People often like to fight the symptoms, instead of the root problem that is causing those unwanted symptoms. I see this daily and everywhere, in my personal life, at work, in my own country, in the news, internationally etc. And sometimes, they actually know what the root problem is, but they choose not to address it because it may not be in their own interest, or to their advantage, to do so. Instead, they choose to fight the symptoms, and continue to leave the root problem in tact while it causes even more issues, but causes them, a select minority, to benefit in other ways.
And sometimes, people just fail to realize that there actually is a root cause to all of the symptoms they are experiencing. They keep fighting all the symptoms, thinking they are unrelated or related to different causes, while they fail to realize that there’s one problem causing all of it. Usually this is because of a lack of experience, or a lack of insight.
So when we look at the problems the US and their allies are facing worldwide, we can conclude that those are just the symptoms. Iraq, Afghanistan, Bin Laden, terrorism, all of those are symptoms. The real problem is US foreign policy. No matter how much they try to fight against terrorism worldwide, leaving the root cause in tact will only worsen existing problems, and create totally new ones in the process. Their current ways of dealing with the problems will only lead to minor short term successes in some cases, when they are lucky, but to further deterioration of the situation on the long term.
And in the case of the US and their allies, I don’t think they fail to realize that all the issues they are facing are the results of a single root problem. I think they know it, and they are consciously making the decision to fight the symptoms, leaving the root problem in tact, because of their own interests. The US and their allies have an interest in being in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have an interest in supporting Israel. And those interests are more important to them than all the issues it causes, they’d rather continue fight those issues, and create more issues in the process instead of actually solving a single issue.
An example can be seen in a recent article:
Counterinsurgency experts are alarmed by how fast the other side’s tactics can evolve. A particularly worrisome case is the ongoing arms race over improvised explosive devices. The first IEDs were triggered by wires and batteries; insurgents waited on the roadside and detonated the primitive devices when Americans drove past. After a while, U.S. troops got good at spotting and killing the triggermen when bombs went off. That led the insurgents to replace their wires with radio signals. The Pentagon, at frantic speed and high cost, equipped its forces with jammers to block those signals, accomplishing the task this spring. The insurgents adapted swiftly by sending a continuous radio signal to the IED; when the signal stops or is jammed, the bomb explodes. The solution? Track the signal and make sure it continues. Problem: the signal is encrypted. Now the Americans are grappling with the task of cracking the encryption on the fly and mimicking it?so far, without success. Still, IED casualties have dropped, since U.S. troops can break the signal and trigger the device before a convoy passes. That’s the good news. The bad news is what the new triggering system says about the insurgents’ technical abilities.
A good example of how their current ways of dealing with the issues not only don’t solve the issues, but create more issues. It’s almost like the way companies like Microsoft, Adobe and Symantec choose to deal with software piracy, by introducing a feature called Product Activation. This has so far only served as an inconvenience to legitimate users, and hasn’t stopped software piracy in the slightest. It has also served to educate home users, who first knew nothing about these things, of how they can get hacks, cracks and keygens, what those are, and how they can use them. It has also served to make the pirates smarter, and more sophisticated in the same way the terrorists are getting smarter in the example above.
Bruce Schneier, a security expert, and many others keep saying that people should get smarter about solving problems like terrorism. Instead of focusing on and defending against what terrorists did last time, or against particular threats, we should focus on other things, the root causes of terrorism. As Schneier says in his most recent Crypto-Gram mailing list:
I would also like to urge everyone not to get wrapped up in the particulars of the terrorist tactics. We need to resist the urge to react against the particulars of this particular terrorist plot, and to keep focused on the terrorists’ goals. Spending billions to defend our trains and buses at the expense of other counterterrorist measures makes no sense. Terrorists are out to cause terror, and they don’t care if they bomb trains, buses, shopping malls, theaters, stadiums, schools, markets, restaurants, discos,
or any other collection of 100-plus people in a small space. There are simply too many targets to defend, and we need to think more intelligently than simply protecting the particular targets the terrorists attacked last week.
Smart counterterrorism focuses on the terrorists and their funding — stopping plots regardless of their targets — and emergency response that limits their damage.
But sadly, even he has it wrong. He does have the insight of having to fight the root causes, but his definition of the root causes is totally wrong. The root causes are not the terrorists and their funding. Taking care of those will not help one bit.
Others think we lack “Protective Imagination”:
In these and other ways today following the London bombings, the majority of security attention has been directed at mass transit. However, while we can’t protect everything against every form of attack, our American responses remain conventional and predictable — just as we did after the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and today’s events in London, we continue to respond in ways designed to “prevent the last attack.”
In other words, we are demonstrating a lack of protective imagination.
Contrary to America’s infatuation with instant gratification, protective imagination is not quickly built, funded, or enacted. It takes years to inculcate such a mindset brought about by outside the box, unconventional, and daring thinking from folks with expertise and years of firsthand knowledge in areas far beyond security or law enforcement and who are encouraged to think freely and have their analyses seriously considered in the halls of Washington. Such a radical way of thinking and planning is necessary to deal with an equally radical adversary, yet we remain entrenched in conventional wisdom and responses.
But even that won’t help, because having such a mindset is impossible, and the terrorists can adapt. Changing things in such a way will not help. This is perhaps also the reason why the author later says:
While this morning’s events in London is a tragedy and Londoners deserve our full support in the coming days, it’s sad to see that regarding the need for effective domestic preparedness here in the United States, nearly 4 years after 9/11, it’s clear that despite the catchy sound-bytes and flurry of activity in the name of protecting the homeland, the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.
Michael Scheuer, an ex-CIA analyst, defined exactly how the root causes should be taken care of. From here:
Scheuer, who headed the CIA’s bin Laden unit for nine years, sees a different way out — through U.S. foreign policy. He said he resigned in November to expose the U.S. leadership’s “willful blindness” to what needs to be done: withdraw the U.S. military from the Mideast, end unqualified support for Israel, and sever close ties to Arab oil-state tyrannies.
So there you have it. The root cause is US foreign policy. And this is by no means a secret, and you don’t really have to be very smart to realize this. All you have to do is follow international developments, the news and have some common sense.
And until the US and their allies decide to act on this information, and until most people in those countries realize this, things will continue to get worse not only for them, but for the world.