The notion of a “war on terror” has always been vague. Terrorism is an approach to political change necessitated by an extremely weak position. If a small group cannot overthrow a government because they lack broad political support, or an army, they may try to apply pressure in other ways. It may not even be that they truly lack support, only that they perceive the lack, that they perceive themselves being very weak.
To incubate terrorism, then, simply provide an environment where marginalized groups feels further weakened. Declare an open, global war on them and watch their numbers grow. The same logic works in an insurgency. Left unchecked, a positive feedback loop develops. The cloud of emotionally charged words of a “war on terror” covers up the circular nature of terrorism.
Balloon makers make balloons that are uniformly thick, and flexible enough for air. They have to first understand something about how gases work before making a balloon. The balloons have to be matched to the thing they are made to control.
It’s only taken the better part of a decade, but US policy designers have started to figure this out in the task of dealing with terrorism. Their response is interesting. Rather than declare an open war, they actually looked at what they were trying to control. They looked at how terrorist networks raised and moved money, recruited new members, planned and carried out attacks–essentially, they sought to understand what they were dealing with. Their response is shaped to fit what they discover.
There is a certain harmony between the controller and the controlled that must be there for the controller to do a decent job. A balloon full of wholes is not really a balloon.