Via the Counterterrorism Blog comes this article by Matthew Levitt, on the significance of the recent verdict against the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity which has been found guilty of serving as a front for financing terrorism (in this case, Hamas).
This verdict is important on several levels. First off, it sets an important precedent for eschewing the politically-correct cultural-relativist narrative which holds that organizations such as HLF should be immune from scrutiny because they serve the interests of a given group...even if it is widely acknowledged that their sub rosa dealings possess a far more sinister character. Financing terrorism trumps any other benefits which such an organization can claim, and must be dealt with accordingly.
Perhaps more fundamentally, though, this verdict highlights the way in which a Global Counterinsurgency like the Long War must be waged:
As I argue in my book, “Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad” (Yale University Press, 2006), Hamas’ charitable and social welfare networks are both the secret to the group’s political and terrorist success as well as its Achilles heel. A strategic approach to Hamas should include not only disrupting the group’s operational capabilities, but also targeting its financial and logistical support networks. Front organizations like the Holy Land Foundation should be shut and prosecuted, to be sure, but such efforts must be complemented by serious efforts to fund and empower accountable, nonviolent Palestinian entities -- public and private alike -- to assume the responsibility for (and enjoy the resulting public support from) public works and social and humanitarian services should be a central goal of counterterrorism officials, peace negotiators, economists, and development experts alike. The international community could and should beat Hamas at its own game of providing social services to build grassroots support, though in this case support for moderation not extremism.
A COIN force must operate in such a way to show itself a credible guarantor of the safety and security and prosperity of a host nation's population, in order to dislodge that population's loyalty from the insurgents who also vie for its allegiance (or at least acquiescence). So, too, on a larger scale, those who would delegitimize the radical/militant actors which seek to garner support among suffering people by co-opting their hopes for a better future must find ways of offering even more promising avenues toward those futures than the radicals can do. This is arguably the most vital front on which this Conflict is fought.
As covertly radical groups like HLF find it more difficult to secure the funding with which they funnel capital into the coffers of bombers and throat-slitters under the guise of charitable works, the resulting vacuums offer opportunities for more legitimately beneficent organizations to take up the mantle. This is yet another example of how we can do well by doing good, and I hope the free nations of the world (hopefully under the leadership of a US which keeps its eyes on this multi-generational prize) follow through.
This was a good start.