Trend / Ben FrankelFighting terrorism with high-tech

Published 2 July 2007

Study argues that old-fashioned collective punishment measures are not effective in the campaign against terrorism; high-tech is

Innocent populations often pay a high price as governments engage in a campaign to fight terorism. One example: There is a growing anger in Afghanistan over the mounting toll among civilians, the result of a stepped-up bombing campaign by coalition forces against Taliban irregulars in Afghanistan. Second example: Israel has built hundreds of check-points across the West Bank, making daily life for Palestinians there exceedingly difficult. Israel maintains that these check points are a necessary security measure, but the result is that, for Palestinians, even the most routine travel away from home — going for work or school, visiting the doctor or a family relative who lives in the next village — often involve hours of waiting at a checkpoint, and quite often a denial of passage.

Is this burden imposed on innocent civilians necessary in the name of security? Lior Tavensky, a master’s student at the University of Tel Aviv, says “No.” In a study he just finished, titled “Fighting Terror in the Information Age,” he concludes that old-fashioned check-points are not effective in combatting terrorism, and that efforts should instead be directed toward using high-tech applications in this effort. The Marker’s Guy Grimland writes that Tavensky argues that collective punishment methods — and hundreds of check points hampering the free movement of innocent civilians is a form of collective punishment — are not effective in the campaign to control terrorism. “Analysis of the data shows that the decline in the number of Israeli casualties from Palestinian terrorism was brought about by an improvement of the preventive capabilities of the [Israeli] security forces,” Tavensky writes.

In my view, the major changes took place in the technological realm,” Tavensky writes. He says that the various technologies used in the campaign to defeat terrorism belong in three categories: Intelligence technologies, preventive technologies, and technologies for perimeter defense. Note that Tavensky diasgrees with the argument that there is no military solution to terrorism. He only argues that “there is no longer a need to occupy territories and destroy cities in order to hit terrorist targets.” Tavensky adds: “The difficulty in obtaining intelligence on on individuals operating among civilians has declined considerably. Advanced information technologies of recent years make possible the creation of a broad intelligence picture, using information gathered by different sensors, conveying the inmformation in real time to decision makers and operatives, and [allow for] measured and accurate action based on the intelligence by using perimeter defense systems or [by attacking with] precision-guided munitions.”

Tavensky concludes: “As a result of technological change, causing a wide-scale environmental damage or inflicting massive harm on uninvolved bystanders during a military action in built-up area populated by civilians are no longer necessary.”

MORE: A few weeks after the Israel-Hezbollah of July-August 2006 ended, Simon Peres, the then-deputy prime minister of Israel and, as of 15 July, that country’s new president, wrote an article in the Guardian making arguments similar to those of Tavensky.