Controlling terrorism, at least in the sense this article addresses, is more like controlling arson than controlling fire. Arsonists are still around.
To extend the analogy, again in the sense of the article, we would have to control arson by finding out ways to give arsonists what they want so that they don't have to commit arson to get it. The problem is that arsonists generally want either insurance fraud or a nice exciting conflagration. I suppose fireworks displays and the Indiana Jones stunt show might provide an outlet for desires for conflagration, but is is necessarily a good idea to give easy means of insurance fraud?
This is one of the things that bothers me about these proposals. They generally assume that all terrorists are entirely rational people who just want reasonable things, and if "we" (usually the bad U.S.) just gave them what they wanted, they'd go away, and everything would be nice. Analyses of the bad things that we do to make them have to become terrorists never go below the first, most superficial level.
Others have pointed out that the 9/11 terrorists were hardly oppressed, that they were Western-educated middle-class people under the control of a multimillionaire. What has bin Laden said that he really wants? Not what American and European liberals say he wants, what he says. Well, he's said he wants to overthrow the government of Saudi Arabia and set up an even more repressive government. He wants the U.S. out of Saudi Arabia, presumably because the U.S. can stop him from doing that. And he hates Jews and wants them dead. In the past, he really hasn't said much about Palestine at all.
So, what do "we" do? Give him a peaceful way to impose a more repressive government in Saudi Arabia? Build some rooms marked "Showers" that really aren't and send him some Zyklon-B? It may very well be and IMHO almost always is the case that what the terrorists want is something that it would be bad for them to have. Providing a Dali Lama mechanism to let them get it is not a technical problem; it's simply that it would be a bad idea.
How to minimize terrorism is pretty easy. Weak religion, weak nationalism, weak homeland identity. Enough technology to eliminate the worst drudgery. Social safety nets. Treatment of medical psychiatric disorders. Universal education, particularly for women. Enough interesting things to do. Outlets for aggressive tendencies, such as sports and mosh pits. In other words, Western culture, basically.
However, the same people who think that "we" caused terrorism are opposed to Western culture. How someone who was born in Ohio and now lives in San Francisco can get all worked up about somebody's "homeland" seems ridiculous to me, but they do. Nevertheless, they may have a point. What if someone thinks that theocracy is good, and education of women is bad? Then there's nothing you can do but let them rot. They may get more pissed off as they rot more, but not enough to question their own assumptions. Not much you can do. When they start to kill you, there's not much left to do but kill them back. Lamentable, perhaps, but what are you going to do?
The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett
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