Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Signalling Terrorism

From the @NewYorker, Steve Coll on how the U.S. talks about terrorists - this is a brief review of “U.S. Counter-Terrorism Strategy and al-Qaeda: Signaling and the Terrorist World-View,” by Joshua Alexander Geltzer.

According to Geltzer, Cheney believed that Al Qaeda attacks had been encouraged by "provocative weakness" - ambiguous signals from previous administrations, not just Clinton, but going back to Reagan - and was determined to send tough signals to Al Qaeda.

But in Geltzer's opinion, the audience that would be most responsive to these signals would be an audience of people who thought like Cheney himself. "The audience that appears to have been in the minds of American policymakers as they crafted their counter-terrorist signals was one akin to America as audience."

Steve Coll comments that "as a rhetorical tour de force ... this is a little too neat to be completely convincing". However, "as a breath-catching take on the problem of unexamined, ineffective, domestic-driven American signaling to terrorists, whether of the nascent Obama or entrenched Cheney type, Geltzer’s work is very impressive".

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