Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 2003, pages 77-82
John Kiesling on How to Repair America's Image
Former foreign service officer John Brady Kiesling described his experience and its relevance to the U.S. standing worldwide at a March 31 Palestine Center briefing, less than fiveweeks after his resignation. From his vantage point at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, Kiesling was able to observe the steadily deteriorating international prestige of the U.S. As the preparations for an invasion of Iraq continued, Kiesling saw a bedrock of "rhetorical anti-American" feelings in Greece explode into an overpowering atmosphere of outright animosity and suspicion.
Situated at the border of Europe and Asia, Greece has long been "profoundly anchored to the Middle East," he noted. It provides a good barometer of the public perception of the U.S. between one region where America has long been criticized and feared and another region where it has been seen as an important ally, if not a close friend. "If we've lost Greece," Kiesling explained, "we've lost the Middle East already, and at least half of Europe."
This loss represents a grave reversal of a positive trend that had developed after 9/11. The U.S. was "starting to build a really effective coalition" in its war on terror, Kiesling pointed out. Many countries which previously were not particularly friendly to the U.S.—including Iran, Cuba and Syria—had come to the conclusion that cooperating with the U.S. was in their interest, he recalled. In addition to security interests, the U.S. has "moral interests" in Europe and the Middle East, Kiesling argued, and often the two are intertwined. "Until the Palestinian problem is solved," he argued, "we will not be able to deal with what the Greeks call the root causes of terrorism."
Kiesling had hoped that Washington's decision to go to war would be blocked by the U.N. To his mind, it is obvious to "anyone who's actually spoken to someone from the Middle East" that invading and conquering Iraq and remaking it in "our image" would be nearly impossible. Nor, according to Kiesling, would the people of the Middle East see the U.S. as a liberator. "No matter how much the people of Iraq hate Saddam," he said, it should have been obvious that they would rally around their leader when their country was invaded. Kiesling calls the failure to appreciate this fact a "fundamental miscalculation" in the war planning.
Kiesling was not convinced that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or presented an imminent threat to the U.S. "We did not successfully make the argument that Saddam is a threat to the U.S.," he maintained. "We owed it to our dignity and to the people of the world to make a better case. We didn't and we're paying the price for it now."
Attributing to Donald Rumsfeld a "complete misunderstanding of human nature and of the Middle East," Kiesling said the secretary of defense misunderstood Saddam Hussain. While expecting Hussain to flinch at a display of America's might, Hussain was left with, in Kiesling's words, "nowhere to flinch to." As he did in his famous resignation letter, Kiesling described the Rumsfeld doctrine as "let them hate us as long as they fear us."
This doctrine, however, will not serve American interests well, Kiesling warned. Because of the war in Iraq, he noted, "we've already cost ourselves substantially in terms of our traditional alliances." The animosity the U.S. has generated, he explained, will make it much more difficult to achieve its policy goals. The former diplomat speculated that "the greatest danger to U.S. power now is the image that that power is too great and too unchecked." The war on Iraq has caused the world to "lose any faith that we are using our power wisely," he added.
Finally, Kiesling described the U.S. rejection of the International Criminal Court as another setback to American prestige in the world. Because of this, the war on Iraq and many other issues, Washington has convinced the world that it doesn't believe in following rules or in the system of international relations that it helped to create.
Kiesling ended with a warning that "the path we have laid out for ourselves is one with no endpoint. The logic that leads us into Iraq also leads us into Iran and Syria."
He recommended instead that the U.S. return to a system of interactions with other sovereign states based on mutual acceptance of international law, along with a renewed embrace of its traditional allies.
—Courtesy of The Palestine Center
Occupation Is not Liberation, Says ANSWER
On Saturday, April 12—just a few days after the U.S. claimed the battles in Iraq were over—about 30,000 people converged on Washington, DC to join the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) coalition in reminding the Bush administration that occupation of a country is not its liberation. Moreover, with two thirds of the "axis of evil" still intact, and anti-Syria rhetoric starting up in earnest, the U.S. should not covet more "successful" invasions in Iran, Syria, or elsewhere. Baghdad having fallen, organizers expected smaller attendance at the rally, but were pleased with both the size and the commitment of the still considerable crowd that did assemble.
Isma'il Kamal of the Sudan America Society, and Laila al Arian, daughter of Palestinian professor Dr. Sami al Arian, a political prisoner in the U.S., were among the notable speakers. Lina Hashim, a young Iraqi American, sarcastically thanked President George W. Bush for "dropping bombs on a people to liberate them," for "the families of the dead and the missing," and for "the overcrowded hospitals for children to die in." She concluded by asking where President Bush had been when over 1.5 million Iraqi children died over the past 12 years.
Following the rally, a long route led marchers past both the White House and American corporations that either supported or will benefit from the war against Iraq. The Bush administration shared with Bechtel, Halliburton, The Washington Post, and Fox News the brunt of the anti-war anger. Organizers plan to keep demonstrating, but their next step will be a May 17 conference in New York City. For more information visit the Web site <internationalanswer.org>.
Paul Findley Still Dares To Speak Out
Former Congressman Paul Findley (R-IL), who was targeted and defeated in his 1982 re-election bid by Washington's pro-Israel lobby, told the Pittsfield Rotary Club in Illinois on April 30,he had helped George W. Bush win the 2000 presidential election. "In my innocence," Findley said, "I urged Muslims around the country to elect him." Since Bush's election, and 9/11, the former congressman continued, "the man in the White House has changed his positions so radically" that "America has become not just the military superpower of the world but the policeman of the world."
U.S. military bases now are scattered around the globe, he noted, and preemptive war is the instrument of presidential policy. Findley, who said he proudly served in World War II, said he never dreamed his country would be so eager to initiate war, despite worldwide disapproval.
The United States, he stated, once revered around the world for its moral authority, has lost its standing after it launched a war designed 10 years ago—before 9/11—against a small country with no ties to al-Qaeda. "Only Israel was enthusiastic about war in Iraq," Findley told his audience. He quoted an opinion he said he shares with renowned Israeli writer and peace activist Uri Avnery, that while America controls the world, Israel controls America.
George Bush is a total captive of the Israel lobby, Findley stated. Trusted advisers in the Bush administration "advance the interest of the state of Israel against the interests of the United States," he charged.
The majority of U.S. Jews do not support the views forwarded by America's Israel lobby, Findley argued. Of 5 million Jews in this country, he said, there are only about 50,000 who are active on behalf of Israel. The rest are indifferent or opposed to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but are intimidated by the lobby and keep silent. The Christian fundamentalist lobby that supports Bush and backs every move Israel makes is "badly misled," Findley said.
The author of the recently updated groundbreaking book They Dare To Speak Out (available from the AET Book Club) went on to trace the growth of Israel's lobby and the birth of AIPAC, chronicled in his book. According to Findley, there now is a zealot for Israel employed in any Executive Branch office that has anything to do with the Middle East. "Every document in the Defense Department is screened by someone with intense loyalty to Israel," he said.
As an example, Findley related a story he heard after the 1967 war, when Israel asked the U.S. for tank ammunition. The U.S. Army couldn't locate any, but agreed to place a production order right away. It took no time at all for Israel to inform the Army that there were 50,000 rounds of tank ammunition on a shelf in a military warehouse in Hawaii.
There exists a network of highly placed Jews, and now also Evangelical Christians, Findley said, that Israel can tap in any emergency. Pro-Israel supporters don't use a sledgehammer, he noted, they use gentle persuasion. "And their greatest instrument of intimidation is the charge of anti-Semitism, false though it may be," he explained.
Findley said he is not without hope—although he said he is desolate that the U.S. has lost its good name in the past two years. "There was a day in my youth when I was so proud of what my country was trying to do," he recalled. "I can't say I'm proud of what America is doing any more. The luster on the name of America can be restored."
Washington's corridors of power are wide open to others, Findley reminded his audience. He urged Muslims, Arab Americans and peace activists to work together and walk through those doors. He remains confident in the abiding good judgment of the American people when they understand the truth, he said, and believes the U.S. can win back the support, understanding, and cooperation of people who have been so disaffected in the last two years.
If Bush will turn his attention to the Palestinian issue, Findley concluded, he could win back the many friends he has lost for this nation.
—Delinda C. Hanley
Liberal Democracy and Sen. George McGovern
Former senator and presidential candidate George Mc Govern gave the April 5 keynote address at a two-day symposium at American University's Wesley Seminary honoring Bishop James and Eunice Mathews. The program, "Clash of Civilizations: The Challenge to Our Institutions of Higher Learning," was sponsored by The United Methodist Higher Education Foundation.
Senator McGovern spoke out vigorously against the preemptive war on Iraq. Like most Americans, he said, he has always been proud to be an American and of the values for which America stood. Recently, however, he said, he feared for the America he knew and loved. The preemptive war in Iraq and the present administration's foreign policies, he warned, have forced a clash between America and the rest of the world. "Ninety percent of the world's people oppose this pre-emptive war," McGovern said, "and the war places America out of step with the rest of the world."
The former senator from South Dakota predicted it would take years to heal the breach caused by the Bush administration's radical changing of America's foreign policy. Fundamentally, McGovern maintained, America's greatest source of power was the reservoir of good will garnered from its role as a beacon of hope and freedom. America's heroic actions in the past—securing peace in the world and providing humanitarian assistance—have been squandered by the present administration's insistence on attacking Iraq, he argued. Senator McGovern reminded his audience of past ill-conceived wars when, once they were over, nobody could remember why they occurred.
September 11, he noted, was the impetus for deciding to go to war with Iraq. Despite the fact that no hard evidence was produced linking Iraq with the events surrounding the Sept. 11 attack, McGovern said, the president and his advisers insisted that there was a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Ultimately, he stated, the U.S. attacked a nation that had never contemplated an attack on it. Sadly, the senator said, he had been mistaken when he believed that the hard lessons it had learned in the Vietnam War would ensure that America never repeated its past mistakes.
Traumatized by Sept. 11 and frustrated that Osama bin Laden had escaped capture, McGovern continued, Congress capitulated to the president's insistence on preemptive war, hesitating to challenge him during a time of war. Urging Americans to speak out more vigorously against the president's foreign policy, McGovern noted that the war in Vietnam ended because the American people wanted it to end.
Turning to the impact American supporters of Israel have had on U.S. foreign policy, McGovern was adamant that these policies must be vigorously opposed. Even when the anti-Semitic card is played, he stressed, we must not be deterred, but continue to struggle for the ideals, values, and traditions that in the past made America great.
Senator McGovern recalled the American Century, a concept first articulated by publisher Henry Luce. In 1940, Luce said that it was this country's time to be the most powerful nation in the world and that the U.S. was on the threshold of the "American Century." McGovern cited the reply of Henry Wallace, vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said that the American Century should really be the Century of the Common Man. It was important that those who wrote the peace have the responsibility to assist newer nations, Wallace argued, and that Americans never emulate the Nazis.
—Robert Younes, M.D.
Women in Black New York Vigil
Eleven members of Women in Black New York stood in silent protest against war and violence on April 16 in front of New York City's Public Library on Fifth Avenue. The group is part of the Women in Black's international network of women committed to peace.
Women in Black was formed in Israel in 1988 to protest Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Similar groups soon formed across Europe, America and Asia. The New York group was founded in 1993 to protest the war in the Balkans, and held monthly vigils up until 9/11. Since then the women have held weekly peace vigils every Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the same high-profile site.
"War is everywhere—not just in Iraq, but Sierra Leone and Burundi," Women in Black member Pat DeAngelis told the Washington Report as she distributed informational flyers to pedestrians on the busy sidewalk. "We are protesting not only war, but its repercussions—refugees, hunger and disease," she explained, noting that visitors from all over the world passed by the library, many of whom expressed interest and support in the group's peaceful anti-war vigil.
DeAngelis likened her group's decade-long presence at this location to the two lion statues at the library's entrance that represent patience and fortitude. For more information visit the Web site <http://womeninblack.net>.
Community, Religious Leaders Discuss Reconciliation
It was standing room only at the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross Spring Conference held in the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, MD April 26. Speakers addressed the subject "Reconciliation: In Our Hearts, Within Our Communities, and Among Global Powers."
Attendees formulated a working definition of reconciliation, identified the obstacles to reconciliation as well as the assumptions and biases of what is "right/wrong," and analyzed them in the context of the "other's" perspective of "right/wrong."
Rev. J. Allison St. Louis, who came to the U.S. from Trinidad in 1981 and is an assistant to the rector at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Silver Spring, MD, works for racial reconciliation. She warned that scripture can be used in an abusive manner, instead of to seek justice. An audience member pointed out that blessings were never used in an imperative mood in the Bible. When President George W. Bush and his administration repeatedly call on God to bless America, they are summoning God on the carpet, and crossing a line. Rev. A. Katherine Grieb, who has taught New Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary since 1994, talked about using the holy images and scripture for peacemaking.
Samira Hussein told a rapt audience about the destruction of her Palestinian village during the 1967 war, when she was 12. She and her family were forced to live in a refugee camp in the Jordanian desert, and later in Amman. Hussein came to Florida in 1972, not knowing any English but managed to finish her education. In 1982 she and her husband moved to Maryland, where they found themselves on the receiving end of harassment for many years because they are Muslims. Their car was vandalized six times, Samira said, her children beaten up, and her home and property damaged. She used these experiences to reach out and bring a voice of reconciliation to the community as a volunteer. She is now a parent coordinator for the Family/Community Partnership Unit in Montgomery County Schools and has received numerous awards for her human rights work.
Ray McGovern, who spent 27 years as an analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency also has volunteered and worked with marginalized Americans for years. Since 9/11 he has written opinion pieces on U.S. foreign policy, with an emphasis on the use and abuse of intelligence, and in January he helped found Veteran Intelligence Officers for Sanity, which includes intelligence veterans from the CIA, the State and Defense Departments, Army Intelligence, and the FBI.
McGovern was with Dorothy Day Catholic Workers who were arrested when they held a Feb. 13 vigil in front of the White House to remember the 412 Iraqi men, women and children killed in a civilian bunker during Desert Storm. They had their day in court the previous week, McGovern said, and though their case was dismissed because the arresting officer didn't appear, the group insisted on telling the court the reasons behind their civil disobedience. The judge said he expected to see them back in court again.
McGovern reminded the audience that Mother's Day began when women who had lost sons and husbands in the Civil War banded together to ensure the safety of future generations of men. Their sons had unlearned all the charity, mercy and peace their mothers had taught them from the cradle. Never again would women be left to bewail and commemorate their dead or caress their men after carnage.
The first casualty of war is truth, McGovern said, as evidenced by the biased press coverage of the Iraq war. The U.S. government and press presented forgeries, hyperbole and misstatements as fact, he charged. The fact that U.N. inspectors are not allowed to return to Iraq can only lead to the suspicion that there are no weapons of mass destruction to be found, he said, meaning there was no justification for the war in Iraq.
McGovern suggested people get the facts not available from the mainstream media in order to make informed judgments about the Iraq war and the Palestinian conflict. Then, as the Bible says, do justice. When someone asked Mother Theresa, "What can I do?" She replied, "You do the things that you can do."
—Delinda C. Hanley
Bush Adventure Expensive Political Science Experiment
The Policy Institute for Religion and State (PIFRAS) convened an April 28 panel discussion at the Senate Dirksen Building in Washington, DC, to assess prospects for pluralistic and democratic governance in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moderator John Prabhudoss, director of PIFRAS, expressed his wish that the United States have the "appetite to stay and build a democracy" in Iraq, and implied that the process had not been taken seriously in Afghanistan. Prabhudoss insisted that the U.S. has an obligation to help build a pluralist liberal democracy in both countries, with freedom of expression, religion, and human rights.
Dr. Michael Hudson, professor of international relations and Arab studies at Georgetown University, posed the question of how favorable Iraq's political terrain is for a liberal democratic project. The study of democratic transition in most underdeveloped countries focuses on the nature of and relationship between the state and society, and the history of their political culture. The good news, said Hudson, is that Iraq is no blank slate. Until the end of the 1980s, Iraq was the most developed country in the Arab world, and its human indicators were comparable to Southern and Eastern Europe. Saddam Hussain's regime even won a UNESCO prize for its highly successful anti-illiteracy campaign. Per capita income was high, the economy was promising (even in non-oil sectors), literacy was high, and the pool of skilled manpower was "at the top."
However, noted Hudson, Iraq's "disastrous decision of 1990 [to invade Kuwait] was followed by debilitating sanctions, by which many of the promising accomplishments were undone. Iraq has slipped back catastrophically."
Hudson briefly summarized post-Ottoman Iraqi political structures, from the British-installed constitutional monarchy to the single-party, state-dominated model from 1958 onward. Nevertheless, there was a strong history of political activity and participation, and Iraq developed "dense political structures normally understood to be among the prerequisites of a stable, functioning, liberal democracy." In 1979, under Saddam Hussain, the government developed into a tyranny, and the great monetary resources available to the regime allowed it to develop the comprehensive tools of a mukhabarat, or informant-based, state. Hussain's regime was very concerned about deviant political activity, and over the course of his rule independent institutions were suppressed.
In light of this history, observed Hudson, it was no surprise that "chaos erupted" after the latest war. The Bush administration, he argued, did not understand the nature of social and political institutions under Hussain. The most durable groups during Hussain's rule were, as is normal, religion- and kinship-based. The war did not free "a lot of suppressed liberal democrats," Hudson quipped. "Rather, in an atmosphere of chaos laced with uncertainty, there has been an emergence of factions in the south centered around religious figures, and of Kurdish ethnic national groups in the north." Neighbors like Iran are "finding troubled waters to fish in," he said, and there is also an appearance of self-styled local personalities, and others linked to tribal groups. Hudson described the Bush adventure as "the most expensive political science experiment that's ever been undertaken."
Comparing the current situation with Lebanon, Hudson was adamant that the United States should not leave Iraq too soon for fear of total collapse, but cautioned that over-staying its welcome may make the U.S. a target for all the unorganized discontent unleashed by the fall of the old regime. "Some people may like the message, but not the messenger," he warned. "If we don't leave soon, it is likely that we'll see more organized hostility."
Hudson suggested establishing a transitional government of Iraqis and maintaining a low profile in politics but a high profile in social and economic reconstruction. He advocated involving the U.N., EU and Arab League to establish a multilateral international presence that would display far more legitimacy than an American military government. In setting up a true democracy, Hudson argued, the U.S. should not automatically exclude Iraqi political groups which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not deem "worthy players," such as Islamist and older pre-Saddam groups, the Communist party, Shi'i "extremists," and Ba'athists.
Hali Jilani, chair of the United Nations Association's Asian Affairs Task Force and adviser to PIFRAS, joined the panel live from Baghdad. She reported that there was still a great deal of fear of Saddam Hussain in Iraq. "Until people actually see his dead body," she stated, "they won't take his pictures off their wall." Describing the Iraqi people's relationship with American soldiers as a "love-hate" one, she noted, "They shove their fists in soldier's faces [in anger]," an action she characterized as "finally exercising their right to speak their opinion." But, Jilani claimed, they also regard the forces as "baby-sitters."
Jilani said she sensed an inability for independent thinking and a feeling of helplessness on the part of the Iraqi people, a state of affairs she attributed to Hussain's oppressive regime. It is clear the Iraqis want leadership from within Iraq, she said, but they don't seem to know who would fit the bill. Furthermore, due to a lack of American alternatives, all the ex-Ba'athists are slowly coming back into power. Unlike Hudson, Jilani believed the Americans should solicit the help of the democratic Iraqi opposition outside Iraq to combat such moves. "In Iraq, you had peace, security, and stability," she noted. "The only problem was the vicious regime. We need to put in a new Iraqi regime, because the country is definitely not ready for elections right now." She also suggested a "radical re-education" of the Iraqi people, so that the divisions created under a secret-service society can be erased.
Bruce Robertson, faculty associate at Johns Hopkins University and chairman of South Asia Area Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, decried the idea of "grafting" a democracy onto Iraq, when other countries have been allowed to go through the entire—and often painful—process of developing their own democracies.
Robertson suggested familiarizing young policymakers from various Middle Eastern countries with the institutions of a pluralistic democracy through an upcoming four-month immersion course in the United States, where they can not only view the positive aspects of American government but also understand this country's continuing struggles against institutional and hierarchical entrenchment. The program, initiated by PIFRAS and titled The Art of Governance Project in the 21st Century, currently is targeted at participants from Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, and Pakistan. Robertson hopes it will introduce models that would help these countries formulate alternate models of democracy tailored to their own needs.
Caterpillar Protest for Rachel Corrie
Members of SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now) and the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) called a demonstration in front of Caterpillar's Washington, DC headquarters on March 19, 2003. Just three days earlier nonviolent American activist Rachel Corrie, trying to protect a Palestinian doctor's home from demolition, was crushed to death under a Caterpillar bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier. Though activists have protested Caterpillar's sales to Israel, the company has continued to sell bulldozers that are routinely used as tools of collective punishment for the demolition of Palestinian homes.
Although SUSTAIN originally planned to enter Caterpillar headquarters and deliver photographic evidence that its machinery had been used to kill Corrie, police refused to allow any members into the building. Instead, printed information sheets and pictures were taped to the glass doors barring SUSTAIN's access to Caterpillar executives.
SUSTAIN and ISM were not concerned only with Corrie's death, however. In keeping with their goals of protecting Palestinian rights, protesters also called attention to the death of Nuha Sweidan, a Palestinian woman who was nine months pregnant when she, too, died as a direct result of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) demolishing her neighbor's home with a Caterpillar bulldozer.
Armenians Mark 88th Genocide Anniversary
All day long April 24 processions of vehicles decorated with orange, blue and red bunting traveled along major Los Angeles boulevards, as horns honked and Armenian flags fluttered out of car windows in commemoration of the 88th anniversary of the onset of Turkish genoicide of Armenians.
After a wreath was placed at the Genocide Monument in Montebello, hundreds of decorated vehicles drove to Hollywood to stage a march and public rally. By 5 p.m., thousands of flag-carrying, sign-brandishing, shouting Armenian Americans marched in front of the Turkish Consulate at 4801 Wilshire Boulevard.
Speaking over the deafening chants of the demonstrators, Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, said: "We are asking the Republic of Turkey to end its denial of the genocide and to begin the process of paying reparations."
A member of the Armenian Youth Federation, Miko Miltonian, explained that most of the survivors of the 1915-1922 genocide that killed 1.5 million Armenians are dead or very old, and so "the torch of justice is being carried on by our youth."
And it was a mostly young crowd that waved placards reading: "Turkey the Glove Fits," "Eastern Turkey is Western Armenia," "Give Back Ararat," "1915 Never Again," "Hey Turk, It Didn't Work."
And just when we thought the decibel level had peaked, a couple of dozen Armenian motorcyclists, the Hye Riders, approached on their Harley Davidsons. The crowd cheered jubilantly as the mustachioed bikers clad in black leather joined the throng.
—Pat McDonnell Twair
Peace Institute Considers Militant Youth
The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and members of the public heard a vital report by Senior Fellow Dr. Marie Smyth on youth in violently divided societies. Dr. Smyth, a member of the faculty of the School of Social Policy at the University of Ulster and a licensed clinical social worker, presented her findings April 24 at USIP headquarters in Washington, DC. Recently returned from a trip to Palestine on behalf of USIP, she has lived in both Northern Ireland and South Africa, where she was an active member of the anti-apartheid movement. Although Smyth cautioned the audience that her Middle Eastern experience was limited, she said her findings there were consistent with those in both Northern Ireland and South Africa, where her experience was significant.
Using a methodology based on ethnology, biography, and interviews—both with current youth combatants and with those who were now adults—Smyth made several important discoveries. Even taking into account variables such as the specificity of each region's history, the stage of each conflict, the disparate levels of economic development, the role of global events, and demographics, Smyth found that certain traits prevailed.
Perhaps most important, especially in light of repeated accusations that Palestinian parents send their children to martyr themselves in suicide bombings, is Smyth's finding that militant youth go to great lengths to hide their activities from their parents. The reasons for this phenomenon, Smyth said, are based mainly in normal adolescent behavior. A desire for autonomy and rebellion figures prominently, she noted, but many youths also expressed worry about their parents having too much knowledge. This was a particular concern with Palestinian youth, according to Smyth, because of the Israeli threat to those associated with Palestinian militants. Interestingly, Smyth observed that although parents rarely condone their own child's activities, they do tend to recognize a legitimate role for youth militancy.
Dividing the communities she studied into dominant (those with power: Protestants in Northern Ireland, whites in South Africa, and Israelis) and insurgent (those without power: Northern Ireland Catholics, South African blacks, and Palestinians) Smyth found that the young achievers and idealists in each population tended to join militant groups. In dominant societies, however, the militant group was the official military, and as such provided youth members and their parents with the social safeguard of public pride against future psychological problems.
Smyth cited socio-economic deprivation and burgeoning youth populations among the reasons for joining insurgent groups. Addressing the lack of political autonomy by including militant youth in peace negotiations, she concluded, would be an important step in the demilitarization, demobilization, and reintegration ("DDR") of young insurgents into society.