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Groundhog Day and the Repetitive Failure of Western Counterterrorism Policy in the Middle East

This commentary discusses the ways in which Western counterterrorism policy in the Middle East resembles the Hollywood Film, Groundhog Day, in that it appears to be caught in a repeating loop of mistakes and self-fulfilling prophesies. Some of the reasons why Western states are unable to break free of this destructive cycle are analyzed, and it is concluded that a new language and paradigm –a new discourse– about the Middle East is necessary before alternative, more progressive policies can be adopted.

Groundhog Day and the Repetitive Failure of Western Counterterrorism Policy
This image, released on July 25, 2015, shows the meeting between then U.S. President George W. Bush, US Vice President Dick Cheneyas, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in the President’s Emergency Operations Center
 

In the popular Hollywood film, Groundhog Day (1993), Phil, the central character played by Bill Murray, is condemned to live the same day over and over again until he learns from his mistakes and changes his values and behavior towards his fellow human beings. Only then is he permitted to wake up to a new day and resume his life again. It is no exaggeration to suggest that Western counterterrorism policy in the Middle East is caught in a similar kind of existential purgatorial loop: day after day, year after year, it seems to be pursuing the same goals, with the same attitude, fighting the same wars, and intervening in the same countries, over and over again, and always with the same predictable results.

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