"Terrorism Factbook" co-authors Marc Miller and Jason File
Marc Miller is a military historian. His work focuses on military simulations technology games. During the Gulf War, he contributed to the guidebook "Desert Shield Factbook." Jason File is a terrorism specialist at Yale Law School. He is a doctoral candidate in International Relations at the University of Oxford. Miller and File are co-authors of the book "Terrorism Factbook."
CNN: What exactly is the "Terrorism Factbook" and why was it written?
JASON FILE: The Terrorism Fact Book is a book written within the last month, which is intended to answer basic questions for the general public in a clear and concise way, involving many aspects of terrorism today. Some of these questions include the history of terrorism, issues of terrorism relating to Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda network, and issues relating to how the U.S. can respond to terrorist threats, both today and in the future.
MARC MILLER: Most of the books on terrorism out there are big, big academic works that don't really address the questions the layperson has about terrorism. This book is meant to fill that need.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: For how long have terrorist cells been coming into the United States of America?
FILE: There have been different members of terrorist organizations coming into the United States ever since the turn of the century, but obviously over that period of time, the motivations of different terrorist groups have changed. Sometimes we see cases where terrorists will enter the U.S. in order to receive safe haven. This was particularly important during the "troubles" in North Ireland, where Irish terrorists would flee to the United States. This practice of offering safe haven has been recently ended, yet within the past ten or so years, members of cells affiliated with Islamic extremist groups such as al Qaeda, have been entering the United States.
MILLER: The United States has not been so much the focus of terrorist attacks as terrorist fund raising. Sympathizers, people who believe in whatever cause the terrorists have, but live in the United States, are often solicited and often fund the terrorists or terrorist organizations, directly or indirectly, in other countries. The switch to terrorist attacks against the United States IN the United States is a relatively recent phenomenon.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: How can we be pre-emptive from future extremists attaining power?
FILE: One of the most important lessons of the recent terrorist attacks is the wakeup call the United States has received about the potential negative effects of globalization and a global economy. If we are hoping to prevent extremists from gaining power in different regions around the world, we will have to pay closer attention to the economic dynamics in those regions. This includes ensuring that the quality of life is up to a standard that would make it more difficult for manipulative groups to find support among the populace.
CNN: President Bush says the goal is to eradicate terrorism throughout the world. How realistic is this goal?
MILLER: President Bush was careful to phrase his target as terrorists of global reach, which under a variety of interpretations means that local terrorist groups which don't reach beyond national borders or even regional borders, are much less a target than terrorists with global agendas. In fact, the only terrorists that come to mind that fit that definition are Muslim fundamentalists and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
FILE: I would add that the goal of eliminating terrorism in general may never be completely achieved, due to the existence of disenchanted and disenfranchised people at all times. However, the world for the past 30 years has been gradually increasing its capabilities through legal and law-enforcement cooperation, to reduce the places where terrorists can hide and remain safe. After September 11, the prospects are even greater for progress in this area, making the potential for eliminating terrorism much closer to a reality.
MILLER: And then we go back to the definition of terrorism, because there are some organizations in some states who don't define what they are doing or supporting as terrorism, but call it freedom fighting, or revolution. The use of violence as attacks on the establishment is not going to go away, to echo Jason, if disenchanted or disaffected minorities exist.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: What areas should the U.S. [and the coalition] look at next as far as harboring terrorist?
MILLER: There's a strong portion of the public who believes that something should be done about Iraq, and indeed there's a strong faction within the Pentagon that believes that something should be done about Iraq. But I don't believe the government is committing itself to anything, because the coalition and American public opinion can change so quickly, that it isn't practical to commit.
FILE: Another area we should look, in the not too distant future, is Iran. Iran has been sponsoring terrorism ever since its 1979 revolution, and in particular, has supported Hezbollah in Lebanon for that entire time. This is a country today with a significant domestic split between moderate, more secular reformers, and more hard-line conservative extremists, who tend to support the idea of state-sponsored terrorism. This is a difficult diplomatic situation to address, but the United States will probably need to work behind the scenes to encourage the success of moderate reformers with the Iranian government.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Jason, can we actually win the war on terrorism in this high tech age of the 21st century?
FILE: I think the idea of winning the war on terrorism is closer to the idea of winning the war on drugs, although it is clear that there is a much stronger consensus today, after September 11, of the primacy of the goal of winning the war against terrorism. Terrorism, as Marc said earlier, will probably never be completely eradicated, but there is no question that our standard for winning the war on terrorism, should be where structuring an international and national system would drastically reduce the likelihood of a terrorist attack succeeding. And in the event that one should succeed, it would make it almost guaranteed that capture and punishment of suspects would take place.
CNN: What can you tell us about al Qaeda? How do they operate and what would happen to them if bin Laden is killed or captured?
FILE: Al Qaeda is a network that operates like a small army in Afghanistan, but operates like an organized criminal network outside those borders. The posses that run through Afghanistan today are being treated with a military solution, whereas cells in foreign countries are treated with anti-crime approaches. These cells in other countries are organized in such a way so that members do not know members of different cells. This means that when law enforcement officials capture members of one cell, not even torture could elicit information that would lead to the capture of others. This type of network would require significant law enforcement effort to eliminate, but it's not impossible. Osama bin Laden, as the leader of this organization, has designated specific individuals in a line of succession. This means that killing him or capturing him will not result in the elimination of the organization.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: How do the relationships between Syria, Lebanon and Iran effect the Middle East?
FILE: The effect that these countries have on the Middle East is most important today with relation to the Palestinian question. While Syria has historically been opposed to a Palestinian state, it is less vocal today than it used to be. This goes for elements in Lebanon and Iran as well. The question of a Palestinian state, in turn, is a major policy issue for certain Islamic-based terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda. The position that Syria, Lebanon and Iran take in potentially facilitating the emergence of a Palestinian state without a prior conflict, will be important in de-tensioning this aspect of international relations, which is the source of so much controversy today. These countries also may play a role in any coalition effort in Afghanistan. The support of Syria during the Gulf War was important for symbolic purposes to demonstrate that the war was not about ethnic origins, such as Arabs, nor about religions, such as Islam.
CNN: Do you have any closing comments you would like to share?
MILLER: The resolution of the war on terror has to include winning the peace afterwards. The attacks on al Qaeda and bin Laden in Afghanistan need to take into account the needs of the people in Afghanistan, and the United States can't afford to abandon them or that region like it did when the Soviet-Afghanistan war ended.
FILE: This point highlights the connection between humanitarian aid and national security. Not only should we offer assistance to Afghanistan and its neighbors at the conclusion of our military conflict for the reasons of humanitarianism, but we should also remember that we can help to prevent the possibility of this area continuing to be a recruiting ground for terrorists among groups of desperate and uneducated people.
CNN: Thank you for joining us today.
FILE: Thank you very much. I hope our comments have helped answer some of your questions.
MILLER: Thank you. We've appreciated the opportunity to talk to you.
Marc Miller and Jason File joined the chat room via telephone from Illinois and Connecticut respectively and CNN.com provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Tuesday, November 06, 2001 at 1:30 p.m. EDT.
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