Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Police can't win, can they?

I don’t generally like Budhiarto Shambazy’s Politika column in Kompas. I think he is a good writer when he writes about Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd or anything related to classic rock. I think he is not a good political writer. And his jokes, when he attempt to do so, are garing at best. But his last column was an exception. I like, and agree with what he wrote.

Yes, I think there is something wrong in our society. Despite their success in arresting some members of terrorist network led by Abu Dujana, the Police have yet to win the support from the public. (No, not the Sting/Summers/Copeland trio). Many people – and the politicians make matter worse – are still reluctant to praise the Police’s achievement. Some of them even view the Police as the villain, and Abu Dujana as the hero.

I made an elaborated personal comment on this issue here (read also Tirta's comment on the entry; unfortunately all is in Indonesian). I’ll just make some points related to the issue of strategy in the game theoretical setting (courtesy to a colleague of mine, a former journalist turn media analyst).

First, the Police should understand that they are playing against two players: the terrorists themselves, and the public. So far, they focus more on the first player, but less on the latter. A good media strategy is definitely needed. In fact, they have made a poor move when they show how Abu Dujana and companies were chained hand-to-feet, guarded by face-covered soldiers. The image created to the public was ‘Guantanamo.’

Second, other reason why the Police can't win the public appreciation for the terrorists is because the politicians still entertain the idea that the war on terrorist is the war on Islam. Changing the equlibrium requires changing the people mindset. That means our leaders and politicians need to send a message that draws a clear boundary between ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim terrorist.’

However, political calculation still shows that this is not a dominant strategy. Any position that puts ‘Islam’ and ‘terrorism’ in the same line will be dominated since it would end up in losing supports from their Muslim constituents.

Aside: an article in the Economist wrote, in a similar framework, how the Bush administration is also facing the problem on how to win both the war on terror and public/international support. Seems that they lost in both arena.


  1. It's interesting to compare America with Russia on both of their relations with the Muslim world.

    America actually tries to win favour with Muslims, like the Kosovo example, but whatever positive things they do have little effect.

    Russia on the other hand has been killing muslims for centuries, most recently in Chechyna, and they are nasty and brutal when they do it. Yet Russia seems to be on good terms with the Muslim world, see for example my article - http://www.indonesiamatters.com/201/russia-islamic-world-unite/

  2. My prediction is that Islam in the US could gain a similar experience with the early Christianity. In the 1st century of 1st millenium, Nero of Roman Empire was the prosecutor of Christians. There was a lot of Guantanamo at that time. And after 7 centuries the whole Roman Empire had been christenised. Say that in the 1st century of 3rd millenium, Bush of the US is the prosecutor of Muslim terrorists. And after some centuries who knows that the whole US could be islamised.