US and the' War on Terror': Chess or chequers?

Chess or chequers?
Dr Maleeha Lodhi, The News, June 01, 2010

The writer is a former envoy to the US and the UK, and a former editor of The News.

Fighting terrorism should be like a game of chess but the US approach has been more akin to playing chequers, says Bruce Hoffman, an American scholar who has spent years studying the phenomenon.

A chess-game approach means understanding the threat and enemy and being able to anticipate and thoughtfully respond to how it changes and adapts. This means a strategy that uses reason and guile, not just brute force. Chequers (known as draughts in Pakistan) becomes a one-dimensional numbers game which measures gains more by how many leaders or militants are eliminated than how the flow of recruits is retarded.

One of the great advantages of spending time at Washington's leading think tank, the Woodrow Wilson Centre, is to be able to meet and listen to authorities on important issues. There is no shortage of terrorism experts, but what Bruce Hoffman has to say is significantly different from the run-of-the-mill 'sound byte' analysis that often poses as specialist 'wisdom'.

Hoffman is currently a fellow at the Wilson Centre and a professor in Security Studies at Georgetown University. He has authored several books, including Inside Terrorism and his latest article provocatively titled 'American Jihad' appears in the current issue of The National Interest. One does not have to agree with all arguments to gain insights from his scholarly perspective.

I spoke to him in the immediate aftermath of the failed car bomb attempt in Times Square, which reignited the debate in America about whether the US is employing the right policy toolkit to address a complex challenge.

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