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His answer to terrorism lies not in war

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A sense of proportion about the threat is vital, he says.

"I always point out that although terrorism is an evil and lots of people unfortunately lose their lives - including many civilians - through terrorism, it is not as terrible an evil as major wars in which hundreds of thousands and possibly millions can be killed.

"We have to be very careful," he says, "that we do not bring about those wider and more terrible conflicts of potential mass annihilation in the process of trying to suppress terrorism. That would be a tragic folly."

On this basis, he adds his voice to those of other terrorism analysts concerned that a war on Iraq by the West is bound to work against, not for, the world's "war on terrorism." He does not predict an intensification of terrorism merely as a "short term" result: In his estimation, Al Qaeda remains no "minor threat" but "a very big problem." A more urgent problem than Iraq, in fact.

He also maintains that Iraq and Al Qaeda are separate issues. "Al Qaeda does not depend on Iraq, and would continue in business regardless of what happens in the conflict."

But Al Qaeda will exploit a war on Iraq, a Muslim country, using it to excite even greater enmity between the United States and the Islamic world, gaining recruits for its ruthless jihad. Wilkinson is certain there is no real evidence of any partnership between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Before 9/11, Wilkinson edited a book on the need to deal more effectively with aviation terrorism. He still believes security in the air, though improved in some ways, is far from perfect.

Terrorists will doubtless use or target civilian aviation again, he says, not to mention the maritime sphere, diplomatic facilities, and so on.

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