Would this solution to ending terrorism work?

Is Counter Terrorism Worth the Money?

The cost of materials for a suicide bombing can be as low as US $ 150. This small investment results in an average of 12 deaths and spreads fear and terror throughout the target population.

The industrialized countries are reacting to the threat posed by fundamentalist Islamist terrorism by setting up ever larger, ever better protective measures around important targets. Access to airports and embassies is made more difficult; important landmarks are protected from potential bombers.

Since 2001, around US $ 70 billion has been spent on better homeland security worldwide. As was to be expected, this reduced the number of cross-border attacks by around 34 percent. On average, however, terrorism claimed 67 more lives every year.

The increase in deaths is due to terrorists reacting rationally to the increased risks posed by the increased security measures. You have focused on plans that will result in a major bloodbath.

Research recently commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Project has concluded that target nations are spending too much money on measures that shift the risk of attack rather than reduce it.

According to the argument of author Todd Sandler, terrorists are extremely predictable. When governments take steps to protect one target, the terrorists simply turn to another target.

The installation of metal detectors in international airports in 1973 led to an immediate and lasting decrease in the number of aircraft hijackings. At the same time, however, there were many more kidnappings and other incidents, leading to more deaths. So installing metal detectors had the unintended result that more Blood has been shed.

To be effective, counter-terrorism measures must either make all attack methods more difficult or reduce terrorists' resources.

The fortification of US embassies this decade has resulted in more attacks and assassinations against embassy workers in unsecured locations. Actions to protect officials led to the attacks now targeting business people and tourists, as was the case with the 2005 attacks on Bali.

The increase in homeland security spending in the United States, Canada and Europe has led to more attacks on US interests in the Middle East and Asia, where there are 'softer' targets and where Islamist fundamentalists rely on the support of certain layers of the local population Population can leave.

The political message is simple: to be effective, counter-terrorism measures must either make all attack methods more difficult or reduce terrorists' resources. Most of the current measures do not achieve either of these goals.

By "toughening" some targets, you are only encouraging terrorists to shift the focus of the attacks. Terrorists can watch governments change potential targets and then attack accordingly - for example, on September 11, 2001, when Logan, Newark and Dulles airports were identified as weakly monitored targets.

A 25 percent increase in defense measures worldwide would cost an additional US $ 75 billion over the next five years. In the extremely unlikely event that attacks were reduced by 25 percent, the world would save about US $ 21 billion (see page 50 of the Copenhagen Consensus Report on Cross-Border Terrorism for calculations). Even in this case, every dollar invested in strengthening defense measures would raise the equivalent of about 30 cents at most. Even under the best of circumstances, this approach is and will remain a poor investment.

Why continue to spend money - and why so much?

Countries, because of political choices and extreme risk aversion, maintain massive spending in an area with such high costs and low benefits. People naturally overreact to catastrophic events that are very unlikely to occur, rather than preparing for more likely events with lower losses. In addition, the target countries are in a security race to divert terrorist attacks onto foreign soil. Ultimately, no one can win this race.

Terrorists enjoy strategic advantages over the countries they attack. Terrorists can hide in the population and are difficult to identify, while liberal democracies offer a wealth of potential targets. Terrorists are not subject to any moral restrictions in their attacks; Governments have to keep themselves in check. Perhaps the most important asymmetry between the two, however, lies in the terrorists' ability to work together - and the hostility of the target countries to such cooperation.

As early as the late 1960s, cross-border terrorist groups worked together in loose networks in the areas of training, information gathering, provision of safe retreats, financial support, logistical help, procurement of weapons and even the exchange of personnel. They pool resources to stock up on their meager arsenals.

In contrast, the target countries attach great importance to their autonomy in security matters. Sometimes they don't even agree among themselves on who the enemy is - until recently the European Union did not consider Hamas a terrorist. Despite different political intentions, supporters, and objectives, many terrorist groups face the same two opponents: Israel and the United States.

About 40 percent of all cross-border terrorist attacks are directed against US interests and some observers argue that the only remaining superpower in the world could do more to spread a positive image of itself and thus subvert terrorist propaganda.

This could be achieved in part by the US reallocating or increasing its development aid. The US currently spends just 0.17 percent of its gross national income on official development aid - the second lowest percentage of any OECD country. Aid is often given preferential treatment to countries that support the United States' foreign policy agenda.

Efforts to expand humanitarian aid without ulterior motives would allow the United States to do more to eradicate hunger, disease and poverty while realizing significant benefits: the US reputation would improve massively and the risk of terrorism would decrease.

From a broader international perspective, the fact that nations argue over their sovereignty over police and security matters makes greater cooperation difficult. Cooperation only works when it is comprehensive. If only one country provides a safe haven for terrorists, that one country undermines the efforts of everyone else.

But if the political will could be found, increased cooperation to turn off the money to the terrorists would be relatively cheap to achieve. This would require extraditing more terrorists, among other things, and cracking down on charitable donations, drug trafficking, trafficking in counterfeit goods, trade in goods and illegal activities that enable terrorists to pursue their activities.

Since terrorist attacks are so cheap, this approach would not necessarily reduce smaller attacks such as “routine” bombings or political assassinations, but it would significantly reduce the spectacular terrorist attacks that require long-term planning and extensive resources.

The benefits would be considerable. Doubling the Interpol budget and allocating a tenth of the International Monetary Fund's annual monitoring and capacity building budget to track down the terrorists' money sources would cost about US $ 128 million a year. If just one catastrophic terrorist attack can be prevented, the world will save at least US $ 1 billion. The benefits would thus exceed the costs by almost ten times.

The target nations must bear in mind that the world is facing many other challenges, which in many ways are far more pressing than the problem of terrorism. The number of fatalities the cross-border The cost of terrorism since 2001 averaged 583 per year, according to figures from the MIPT and the US Department of State - a negligible number compared to the number of deaths from HIV / AIDS, malaria, malnutrition or even traffic accidents.

Unlike other global challenges, efforts to combat terrorism can have unintended negative effects. Strong offensive measures against terrorists can lead to retaliatory attacks as new resentments arise, while indulging in the terrorists 'demands leads others to emulate terrorists' tactics.

A terrorist group can sometimes be broken up, but new groups emerge as a result. Actions to kill the head of a group can lead to even more unscrupulous leaders replacing the slain leader, as Israel discovered with the underground organization Black September and Hamas.

Terrorist attacks will always remain an obvious, cheap investment for groups seeking to spread panic and fear. Every dollar spent by terrorists in the July 2005 attacks on the London Underground caused a staggering US $ 1,270,000 in damage (as the estimated $ 2.5 billion in damage was caused by an operation that only Cost $ 2,000).

The enemies of terrorism must react safely and rationally to ensure that spending to combat terrorism does the best possible good.

Fear drives some nations to spend staggering sums of money building higher and higher barriers around potential targets. International cooperation and a far-sighted foreign policy would be far more worthwhile.

The most effective responses to terrorism also turn out to be the cheapest. Unfortunately, they are not the easiest.