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Deconstructing Political Orthodoxies on Insurgent and Terrorist Sanctuaries

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 31 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2008 Pages: 251-267
Michael A. Innes
Date Published
March 2008
17 pages
This article discusses sanctuary as a complex terrain of material, human, and cognitive dimensions in the context of the War on Terror.
Terrorists operate across a broad spectrum of political, insurgent, and criminal realms. Their sanctuaries go to the heart of debates on national security because of the questions they raise about the interface between states and individuals, and the complex moral and practical outcomes of counterterrorist operations. Critics of the War on Terror point to the futility of waging war on a tactic. Its emphasis on denying sanctuary and safe havens to terrorists, rooted primarily in a thin layer of traditional counterinsurgency theory and poorly conceptualized policy statements, has placed a premium on physical territory, from mountain caves and frontier hideouts to the bordered world of modern states. To fully understand sanctuaries, however, is to uncover the problems and pitfalls of waging war on locations-exposing the secret lives of multiple hidden worlds, filled with extremists, criminals, soldiers, and spies, with the pious and the profane, with dangers that lie below the surface in the margins. Terrorists have hidden in plain sight in modern metropolises, used advanced communications technology to build virtual refuges, crafted militant enclaves out of the disarray of failed states, flocked to distinctly unsafe insurgent battle space, and generally challenged the protective limits of law, citizenship, and State. By taking into account political objectives and motives, such as degrees of intended subversion, a more accurate and clearly defined understanding clandestine and fugitive actors and their refuges might be established. Notes