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Understanding Terrorism Best Policy, Cragin Said

December 13, 2000

A woman on the front lines of public policy theorized about the United States as a new front line for terrorism in a discussion, Dec. 4, on the Oklahoma Baptist University campus.

Kim Cragin, RAND research assistant in Washington D.C. and a 1997 OBU graduate discussed international terrorism issues with students and faculty.

As a threshold for terrorism emerges, Americans need to adopt a new mindset that raises awareness but avoids paranoia, Cragin said.

"Oklahoma, in particular, is a lot more sensitive to it than most of the country," she said. "The embassies, the military people, they're front line - but when it comes down to it, there's another front line.

"This is something that's commonplace in Israel, in relative terms. It's something that Israelis deal with psychologically. But now it's a front line that's in Oklahoma City, that's in Washington D.C."

The Shawnee High School graduate is a specialist on Colombian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese policy.

She outlined factors in the Middle East and Colombia that have surrounded terrorist action. The two regions have economic and social differences, but because of similar restrictions, both countries are fertile breeding ground for politically motivated attacks.

"That's what terrorism is," she said. "Picking a symbol and attacking it because they're mad. Making a political statement with violence is the definition of terrorism."

Addressing the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, Cragin said although the circumstances of the attack were out of the ordinary, insight can be gained.

"Anytime that you have a force projection, whether it's in Asia or the Middle East, they're exposed," she said. "When you're in the military and you're in a situation like that, even if there's not a war going on, you might be a target."

In the Israeli and Palestinian struggle for control of Jerusalem, Cragin noted that many citizens who have remained somewhat neutral are now joining sides, which may delay the peace process.

"You have two extremes and that has always been a normal part of Israeli society," she said. "But suddenly the margin of people who believe in peace is getting really, really small. So the biggest problem is that people are losing faith in peace."

The upcoming elections in Israel will serve as a telling sign for the future of peace in the country, she said.

"In the U.S. with what's going on right now, whether Gore wins or whether Bush wins, we're still going to be kind of chugging down the same path," she said. "In Israel, the upcoming election could determine where the peace process is going."

In a world of discouraging events, Cragin believes her approach to domestic terrorism preparedness is unique.

"I'm unusual in the terrorism community in that I think you can stop terrorism before it starts. I tend to look towards socioeconomic solutions.

"Lots of people think you can deter and prevent terrorism. I think you could actually stop the development of a terrorist organization, if you were aware and proactive enough. There aren't many people who think that."

After obtaining a bachelor's degree in history from OBU, Cragin went on to earn a master of public policy degree from Duke University.

During her undergraduate work, she was selected as a Truman Scholar and spent a semester in Israel for Arabic and Israeli studies. She returned there in 1998-99 on a grant from the National Security Education Program.

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RAND researchers operate on a broad front, assisting public policymakers, private-sector leaders in industries, and the public at large in efforts to strengthen the nation's economy, maintain its security, and improve quality of life.