus only on issues in your own country and don’t get involved in any issues abroad. Option 4 Soul search through newspapers, talk shows, etc. as to why terrorists would attack you.

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Inward focusWill you choose Option 3? Withdraw your military presence from other countries. Focus only on issues in your own country and don’t get involved in any issues abroad. This may be a good option. After all, if your country keeps a low profile, it is harder to be seen as an enemy. But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? By withdrawing your military presence from countries, might this leave more room for terrorists to train? The USA has lots of interest abroad – it exports and imports lots of goods (including oil). A strong military presence can help protect these interests. As the world’s most powerful military force, surely you are needed to help countries in trouble? Many voters in your country will want to see revenge for 9/11, not a withdrawing of troops from around the world. Might withdrawing troops be seen as a sign that terrorism works and therefore encourage more attacks?

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Inward focusWill you choose Option 4? Soul search through newspapers, talk shows, etc. as to why terrorists would attack you. This may be a good option. After all, by working out why America was attacked in 9/11 and not other countries, you may prevent future attacks. But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? Will soul searching help? Many fanatics want every country that contains Muslims to be an Islamic state. Surely the problem lies with the fanatics, not your country? Might introspection be seen as a sign that the terrorist attack has worked and therefore encourage more attacks? Other countries have been attacked by similar extremist terrorists. The problem is not with America alone, so will introspection help?

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OutreachOption 5 Make contact and discuss with terrorists. Find out what the terrorists want. Option 6 Community cohesion – focus on developing better relations with different communities in your own country and elsewhere.

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OutreachWill you choose Option 5? Make contact and discuss with terrorists. Find out what the terrorists want. This may be a good idea. If you can understand the terrorists’ demand, you may be able to prevent future attacks. Surely dialogue is a good thing? But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? Contacting terrorists might be a sign that terrorism works; might this encourage more terrorists? Many voters would feel betrayed if they knew that the government was talking to the terrorists. The terrorists are fanatics; they do not have rational demands. Surely talking would be of no use?

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OutreachWill you choose Option 6? Community cohesion – focus on developing better relations with different communities in your own country and elsewhere. This may be a good idea. If people learn more about each other, there is less fear and mistrust. If you can understand the terrorists’ demand, you may be able to prevent future attacks. Surely dialogue is a good thing? But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? The terrorist were fanatics and not representative of any community; encouraging better relations between different communities might be a nice thing to do, but will it actually stop fanatics? Many voters will want to see decisive action from the government. Might this be seen as a weak response?

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Tighten security Option 7 Tighten up border security. Have increased security at airports and places that might be targets. Option 8 Pass laws to give the police and government more powers to pursue terrorists. For example, allow arrest without charge or trial.

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Tighten security Will you choose Option 7? Tighten up border security. Have increased security at airports and places that might be targets. This may be a good idea. Monitoring people coming in and out of the country more closely might stop the possible terrorists from entering your country. Tightening airport security would make it much harder for potential terrorists to take knives or weapons onto airplanes. But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? What about “home grown” terrorists; would border control stop these? Trying to stop potential terrorists from entering your country will end up targeting (profiling) particular types of people. Might these people feel discriminated against? Might tourism slow down? Isn’t increasing airport security a hassle for everyone? There are many other ways an attack could occur and these are much harder to prevent.

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Tighten security Will you choose Option 8? Pass laws to give the police and government more powers to pursue terrorists. For example, allow arrest without charge or trial. This may be a good idea. Rounding up potential terror suspects and interviewing/interrogating them might not only stop some terrorists; it might also lead to vital information that could help capture other terrorists elsewhere. But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? Losing basic rights, such as the right to a trial, shouldn’t happen easily. Isn’t this an overreaction to the events? Traffic accidents in the USA kill around 30,000 people per year and injure 2.5 million. What about tougher laws to prevent these? This approach will involve detaining many innocent people for possibly years, without needing to give any evidence in courts for their detention. Might this lead to mistrust of government, particularly if certain groups of people are targeted? In giving the police such great powers, aren’t people losing the sorts of freedoms they normally hold up as what is good about democratic countries?

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Intelligence networksOption 9 Infiltrate terrorist groups abroad and learn about their ways. Option 10 Use intelligence communities to destabilise governments in countries you suspect are helping terrorists.

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Intelligence networksWill you choose Option 7? Infiltrate terrorist groups abroad and learn about their ways This may be a good idea. By infiltrating networks, you can find out about any potential attacks that might happen. But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? This is easier said than done: finding the right people to work as agents can be very hard, and this kind of work is extremely dangerous. They could be found out and tortured by the terrorists to reveal information that might put American lives at risk. Can you be sure that the agents you recruit aren’t really double agents working for the terrorists? What if you get lots of misinformation and waste time and money acting on that?

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Intelligence networksWill you choose Option 10? Use intelligence communities to destabilise governments in countries you suspect are helping terrorists. This may be a good idea. Monitoring extremists may help you see if there is any “recruitment” occurring in terrorist groups. Keeping an eye on extremists might also reveal information about other networks and groups outside the country. But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? Might certain communities, e.g. Muslims, feel picked on and discriminated against if they find out that their actions are being monitored? Might this lead to worse community relations? In giving these intelligence agencies greater power, aren’t people losing the sort of freedoms they normally hold up as what is good about the USA?

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Carry on as normalOption 11 Ignore the terrorist threats: they will go away. Option 12 Actively encourage the citizens to carry on and not let the terrorists take away freedoms.

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Carry on as normalWill you choose Option 11? Ignore the terrorist threats: they will go away. This may be a good idea. It is certainly a cheap option! It also sends a message to terrorists that you are not going to be scared by their actions and that life will carry on as normal. But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? Might this be a sign of weakness and lead potential terrorists to think your country is a soft target? Many voters will want you to do something. Doing nothing may be seen as a sign of failure or weak leadership. If there are more groups out there ready to attack, how will doing nothing stop them?

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Carry on as normalWill you choose Option 12? Actively encourage the citizens to carry on and not let the terrorists take away freedoms. This might be a good idea. The citizens may rally around your calls and feel a stronger sense of togetherness and community after the attacks. By not being scared, the citizens will be defying the terrorists and will have won. But can you answer these questions? Why do you think this would be effective? Might this be a sign of weakness and lead potential terrorists to think your country is a soft target? Many voters will want you to do something. Doing nothing may be seen as a sign of failure or weak leadership. If there are more groups out there ready to attack, how will doing nothing stop them?

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The US response to 9/11George Bush declared “war” on terrorism. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were declared responsible for 9/11. The USA carried out military attacks on suspected Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. They later sent troops to Afghanistan and helped Afghani tribes overthrow the Taliban regime. (The USA and UK still continue to fight the Taliban today, especially in southern Afghanistan.) Over 700 Muslim suspects were arrested in the USA (all were later released without charge). They passed various laws to allow greater power to police and intelligence, including allowing phone tapping without the requirement to ask for permission first. They began to detain terror suspects found in Afghanistan and elsewhere in Guantanamo bay (a US military base in Cuba). Over 700 people have now been detained, nearly all without charge. (The USA has received criticism for its treatment of detainees at Guantanamo bay.)

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The UK response to 9/11 & 7/7What should the UK Government do to prevent a repeat of events such as 9/11 and the 7/7 bombings? One action taken has been to pass tougher anti-terror laws. These laws include some of the following measures: The right of the Home Secretary to impose ‘control orders’ on people he suspects of involvement in terrorism – The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 The right of the police to detain suspected terrorists for up to 28 days  – The Terrorism Act 2006 A new criminal offence where anyone taking a photograph of a police officer could face a fine or a prison sentence of up to 10 years, if a link to terrorism is proved – The Counter-Terrorism Act 2008

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A debate – the case for these measures: With tougher terror laws, we can prevent similar events from happening again. People have a right to life, and the UK Government needs the legislation to enforce this. This legislation will only be used responsibly to combat terrorism. The legislation will enable the Government to build up information on suspected terrorists before they can act. The legislation will ensure that terrorist suspects are put under strict control orders and prevented from committing further acts of violence.

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A debate – the case against these measures: The rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens are being eroded by this legislation. Isn’t everybody entitled to be treated equally and fairly in a civilised society? Making the terror laws tougher may alienate some groups of people – especially if they feel that these laws are targeted at them. How do we know that future governments will always use this legislation responsibly?

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Last Updated: 8th March 2018

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