Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Terrorism is social, not political

Bruce Schneier points out an extremely interesting paper from Max Abrahms: What Terrorists Really Want — Terrorist Motives and Counterterrorism Strategy. Abrahms' conclusion is that terrorists are principally motivated by social goals, and hence counterterrorism policy should be focused upon weakening their social bonds:

Demand-side strategies should focus on divesting terrorism's social utility, in two ways. First, it is vital to drive a wedge between organization members. Since the advent of modern terrorism in the late 1960s, the sole counter-terrorism strategy that was a clear-cut success attacked the social bonds of the terrorist organization, not its utility as a political instrument. By commuting prison sentences in the early 1980s in exchange for actionable intelligence against their fellow Brigatisti, the Italian government infiltrated the Red Brigades, bred mistrust and resentment among the members, and quickly rolled up the organization. Similar deals should be cut with al-Qaida in cases where detainees' prior involvement in terrorism and their likelihood of rejoining the underground are minor. Greater investment in developing and seeding double agents will also go a long way toward weakening the social ties undergirding terrorist organizations and cells around the world. Second, counter-terrorism strategies must reduce the demand for at-risk populations to turn to terrorist organizations in the first place. To lessen Muslims' sense of alienation from democratic societies, these societies must improve their records of cracking down on bigotry, supporting hate-crime legislation, and most crucially, encouraging moderate places of worship—an important alternative for dislocated youth to develop strong affective ties with politically moderate peers and mentors.

Certainly more constructive than attempting to throw terrorist suspects in jail for 42 days without charge.


Yorick said...

History Shows, as they say, that once you see terrorist' demands as social you also see, after a finite interval, that many of their demands are met one way or another: from Mau Mau to Cyprus, through all the post colonial sites, the `ANC in the RSA, the IRA here and and so on. One of the oddest things about AlQaida is that the US/UK machine acts as if they have no demands and are simply mad people---in fact of course their demands have been stated many times and some of them seem pretty unobjectionable e.g. foreign troops out of the Holy land (SaudiArabia)! YW

disaster preparedness said...

It is absolutely true that terrorists are influenced by their social surroundings. Being exposed to the constant environment of violence, these individuals believe that it is appropriate to act in an aggressive way towards others that have different beliefs or characteristics. This sends out a horrible message to the youth that is growing up being taught that acts of hostility and fighting are crucial for survival and the correct way of life.