Lee Rosenberg
“When you don’t take time to understand the other person’s position, you risk conflict.”


lee rosenberg

ROTC instructor Lee Rosenberg teaches “Asymmetric Conflict: Ethics of Guerrilla Warfare and Terrorism.”
Peg Skorpinski photo

23 January 2002 |

In a traditional war, two nations face off in symmetrical fashion, each side equipped with soldiers, munitions, tactics and weaponry, says Lee Rosenberg, an ROTC instructor and U.S. Navy captain.

But if a group has significantly fewer resources and manpower than its opponent, he said, it will look for alternative ways, including terrorism, to achieve its goals. This imbalance of power is the focus of Rosenberg’s seminar, “Asymmetric Conflict: Ethics of Guerrilla Warfare and Terrorism.”

“In a symmetrical war, armies, for the most part, battle against each other. But in a terrorist conflict, attacks are made against a population,” he said. “And the attacks are very symbolic, intended to get maximum exposure.”

Which was precisely the case with the Sept. 11 attack, says Rosenberg. It’s no accident that the airlines hijacked by terrorists were United and American; that the incident took place on 9/11, our emergency call number; and that the buildings targeted — the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and presumably the White House — represented America’s financial, military and political power centers, he says.

The class looks at the psychology of terrorism and the circumstances that give rise to such attacks.

Roots of the Sept. 11 incident, for example, can be found in the clash between America’s liberal culture and Islam’s strict, conservative social structure, says Rosenberg. Islamic fundamentalists, he said, are offended by the U.S. military presence in their countries and the West’s influence on the world.

“People fight because they have opposing goals,” Rosenberg said. “If we don’t take the time to understand another person’s position, then we risk conflict.”


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