Wednesday, July 30, 2008

RAND Corp report: To destory al Qa'ida, quit shooting them.

The RAND Corporation (Research ANd Development) was set up by the United States Army Air Forces in 1946. It is known for rigorous, often-quantitative, and non-partisan analysis and policy recommendations (says Wikipedia). However, not everyone agrees that RAND is politically neutral; they have even been called hawkish to the point of being "America's University of Imperialism". Either way, it is full of very smart people (lots of Nobel laureates) doing very smart research. And they have a new report that concludes military force is a very ineffective way to deal with terror groups. I quote from, which includes a link to the actual report.

To destroy Al Qaeda, we must end the war on terror: Rand Corporation

A new Rand Corporation report comprehensively surveys the ways that terrorist groups have been disbanded in the past: "Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended." Instead, historic wars on terror have been won with policing and settlements. Rand's conclusion? To defeat Al Qaeda, we need to end the war on terror.
A recent RAND research effort sheds light on this issue by investigating how terrorist groups have ended in the past. By analyzing a comprehensive roster of terrorist groups that existed worldwide between 1968 and 2006, the authors found that most groups ended because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they negotiated a settlement with their governments. Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory.
Terrorism’s End: Jon Taplin
How Terrorist Groups End: Rand Corporation

And now I quote from RAND's summary:
These findings suggest that the U.S. approach to countering al Qa'ida has focused far too much on the use of military force. Instead, policing and intelligence should be the backbone of U.S. efforts.
So, while we shouldn't just give up, our "war on terror" (is that a contradiction, or just a redundancy?) needs to change from a shooting war to a smart war. I hope someone in Washington begins listening to the smartest people in town.

You can read the actual report yourself right here.

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