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His answer to terrorism lies not in war

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"We must try to find ways of dealing with terrorism in the dangerous world we live in," says Paul Wilkinson, "which do not actually spark off a war that could lead to a set of chain reactions of a truly disastrous nature."

Professor Wilkinson is a widely respected British terrorism expert. He is professor of international relations at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. In his most recent book, "Terrorism Versus Democracy," he argues (as he has for three decades) that terrorism should and can be effectively combated in ways that are compatible with the laws and values that operate in liberal democracies.

The phrase "war on terrorism" was, he says, understandable as a response to 9/11, "but if you use a phrase like that, it does create an expectation among some people that there is a solution to terrorism that is entirely military."

Wilkinson is not a pacifist, and says well-trained military forces sometimes must be used to attack terrorists when police forces cannot cope. But the better way to tackle the problem is "by the less glamorous, less dramatic form of counter-terrorism - through intelligence, good intelligence-sharing, getting such good information on the intentions and plans of the group that you can intervene before they carry out their attacks."

These, he argues, "are the patient and ultimately safe ways of dealing with such terrible crimes."

Wilkinson, who speaks quickly, logically, and calmly, is not some dusty, detached academic. Since 1989, he has directed the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrews, and is now chairman of its advisory council. He serves as a consultant to governments including his own, the United States, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, and Australia. He is currently heading a two-year research project funded by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council on Britain's preparedness for future terrorist attacks.


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