Terrorism is like a spring

From ‘Terrorism is like a spring – stretch it to make it lose its strength’, Today Voices, 31 Jan 2016

(Ng Chee Keon): The spate of attacks in Germany, Turkey and Jordan suggests that it is tough to prevent such terrorist acts, notwithstanding the plots foiled in Indonesia and Australia (“World needs a better plan to confront threat of terrorism”; Dec 22).

Terrorism is like a strong spring; compress it with military force and the recoil will be just as hard, with more retaliatory attacks. Overbear it with military successes in Mosul and Raqqa, and the attacks spread from the Middle East to Europe, South-east Asia and other countries.

Another way to handle such a spring would be to stretch it. The world could start by attempting to appreciate and address the terrorists’ sources of hatred and any grievance suffered, real or perceived, as part of the deradicalisation process.

The next step could be to identify common ground and explore possible win-win solutions to the problem. I am sure that, barring any groupthink or wish to be seen as politically correct, many terrorism experts would know of other ways to elongate this spring slowly so that it loses strength over time

And I hope the scourge of terrorism may thus abate steadily.

In 2002, then DPM Lee Hsien Loong compared the JI threat to a stubborn cancer that refuses to go away. The analogy to a condition once stigmatised as the ‘Big C’ has stuck ever since. Terrorist groups are called ‘cells’. When legions expand, they’re described as ‘metastasising‘.

Like cancer, the war on terror demands a multi-faceted solution, and not just rely on precision killing or sweeping obliteration. The problem with this metaphor is that cancer can actually be defeated and most healthy people don’t need to be reminded of getting it in the first place. On the other hand, this anxiety over the scourge of terrorism will live on with us for posterity as long as warped religious doctrine, guns and large vehicles continue to exist.

Yes there are things we use to describe the war against terror like the ‘Crusades’, a disease, an epidemic, and then we have the writer above with the bizarre insight to peel away the layers of bloody violence surrounding the idea of terrorism and compare it to something innocuous that goes ‘boing-boing’. If terrorism had a name, it would be King Coil. With a crown made of flaming blades. Dealing with terrorism may be the ‘new normal’, but there is such a thing as over-normalising something that makes young children bomb-strap and blow themselves up with other innocent human beings.

Regardless, analogies are useless even if people understand them. Calling terrorism a deadly, insidious plague, a sprawling weed in your backyard or a satanic bouncy mattress won’t make it go away. If there’s anything that needs to SPRING into action it’s getting everyone to play a part in slowly excising this growing cancer at its root.

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