January 26, 2009

English summary

The key topic of this double issue of Diplomaatia is terrorism.

The key topic of this double issue of Diplomaatia is terrorism.

English summary

The key topic of this double issue of Diplomaatia is terrorism.
In the opening article, Mart Nutt, a member of the Estonian Parliament, gives an overview of the history of terrorism. “Broadly speaking, if we treated terrorism as a form of illegal political violence, we could claim that terrorism is as old as politics and that the first act of terrorism – the killing of Abel by Cain – was described in the Bible,” claims Nutt. He is convinced that there is no standard definition for terrorism; the more so that the line between freedom-fighting and terrorism is but vague – what some see as freedom-fighting is terrorism for others and vice versa.
Rein Tammsaar, an official of the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, writes about the ‘war on terrorism’ as it has become known after September 11, 2001. “One of the mistakes made in the launching of the war on terrorism was that the long-term negative impact of the achievement of short-term military objectives – the substantial radicalisation of great masses of people – was not taken into account. By now, radicalisation at local level has reached a global scale,” claims Tammsaar.
In addition, the foreign policy of the United States was almost completely subjected to the goals of the war on terrorism. However, diplomacy usually recedes when military force starts to gain dominance. “Anyway, compared to military force, diplomacy is complicated, arduous, expensive and, more importantly, it does not yield quick and tangible results. Alas, the old saying used on the other side of the big pond – when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail – is quite accurate. This is why its strong military component could, paradoxically, be the main weakness of the war on terrorism, as it sows the seeds of anger and desperation.”
Thirdly, the gravest miscalculation concerning the US-led global war on terrorism was using simple black-and-white logic: if you are not with us, you must be against us. However, value-based foreign policy can play only a marginal role in a black-and-white world.
Tomas Jermalavicius, a researcher at the International Centre for Defence Studies, agrees with Tammsaar that terrorism cannot be solved by using only military means. “Bringing soldiers into the streets can be as frightening as it can be assuring. It may serve the purpose of underlining the desperation of a government that is unable to manage the situation with ordinary means of law enforcement,” writes Jermalavicius. “Armed forces often find it difficult to culturally adapt themselves to quite different imperatives of combating terrorism, compared to fighting conventional wars. Firstly, the military like to think in terms of clear objectives and end-states, which are observable and measurable. This is not something one may always expect in a complex and muddled psychological game of suasion and counter-suasion, or shaping of perceptions of relevant audiences, that terrorists and governments play. Secondly, the military usually are predisposed to delivering quick, decisive and tough solutions. This kind of mentality is often at odds with drawn-out anti-terrorist campaigns lasting for years or even decades, during which exercising self-restraint and careful calibration of the use of force are dominant requirements for the behaviour of governments and their agencies. So, it is no wonder that poorly thought through and hasty use of military tools in combating terrorism may come to resemble the use of a cannon to hunt mosquitoes – it makes a lot of noise and causes destruction, but has little impact on tormentors.”
Indrek Elling, a researcher at the International Centre for Defence Studies, analyses the progress made in rebuilding the Afghan army and police force – if these do not operate effectively, the coalition forces cannot leave Afghanistan. Elling asserts that even though the conditions in Afghanistan will probably not become similar to those in Europe in the coming decades, there is no reason to be too pessimistic and to underestimate Afghanistan’s positive achievements.
Peeter Oissar, a security police officer, claims that Estonia is also vulnerable to attacks by Islamist terrorists. “On the one hand, Estonia could became a target for Islamist terrorists because we as a NATO member state participate in the US-led coalition forces in Iraq and in Afghanistan, whereas in addition to military operations we have taken part in anti-terrorist operations in both of these countries. On the other hand, there are many Muslims from Europe who fight the US-led and other coalition forces. These fighters will return to their homes, having acquired new skills and contacts in the conflict regions, which is why they will become a serious security threat. Although there are no domestic Islamist groups in Estonia, various foreign Muslim organisations showed an interest in the Estonian Muslim community in 2008. The Security Police has reasons to believe that some of these organisations or their single members who visited Estonia have supported radical Islamists. Their interest in the Estonian Muslim community was expressed in the form of making visits to Estonia and offering financial support. In addition, local Muslims have been invited to various events in foreign countries,” asserts Oissar.
Riina Kaljurand, a researcher at the International Centre for Defence Studies, describes the situation in Northern Ireland where terrorism is now practically non-existent, despite the fact that until recently the region was a classic example of the ‘older generation’ terrorism that was pursued in the name of clear political objectives.
Literary researcher Mihhail Lotman writes about the history of terrorism in Russia and the reputation of terrorists in Russia at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. “The intellectual elite in Russia became convinced that an act of terrorism did indeed involve monsters and innocent martyrs: the targets were the monsters and the perpetrators were the victims. Terrorists were surrounded with the halo of martyrdom or even holiness: they sacrificed their lives for the nation,” writes Lotman.
Journalist Andrei Soldatov gives an overview of the current activities of Russian security services in their war on terrorism and journalist Jaanus Piirsalu describes the situation in the Northern Caucasus after the Chechen Wars.
Lastly, Maria Mälksoo, a researcher at the International Centre for Defence Studies, pays tribute to Samuel Huntington who died in December. In addition, this issue includes the bibliography for 2008.

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