A professor’s ‘bold thinking on terrorism’

“As a professor of government at Harvard, Louise Richardson concentrated for many years on international security, with a special focus on terrorism – a relatively obscure academic field until the day George W. Bush declared war on it. At which point Richardson was pitched from the cloisters into the public arena, giving lectures to a variety of audiences – policymakers, the military, intelligence agencies and business communities – as well as testifying before the US Senate. She also picked up awards both for teaching and for her contribution to international peace, and became executive dean at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

Everywhere Richardson went, people seemed to be asking the same question: which single book should we read to get a handle on terrorism? There wasn’t one. And so Richardson wrote What Terrorists Want – a freethinking examination, informed by three decades of research, of this complex subject. It was her counterblast – if it’s possible to have a peaceful, measured counterblast – to what she calls America’s “absolutely catastrophic” response to September 11. Her book became that rare thing in academic publishing – a bestseller with no trade-off between accessibility and scholarly rigour.

Which is not to say it was uncontentious. Richardson holds that despite the dreadfulness of their deeds, most terrorists are neither “crazy” nor even “amoral”. On the contrary, most terrorists see themselves as altruistic and noble – Davids against Goliaths – and their objectives are rationally calculated. “Terrorism is a tactic,” Richardson says, “and terror is an emotion. It makes no sense to declare war on either.” While arguing that terrorism cannot be defeated, Richardson believes passionately that it can be contained. The first step is to understand its appeal to those who practise it, and on the basis of this understanding to devise effective counter-terrorist policies.” via Financial Times.

The Limits of a “3 Minute Rahm”

{{w|Rahm Emanuel}}, U.S. Congressman.

“I asked one of them who I assume can get through to the President or at least to Rahm Emanuel any time he wants why he doesn’t make his case more clearly to the occupants of the White House. The response was, “Yes, I can get through to Rahm Emanuel any time, but I get three minutes with him, and then someone else gets their three minutes, and so on. Rahm is the three minute guy — and he’s great during those three minutes.”

Wealthy donors on the outside of the political process probably should not be able to just call up the President and get their way — but the frustration I’m hearing from a great number of these types of donors — types who are not only wealthy and helped finance much of the Democratic Party’s victory in November but who are also smart and connected — is that they are not getting through where it counts. The policy options they are proposing aren’t getting into the basket of proposals that Obama is considering.

In other words, some feel that Obama is not getting a full range of choices on the economy and is being provided a narrow band of views that fit the preconceived biases of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.

One of the fatal mistakes of the Bush administration in the build up to the Iraq War was the tight constriction of choices and views that Bush’s advisors allowed him to see.

Let’s hope that the Obama team isn’t making the same mistake on the economy.” via The Washington Note.