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How We Can Kill Terrorism With Kindness

Displaced people fleeing from Boko Haram incursions into Niger carry boxes of oil during a World Food Programme (WFP) and USAID food distribution at the Asanga refugee camp near Diffa on June 16, 2016. Issouf Sanogo—AFP/Getty Images

Jacob N. Shapiro I Jan 05, 2017

Shapiro is professor of politics and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, co-director of the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project and author of The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations.
Recent attacks in Istanbul and Berlin remind us that preventing violent extremism must be a policy priority for the incoming Donald Trump administration. The last decade has shown that our good intelligence will never prevent every terrorist attack, and our aggressive reactions will never kill or scare away every potential terrorist. But we can do a better job of stopping the terrorist plots in the first place. The way to do this is to get communities that produce and harbor attackers to view America and the West more favorably.


Targeting terrorist groups overseas is not enough. Tools of terror are everywhere. From the readily available explosive components to the semi-automatic weapons that can be purchased everywhere (including online) to the vehicles we drive every day, a would-be attacker has an almost infinite set of options. We need to intervene early, and the only way law enforcement can do that is with the cooperation of the communities within which potential terrorists live.
In many recent cases of terrorism, someone in the community knew about activities that took place long before the attack that could have triggered an investigation. For example, months before the March 2016 Brussels attacks, a neighbor of the perpetrators alerted police to their odd behavior, but the tip was not followed up aggressively. Read More


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