Archive: Future of Terror

August 1st, 2008 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Future of Terror, Innovation | 5 Comments

The Future of Terrorism

In 2004 I wrote an article here on how a relatively simple approach could end the war on terrorism. A few people told me they wished it could be communicated to officials.

This week a new report from the Rand Corporation affirmed the same approach that seemed logical to me in 2004.

You can read my whole 2004 article here, but in brief it seemed to me that the logical approach would include:
1. Insist on 2-state solution in Middle East.
2. Declare an end to Middle East oil imports in 10 years.
3. Set a date to withdraw U.S. troops from the Middle East within 10 years.
4. Declare that terror attacks anywhere will be met with law enforcement and, only where necessary, military responses.
5. Strenthen global intelligence efforts.
6. Declare that any nation state that assists terrorism will be isolated, particularly from airplane travel and internet access.
7. Attack regions of world that breed terrorists…with massive education and development assistance.
8. Push the re-start button on the 21st Century.

In their report “How Terrorist Groups End” the Rand group recommends, in short:

* Make policing and intelligence the backbone of U.S. efforts. Al Qa’ida consists of a network of individuals who need to be tracked and arrested. This requires careful involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as their cooperation with foreign police and intelligence agencies.
* Minimize the use of U.S. military force. In most operations against al Qa’ida, local military forces frequently have more legitimacy to operate and a better understanding of the operating environment than U.S. forces have. This means a light U.S. military footprint or none at all.

It would be a major policy shift, and makes a lot of sense.

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet TV show host and founder of To arrange for a speech contact

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January 2nd, 2008 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society, Future of Terror | Comments Off

Facecrimes and 1984

I noticed a news item the other day about the TSA having trained special personnel to wander airports and ask travelers innocuous questions, and then to watch their face expressions when they respond. Questions like, “where are you going,” or “going on a vacation?” The TSA believes they can train observers to notice “micro face expressions.” If your face expression is suspicious you will be taken aside for extra security screening or questioning.

Even though in an earlier career I taught courses in nonverbal communication, I found this newest security measure worrying.

And, today a Daily Kos blogger noted the connection to Orwell’s 1984 – the idea of there being “facecrimes.” He quotes from the book…Part 1, Chapter 5:

“He did not know how long she had been looking at him, but perhaps for as much as five minutes, and it was possible that his features had not been perfectly under control. It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself—anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.”

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet TV show host and founder of To arrange for a speech contact

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September 25th, 2006 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Future of Terror | 5 Comments

Beyond the phony war and missing enemy

Here is one way we are blowing the future. By pursuing a phony “war on terrorism.” Just a few thoughts on this. If, as President Bush claims, the world is in a decisive war for civilization, then why have so few resources been devoted to the battle? Undermanned armed forces. No national sacrifice. No particular direction. By these and other signs, one can know the “war” is make believe, designed for domestic consumption for the purpose of maintaining political power and not taken all that seriously even by those mouthing the slogans.

Second, terrorism cannot be dealt with militarily anyway. Instead, dealing with terror, which can never be fully eradicated, is a matter of intelligence, police work, and international cooperation, coupled with international diplomacy and political/economic development. These are the tactics that have been proven to work in the past, while the military responses have been generally counter productive.

Third, the whole terror threat is greatly, even wildly exaggerated. This is explained persuasively by John Mueller in Foreign Affairs, Sep/Oct. 2006. I am often asked what are the great threats to humanity, and how does terror fit in? My answer. Terrorism is not an “existential” threat, by which I mean a threat that could wipe out humanity, destroy civilizations, or bring down advanced and powerful nations. There are such threats, namely a killer asteroid, or out of control climate change, and the very small possibility of a global plague. But not terrorism. Terror is a background threat, and ought to be treated as such. Not ignored, even vigorously pursued, but treated at its true level. More people drown in bathtubs than are killed by terrorists. An individual is more likely to be killed by an asteroid, in fact, than by a terrorist.

And global terrorists are generally disconnected, local, and focused on private, immediate and historical grievences. The idea that there is a vast global terrorist conspirancy is much more fantasy and wishful thinking sold for PR purposes than reality.

James Fallows makes a similar point in his recent in-depth article in Atlantic Monthly, arguing that Al Queda, such as it was, has been effectively defeated. It is time to “declare victory” he says, and to move on to more targeted responses to the kind of threats that actually exist. Really worth reading.

The recently leaked Intelligence Estimate which argues that the war in Iraq has indeed increased the terrorist threat does cause one to wonder if the threat will eventually lead to an actual event. It certainly confirms that this ill-conceived war has backfired.

Until we get this right, and there are signs that this re-thinking is underway, we’ll miss the real issues shaping and threatening the future, and the longer it will be before really important possibilities are exolored and developed. And it will be our reactions to terror that threaten us, more than terror itself.

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