The fight against terrorism: A challenge for the demosratic countries*

Associate Professor Nikolay Slatinski, Ph.D.**

  The web of terrorist networks is spreading out very easily and quickly supported by the dynamics, mobility, hi-tech technologies, communications and the media in the global village. More and more sophisticated and destructive weapons and other means for violence, aggression, infliction of human and material damages, including mass destruction weapons and strains of extremely contagious diseases, could fall in the hands of the terrorists. This requires even greater and common efforts for preventing terrorist acts and our goals are not simply a terrorism free world, but a much more democratic, terrorism free world.
  The fight against terrorism not only unites the democratic countries in the conclusion that terrorism is a challenge which could turn out to be the plague of 21 century, but the fight against terrorism causes problems, which could disunite and divide the democratic world. The possible differences in the notions, should not be dramatized and exaggerated, but they also should not be ignored easily.


  To begin with, there are things that unite us. Let us summarize the conclusions according to which it could be considered that a positive consensus is at hand.
  1. Terrorism denies borders, religions, cultures, and civilizations. It is a global phenomenon and the fight against it requires a globalization of the efforts and globalizations of the thinking, a global approach and a global cooperation for its prevention, restraint and eradication.
  2. There is a gradual convergence related to the acceptance of a common definition of terrorism, in the spirit of what was proposed by the Report entitled A More secure World: Our Shared Responsibility (2004) by the UN High Level Group for high levels of threats, challenges and changes based on the idea formulated by Kofi Annan, the United Nations Organization (UN) Secretary General, namely that terrorism is every violent act against innocent people- civilians or non-combatants, which could cause their death or inflict heavy bodily injuries, while its aim is to achieve political goals whatever their motives are or whatever the context is, by causing fear or forcing the government or the international organization to commit a particular act or restrain from it. No terroristic act could be justified or explained with whatever ideas or reasons of political, philosophical and ideological, racial, ethical and religious or any other nature. Such definition of terrorism could unite the democratic countries in their efforts for achieving the UN strategy for zero tolerance of all kinds and manifestations of terrorism.
  3. It is necessary to consolidate even further the UN leading role in the fight against terrorism. This requires that this main international organization should make further deep and very good reforms and that it should adapt itself to the new challenges and its tasks in the 21st century.
  The world after the Cold War, and still more after 9/11 is greatly changed, the whole security paradigm is changed. On the place of the old Westphalia world of the national countries, is coming a new globalized world. When the old order is colliding, the good old organizations, which represented the fundaments of this declining old order, either find powers to transform themselves and keep abreast with the times, so that they could be the fundaments of the new world order as well, or slowly and inevitably wane and on their place come new more adequate and needed organizations, or even worse: a chaos sets in. For this reason, the UN should change and fill itself with a new content, a new mission and a new role. The democratic countries will strengthen global security, if they endorse Kofi Annan’s revolutionary ideas about reformation of UN (efforts, which could be compared only with the achievement of the founders of the UN in 1945).
  The above mentioned report A More secure World: Our Shared Responsibility (2004) is an emanation of the taking shape consensus that as a World, as a Mankind, the time is running out for us, that every day without actions or of inactivity draws us nearer the time when we will have to act much more decisively and at a much higher cost, if we want to have a fair chance for survival.
  4. The necessity of reforms and transformations of the other existing structures is increasingly vital. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the regional organizations, as well as strengthening the cooperation between them. NATO and the EU had not gone through the path of transformation as well. They possess unique potentialities and could cooperate between each other: the EU by means of the soft power and NATO by means of the hard power. These are potentialities which could complement each other, but not duplicate each other.
  5. It is necessary for the UN member states to join the twelve international-law tools for fighting terrorism and a comprehensive convention on anti-terrorism should be worked out soon.
  6. An increasingly palpable assent is achieved that in fighting terrorism every country has the right and duty to defend itself, even if it has to do it by itself and even if it has to act preventively and even anticipatory. However, the framework is strictly monitored by the UN Charter. Resorting to force becomes inevitable, if the peaceful means are exhausted. And the conditions under which a country or a group of countries, or the international community could resort to the use of force should be carefully discussed and specified. But, according to article 51 of the UN Charter, every single country has the right of self-defense in case of an armed assault on it. And this right should be preserved against terrorism as well.
  7. A widespread consent begins to be coined, that countries which give refuge to terrorists or sponsor terrorism, should be severely punished, including through sanctions, imposed on them by the Security Council of the United Nations Organization (UN Security Council).
  8. The problems are the preventive measures and rigid control over the failed or failing countries. They are turning into harbors for terrorists and are like marshes, so mosquitoes are bred, diseases are spread: no matter how you guard yourself against them, until you dry them up, the threat of mosquitoes and diseases would be actual. State sovereignty means not only and solely rights, but includes serious responsibilities as well and among them is the responsibility to protect the citizens from genocide and other mass brutalities. In cases, when the State lacks of ability to fulfill these duties, the UN Security Council should be ready to saddle with this duty, including, if necessary, to allow the use of force to save the life of innocent people.
  9. We could not limit ourselves with a fight against the consequences of terrorism, but we should fight the fundamental reasons for terrorism, which instigate the people towards violence: poverty, backwardness, exploitation, repressive regime, disintegrated State organization, poor educational and health systems, deteriorated environment, crime and insecurity.
  10. The UN Millennium Development Goals (2000) should be realized until 2015, although the extremely insufficient achievements on them.
  11. A lot of much more intensive efforts are needed in order to intercept the financial roots of terrorism and in the fight against the interweaving and the symbiosis of terrorism and organized crime, which increasingly exchange people, know-how, and resources for achieving their political and economic goals.
  Criminal acts like corruption, money-laundering, coining money, and trafficking humans, drugs and weapons should be counteracted even more actively. Therefore, a new culture of communication is needed between the police and special services at the regional, European and global scale; a closer cooperation and more trust are needed, more efficient coordination between them is required as well, including the coordination on operation level and through optimal exchange of information, synchronizing rules and practices. These services are still keeping their national character, while the terrorism and organized crime cores and cells are not only more adaptive, more united and adaptable, but they are transnational as well. The philosophy had not changed yet, and also the procedures for bi- or multi-lateral cooperation of the power institutions, including the law-enforcing structures, the investigative services and the legislative systems, are not yet formalized. Efforts are required in different directions, including those aimed to standardization of basic documents, like visas or passports, for example. It is especially important to build national, regional and global systems of early warning, preventive measures and fast reaction, in order to counteract terrorism more effectively.
  Besides, do not equalize terrorism and organized crime. It is true that they cooperate between them more and more, but they have objective differences as well. Organized crime doesn’t want publicity; it prefers to act secretly, to obtain its profits from its illegal activities with too much fuss; whereas, on the contrary, terrorism seeks as much publicity as possible, instability, fear and social destruction.
  12. The role of the education is becoming huge and increasingly important in all its aspects and in particular in the sphere of the culture and religions, the liquidation of illiteracy and the termination of the educational practices in a number of countries aimed to teach the children to detest the ones different from them.
  13. The developed societies should exert much more efforts for integrating the immigrants and increasing their material, social and psychological status, so that not to form inside them aliens, closed and isolated Diasporas and minorities, which carry inside themselves a very particular duplicity. On one hand, they have a mentality of the downtrodden and unwelcome people in the countries where they had moved to live, and, on the other hand, they take advantage of the benefits of the developed countries, communications, mobility and protection under law. This allows them to multiply the negative and aggressive energy of the negation, depression, frustration by the opportunities, which democracy gives them for self-organization and freedom of action.
  Thus, the societies in the democratic and developed countries are torn to pieces with peculiar patches, and in the Diasporas and minority islands generate for interweaving the political and criminal networks. One question emerges: “How to match the modernization (we can not do without it) with the preservation and adaptation of elements of the tradition in the Diasporas, which are frightened not to lose their individuality and feel secure by preserving their notion of identity?


  At which issues is possible talking at cross-purposes about the viewpoints, assessments, and positions? Here follows the exemplar list of ideas which are not accepted to the same degree of conviction and flatness everywhere.
  1. Terrorism with a complex, versatile phenomenon.
Actually, there is not terrorism but terrorisms, different types of terrorism: some types are more global, and others more local; some types are adapting to the modernity, and others deny it; the followers of one kind of terrorism want to acquire their rights and views from the rest of the society, while the followers of the other types, on the contrary, want to impose their rights and views on the rest of the society. That is why every single type of terrorism should be viewed exactly in its unique cultural, ethical, religious, social, historical and political context. Let us not mingle and profane the matters, because they are not so much elementary. What is in force for Euscadi Ta Askatasuma or ETA (translated Basque Homeland and Freedom), very often is not valid for Al Qaida.
  2. Whether the right term is “a War on terror” or it is “a Fight with terror”.
“A War” presumes and applies “the Law of War”, the War laws, whereas “a fight” presumes and applied “the Law of Peace”, the Peace laws. This is a part of one of the main problems inherent to the assumption of terrorism, i.e. whether terrorism should be considered as warfare or as a criminal activity. Through this issue passes the dividing line between the views on terrorism and the means to fight it in Europe and the United States. In the US point of view, there should be conducted a war on terrorism (“à la guerre comme à la guerre”). In this war it is the military that plays the central role through military operations and the most powerful and modern weapons (i.e. this is a task of the Ministry of Defense). In Europe’s point of view, terrorism should be counteracted like a criminal activity, so the terrorists should be deemed as criminals and we should fight them by respecting the laws and human rights; namely, the main institutions are those for human rights protection and law-enforcement, and mostly the police (i.e. this is a task of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the special services); while the role of the army, the role of the military, is merely complementally and auxiliary. For example, the military should intervene only as a rule and in cases when they are the only one to have the needed abilities related to transportation, logistics and communications, gathering information, rescuing hostages, on ships and planes, or in the cases in which the police is unable to cope with the task or it is corrupted or it lacks in the necessary trust, or if the enemy is more powerful, organized or heavily armed. The military should be a part of the solution, but not a part of the problem.

  The very logical question here is: “If the case in point is a war, then when and at what conditions, at what criteria it would be considered to be won?”. This question concerns directly the application of the Humanitarian law as well. If a war against terrorism ought to be conducted, then what is the place in this war in the Geneva Conventions? If

* The article was published in International Relations Review, 2005, #2-3, pp. 119-132. The author has been National Security Secretary of the Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov in the period 2002-2006.
** All ideas and thoughts in this article are my personal opinion and don’t commit the Bulgarian President with them in any way.


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