You can’t fight terror with more terror


Some people think that the scourge of terrorism can only be fought with fiercer, more violent retaliations. I cannot agree. Each side will stubbornly become more violent, more reckless… it will never end.

This is a battle that did not begin with ammunition and killing. This is a battle that started with an enslavement of the mind and until that mind is rehabilitated, it will fight back with iron determination.

If watching a video on YouTube can make you want to become a vegetarian, convert to a religion or fight for a political party…it can also do the same to make you want to join a terror organisation.

Type “I’m hungry” into Facebook, chances are you’ll get food advertisements popping all over your screen. If you type an Islamic oriented phrase, chances are you’ll see a body of related material appearing. Maybe you won’t get ISIS propaganda immediately, but two or three clicks down it is likely you’ll be able to reach some convincing material.

They’re capturing minds using the same technologies we use for commercial marketing.

This is a war that must be waged on the psychological realm.

In the early days of independent Singapore, the administration learnt that the battle with subversive and violent communists cannot be won with weapons alone. As long as they kept recruiting, the war will never end.

To combat this, the People’s Association (PA) was setup. The work of the PA was to build “social cohesion”. We’re so sensitised to the word now it means little to us, but it is important that this organisation is not underestimated. It pulls people together, gives them things to do and allows them to contribute to a larger cause: nation building. It is both a psychological machine and communications tool and even today, it serves its purpose very well.

It is the same with the trade unions. Instead of creating more social unrest and senseless striking for selfish purposes, the unions were reconfigured to march in solidarity towards a higher calling: nation building.



The minds that are most suitable for terrorist capture include those who have little to look forward to in life. Being rich or poor doesn’t make a difference. This person must be restless and thirst for a greater calling.

Imagine this: you’re a young male. You don’t have a job. You don’t have a girl. You’ve just been dealt a catastrophe (whatever it may be) and you realise you’re immensely unhappy with life. Your mind turns to God to give you a sign and a way out. Suddenly you see on the internet a calling to the cause. There will be guns, balaclavas and RPGs. There will be a purpose and apparently there will also be sex.

Guns are exciting, but what is more exciting is a reason to use those guns. The cult of ISIS gives you a glorifying reason to go into combat and die for a cause. If you hit them with a sledgehammer, they’ll hit you back with a nuclear bomb. It’ll never end.

You can’t fight terror with terror. You can’t kill an ideology.

In fact, the battle may be better won with businesses and employment. Arguably, sending refugees to more successful countries and giving them better lives will send a good message to their comrades all over the world that violent conflict is futile. 

This is a war that needs to be fought on the psychological front. The terrorists can only sell a false religion, we on the other hand can fight for real peace and happiness.



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