Democratic Security in a time of extremism and violence Conference

14 Jan 2017
All democratic societies that value the liberties of their citizens, are content to declare that a crime is an act, not a thought, and is punished after the fact, and indeed have constructed elaborate legal and judicial procedures to ensure that police and prosecutors actually punish the guilty party after proving that they are responsible “beyond a reasonable doubt”. They prefer to let a guilty party go free than to incarcerate an innocent person. Terrorism poses a different challenge. The public wants the government to prevent the act of terror from occurring. To prevent an act from happening will require broadened surveillance and police powers to act on suspicions of conspiracy rather than to await that terrorists execute an act of terror and then capture the guilty party. That sets us on a dangerous path, where our liberties at risk. Recall the US “Patriot Act” passed after 9/11 to give government powers to fight a “War on Terror” begat Guantanamo, preventative detention, torture and the systematic murder by drone attacks. Where does the right balance lie? Does it differ from country to country? These are the questions that the Conference seeks to explore. However, it must also be emphasized that whatever the decisions that are reached by individual governments, ultimately terrorism shall be defeated through cultural confrontation, defeating extremist ideas with ideas of openness and pluralism. The rising problem of terrorism on both sides of the Mediterranean does not only pose military and security challenges, it also raises a fundamental set of cultural challenges. For in the end, the violent extremists among the religious zealots and the political movements that are devoted to terrorism as a means of achieving their aims, all need to be defeated in the realm of ideas. Their views must be exposed for the sham that they are and their positions must be marginalized so that their appeal to younger generations is minimized. This set of tasks is important for all governments, and constitute a basis for collaboration between the governments on both sides of the Mediterranean and beyond to all the civilized countries of the world.