The Spectrum of Terrorism
Terrorism is not a homogeneous phenomenon. There is a broad spectrum of terrorist groups and organizations, each of which has a different psychology, motivation and decision making structure. Indeed, one should not speak of terrorist psychology in the singular, but rather of terrorist psychologies. Figure 1 depicts the broad spectrum of terrorist types. In the top tier of the graphic, we differentiate political terrorism from criminal and pathological terrorism. Studies of political terrorist psychology do not reveal severe psychiatric pathology. In fact, political terrorist groups do not permit emotionally disturbed individuals to join as they represent a security risk.Seriously disturbed individuals tend to act alone.
Considering the diversity of causes to which terrorists are committed, the uniformity of their rhetoric is striking. Polarizing and absolutist, it is a rhetoric of "us versus them.' It is rhetoric without nuance, without shades of gray. "They", the establishment, are the source of all evil in vivid contrast to "us," the freedom fighters, consumed by righteous rage. And, if "they" are the source of our problems, it follows ineluctably in the special psycho-logic of the terrorist, that "they" must be destroyed. It is the only just and moral thing to do. Once one accepts the basic premises, the logical reasoning is flawless.
What accounts for the uniformity of the terrorists' polarizing absolutist rhetoric? My own comparative research on the psychology of terrorists does not reveal major psychopathology, agreeing with the finding of Crenshaw "the outstanding common characteristicof terrorists is their normality."Her studies of the FLN in Algeria in the 1950s found the members to be basically normal. Nor did Beskin find members of the IRA to be emotionally disturbedIn a review of the Social Psychology of Terrorist Groups, McCauley and Segal conclude that "the best documented generalization is negative; terrorists do not show any striking psychopathology."
But while there is a diversity of personalities attracted to the path of terrorism, an examination of memoirs, court records, and, on rare occasions, interviews, suggests that individuals with particular personality traits and personality tendencies are drawn disproportionately to terrorist careers-in particular, frustrated individuals, who tend to externalize, seeking an external cause for their difficulties. Unable to face his own inadequacies, the individual with this personality style needs a target to blame and attack for his own inner weakness, inadequacies and lack of success. Such individuals find the polarizing absolutist rhetoric of terrorism extremely attractive. It's not us--it's them.They are the cause of our problems provides a psychologically satisfying explanation for what has gone wrong in their lives. And a great deal has gone wrong in the lives of individuals who are drawn to the path of terrorism. One study by German social scientists concluded that the group of terrorists whose lives they had studied demonstrated a pattern of failure both educationally and vocationally. Viewing the terrorists as "advancement oriented and failure prone," they characterized the terrorist career as "the terminal point of a series of abortive adaptation attempts."
To summarize the foregoing, terrorists as individuals for the most part do not demonstrate serious psychopathology. While there is no one personality type, it is the impression that there is a disproportionate representation among terrorists of individuals who are aggressive and action-oriented and place greater than normal reliance on the psychological mechanisms of externalization and splitting. There is suggestive data indicating that many terrorists come from the margins of society and have not been particularly successful in their personal, educational and vocational lives.The combination of the personalfeelings of inadequacy with the reliance on the psychological mechanisms of externalization and splitting make especially attractive a group of like-minded individuals whose credo is"Its not us; its them. They are the cause of our problems. " And it therefore is not only not immoral to strike out at them; it becomes a moral obligation. Terrorism is not a consequence of individual psychological abnormality. Rather it is a consequence of group or organizational pathology that provides a sense-making explanation to the youth drawn to these groups.
At the middle tier, state terrorism refers to the state turning its resources-police, judiciary, military, secret police, etc- against its own citizenry to suppress dissent, as exemplified by the "dirty wars" in Argentina. When Saddam Hussein used nerve gas against his own Kurdish citizens, this was an example of state CBW terrorism. Statesupported terrorism is of major concern to the United States. Currently on the list annually distributed by the Department of State are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba. In these situations, when states are acting through terrorist groups, fearing retaliation, the decision making of the state leadership will be a significant constraint upon the group acting under their influence or control.
In the lower tier, a diverse group of sub-state terrorist groups are specified: social revolutionary terrorism, nationalist- separatist terrorism, right-wing terrorism, religious extremist terrorism, subsuming both religious fundamentalist terrorism and terrorism perpetrated by non-traditional religious groups (such as Aum Shmnkyo), and single issue terrorism
Social revolutionary terrorism, also known as terrorism of the left, includes those acts perpetrated by groups seeking to overthrow the capitalist economic and social order. Social revolutionary groups are typified by the European "fighting communist organizations" active throughout the 1970s and 1980s (e.g., the Red Army Faction in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy). While social-revolutionary terrorist groups have experienced a significant decline over the last two decades, paralleling the collapse of Communism in Europe and the end of the Cold War, social-revolutionary terrorism and insurgency are still underway, as exemplified by the Japanese Red Army (JRA), Sendero Luminosa (the Shining Path), Movement Revolutionaire Tupac Amaru (MRTA) in Peru, several Columbian terrorist groups who are also associated with narco-terrorism, and Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN) of Chiapas, Mexico.
These are complex organizations, however, not groups per se. The decisionmaking locus is outside of the action cells. In these secret organizations, there is a tension between security and communication. This leads to rather more decision-making latitude for the action cells than might be present in a more open organization. Thus policy guidelines may be laid down, but specific planning concerning the target and the tactics has been delegated to the group.
Insofar as these groups are seeking to influence then society, they would be significantly constrained from indiscriminate acts that cause significant casualties among their own countrymen, or cause negative reactions in their domestic and international audiences. But discriminate acts against government or symbolic capitalist targets could be rationalized by these groups.
Nationalist-separatist terrorism, also known as ethno-nationalist
terrorism, includes those groups fighting to establish a new political
order or state based on ethnic dominance or homogeneity. The Irish
Republican Army, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka,
the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) in Spain, and radical Palestinian
groups such as the Abu Nidal Organization and the Palestinian Front for
the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) are prominent examples.
Nationalist-separatist terrorists are usually attempting to garner international
sympathy for their cause and to coerce the dominant group. Thus ETA is
attempting to pressure Spain to yield to its demands for an independent
Basque state. These causes of the nationalist-separatist terrorist groups
and organizations are particularly intractable, for the bitterness and
resentment against the dominant ethnic group has been conveyed from generation
to generation. 3 Hatred has been "bred in the bone." In these organizations,
the young revolutionaries are often extolled as heroes within their communities,
for their mission reflects their people's cause. Among incarcerated Palestinian
terrorists my group has been interviewing with support from the Smith-Richardson
Foundation, the regularity with which Palestinian youth chose to enter
these groups was striking. The responses of the interview subjects indicated,
in sum, "Everyone was joining. Everyone was doing it. It was the thing
to do." They have heard the bitterness of their parents
and grandparents in the coffee houses in Jordan and the occupied territories, or the pubs of Northern Ireland, about the economic injustices they have suffered.
Nationalist-separatist groups operating within their nation are particularly sensitive to the responses of their internal constituency, as well as their international audience. This provides a constraint against acts so violent or extra-normal as to offend their constituents, as exemplified by the attack by the Real IRA in Omagh in 1998 in which 29, mostly women and children, were killed. The resulting uproar from their Irish constituents was so extreme, that the Real IRA apologized and forswore future violence.
As reflected in Figure 2, the generational dynamics of these nationalist-separatist terrorists are the very opposite of the social revolutionary terrorists discussed earlier. They are carrying on the mission of their parents and grandparents who have been damaged by, or are disloyal to, the regime. They are loyal to families that are disloyal to the regime. Their acts of terrorism are acts of vengeance against the regime that damaged their families.
This is in vivid contrast to the social revolutionary terrorists who are rebelling against the generation of their parents who are loyal to the regime. They are leading an underground life. The social revolutionary terrorists through their acts of terrorism are striking out at the generation of their parents. They are disloyal to the generation of their families that is loyal to the regime Their acts of terrorism are acts of revenge against the generation of their family, which they hold responsible for their failures in this world. They are striking out against their enemies -real and imagined-in their parents' generation. A member of the red Army Faction in West Germany referred to his parents' generation as "the generation of corrupt old men who gave us Auschwitz and Hiroshima." . They are seeking to heal their inner wounds by attacking the outside enemy.
Religious extremist terrorism is characterized by groups seeking to maintain or create a religious social and political order and includes two types of groups and organizations: those adhering to a radical fundamentalist interpretation of mainstream religious doctrines as well as non-traditional religious groups representing "new religions," such as Aum Shinrikyo, responsible for the 1995 saran nerve gas attack on the subway system in Tokyo, Japan
Religious Fundamentalist Terrorism
In the 1970's and 1980s, most of the acts of terrorism were perpetrated by nationalist separatist and social-revolutionary terrorists, who wished to call attention to their cause and accordingly would regularly claim responsibility for their acts. They were seeking to influence the West and the establishment. But in the past decades, no responsibility has been claimed for upwards of 40% of terrorist acts. We believe this is because of the increasing frequency of terrorist acts by radical religious extremist terrorists. They are not trying to influence the West. Rather the radical Islamist terrorists are trying to expel the secular modernizing West. And they do not need recognition by having their name identified in a New York Times headline or on a story on CNN. They are "killing in the name of God" and don't need official notice; after all, God knows.
Traditional groups include Islamic, Jewish, Christian and Sikh radical fundamentalist extremists. In contrast to social revolutionary and nationalist-separatist terrorists, for religious fundamentalist extremist groups, the decision-making role of the preeminent leader is of central importance. For these true believers, the radical cleric is seen as the authentic interpreter of God's word, not only eliminating any ambivalence about killing, but endowing the destruction of the defined enemy with sacred significance.
The radical cleric, whether ayatollah, rabbi or priest, has used sacred text to justify killing in the name of God. Ayatollah Khomeini employed a radical interpretation of the Quo'ran to provide the ideological foundation for his Islamic revolution, and selected verses to justify terrorist extremity, such as "And slay them where ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out ... Such is the reward of those who suppress the faith (2:190-193). In a radio broadcast of June 5, 1983, Khomeini exhorted his followers: "With humility toward God and relying on the power of Islam, they should cut the cruel hands of the oppressors and world-devouring plunderers, especially the United States, from the region." To those who died fighting this holy cause, Khomeini assured a higher place in paradise. In inciting his followers during the Iran-Iraq war, he rhetorically asked: "Why don't you recite the sura of killing? Why should you always recite the sura of mercy? Don't forget that killing is also a form of mercy." He and his clerical followers regularly found justification for their acts of violence in the Qur'anic suras calling for the shedding of blood.
These organizations are hierarchical in structure; the radical cleric provides interpretation of the religious text justifying violence, which is uncritically accepted by his "true believer" followers, so there is no ambivalence concerning use of violence, which is religiously commanded.These groups are accordingly particularly dangerous, for they are not constrained by Western reaction, indeed often wish to expel secular modernizing influences. They have shown a willingness to perpetrate acts of mass casualty terrorism, as exemplified by the bombings of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the World Trade Center in the U.S., the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the U.S.S. Cole, and the mass casualty terrorism on a scale never seen before in the coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Usama bin Laden, responsible for these events has actively discussed the use of weapons of mass destruction in public interviews.
While not a religious authority, Osama bin Laden is known for his piety, and has been granted the title emir. Like Khomeini, Osama bin Laden regularly cites verses from the Koran to justify his acts of terror and extreme violence, employing many of the same verses earlier cited by Khomeini. Consider this extract from the February 1998 Fatwa, Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, World Islamic Front Statement:
In compliance with God's order, we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims:
The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Agsa Mosque and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty God, "and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together," and "fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God."
We -- with God's help -- call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.
Note it is not Osama bin Laden who is ordering his followers to kill Americans. It is God! Osama bin Laden is the messenger, relaying the commands of God, which are justified with verses from the Koran.
While from the theoretical perspective of "pure culture" religious fundamentalist terrorism, there would be no constraint upon these groups, in fact, some of the radical Islamist groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, responsible for most of the suicide bombings in Israel, do in fact have domestic constituencies which would provide a measure of constraint against indiscriminate mass casualty acts.
But as the events of September 11 make clear, for the al Qaeda organization, there is no constraint against mass casualty terrorism. And it is the willingness, indeed the goal to take as many casualties as possible that is the dynamic of the "true believers" of the al Qaeda group under the destructive charismatic leadership of Osama bin Laden that places this group at high risk to move into the area of CBRN terrorism, for they have already crossed the threshold of mass casualties using conventional terrorism, demonstrating a willingness to perpetrate super-terrorism.
In his prepared statement released after the U.S.British attack on Taliban military targets on the night of 7 October, bin Laden emphasized the climate of terror in the United States-"America has been filled with fear from North to South, from East to West, thank God." And he ended his statement by asserting his intent to keep the United States in a continuing state of insecurity- "America and those who live in America won't dream of having security before we have it in Palestine and all infidel armies depart from the land of Muhammad."
While many drawn to the path of religious fundamentalist terrorism are poor and uneducated, for some of these terrorists there are suggestive similarities to the generational dynamics of the social revolutionary terrorists. A number of the 19 hijackers were well educated and came from comfortable middle class Saudi families. Osama bin Laden himself is the most striking example of these generational dynamics. He is the 17th of 25 sons of a multi-billionaire Saudi construction magnate, whose financial empire and wealth came from a special relationship with the Saudi royal family. When he railed at the corruption of the Saud royal family and their lack of fidelity to Islam in permitting the American military to establish a base on holy Saudi land, he was striking out at the source of his family wealth, leading not only to his being expelled from Saudi Arabia, but also severely damaging his family, who also turned against him.
Non-traditional religious extremist groups
Non-traditional religious extremist groups, such as Aum Shinrikyo, must also be considered. These generally closed cults are in a struggle for survival against a demonized enemy that must be destroyed. While the majority of millennial apocalyptic cults are waiting for the millennium, some religious belligerents are seeking to force the end, and, in the case of Aum Shinrikyo, to precipitate the final struggle. Charismatic leaders of closed cults, like Shoko Asahara, the leader of Aum Shinrikyo, who see themselves in a God-like role, a self-perception rewarded by the God-like reverence with which they are treated by their followers, can become obsessed with power. Asahara's fascination with high technology led him to recruit nuclear physicists, nuclear engineers, chemists, and microbiologists, simultaneously exploring nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Especially for closed religious cults, the dynamic is one of a charismatic leader who holds total sway over his followers. What he declares is moral and required is moral and required. The followers yield their individual judgment to the leader and become deskilled, acting as if they have no independent critical faculties of their own. No doubt or doubters are permitted in these powerful hermetically sealed closed organization. The price for defection in Aum Shinrikyo was death. This too had a high-tech aspect to it, for apprehended defectors were incinerated in an industrial microwave oven, ensuring the conforming loyalty of witnessing members.
Asahara, in mounting WMD programs, was attempting to precipitate the final apocalyptic conflict.But, Aum Shinrikyo is quite unusual within the spectrum of millennial cults, for most such cults are not religious belligerents seeking to precipitate the apocalypse, as was the case with Aum, but rather tend to withdraw from society, passively awaiting the " final days."
Right-wing terrorism includes those groups seeking to preserve the dominance of a threatened ethnic majority or to return society to an idealized "golden age" in which ethnic relations more clearly favored the dominant majority. These groups generally espouse fascist ideologies, including racist, anti- Semitic, and anti-government "survivalist" beliefs. These groups in the United States fear the federal government, which they see as contributing to the decline of the majority's dominance. In their view, the government is dominated by Jews - hence ZOG, the Zionist Occupied Government - and accordingly is illegitimate.
Because of this dehumanization of their enemies, discriminate attacks on target groups, such as blacks, or, in Europe, on enclaves of foreign workers, are justified by their ideology. Because of their delegitimation and dehumanization of the government, discriminate attacks on government facilities are certainly feasible by such groups, including attacks on the seat of the federal government, Washington, D.C., as represented in The Turner Diaries.
Right-Wing Community of Belief
Many individuals hew to a right-wing ideology, but do not belong to a formal group or organization per se. Timothy McVeigh is an exemplar of such individuals seeking to cause mass casualty terrorism, using conventional weapons. McVeigh was enthralled by The Turner Diaries, which he sold below cost at gun shows. At the time of his capture, glassined, highlighted pages from this bible of the radical right were found in his car.
The role of the internet in propagating the ideology of right wing extremist hatred is of concern, for an isolated individual consumed by hatred can find common cause in the right-wing web sites, feel he is not alone, and be moved along the pathway from thought to action, responding to the extremist ideology of his virtual community.
Group and Organizational Dvnamics
The differences between "nationalist-separatist" terrorists and "anarchic-ideologues" in terms of their social origins and psychosocial dynamics have already been described.Their group dynamics differ significantly as a consequence.The "nationalist- separatist" terrorists are often known in their communities and maintain relationships with friends and family outside of the group. They can move in and out with relative ,ease. In contrast, for the "anarchic-ideologues" the decision to cross the boundary and enter the underground illegal group is an irrevocable one, what the Germans call "Der Sprung" (The Leap.) As one German terrorist wryly observed, "The only way out of the terrorist group is feet first-by way of the graveyard." Group pressures are especially magnified for the underground group so that the group is the only source of information and the only source of confirmation, and, in the face of external danger and pursuit, the only source of security. Religious extremist groups function on the basis of an underground psychology as well.
The resultant group pressure-cooker produces extremely powerful forces.In particular, there are:
1.Pressures to conform, and
2.Pressures to commit acts of violence
Pressures to Conform
Given the intensity of the need to belong, the strength of the affiliative needs, and, for many, the as yet incomplete sense of individual identity, there is a tendency to submerge their own identities into the group, so that a kind of group mind emerges.The group cohesion which emerges is magnified by the external danger which tends to reduce internal divisiveness in unity against the outside enemy Doubt of the legitimacy of the goals and actions of the group are intolerable to such a group. The individual who questions a group decision risks the wrath of the group and possible expulsion. Indeed, the fear is even more profound, for, as Baumann has stated, withdrawal was impossible "except by way of the graveyard." The way to get rid of doubt is to get rid of the doubters. Extreme pressure to conform has been reported by all who have discussed the atmosphere within the group. What an interesting paradox, that these groups whose ethos issointensely against the authorities should beso authoritarian.
The group ideology plays an important role in supporting this conformity inducing group environment. When questions are raised, the absolutist ideology becomes theintellectual justification.Indeed, in effect the ideology becomes the scriptures for the group's morality.
Questions have often been raised as to how individuals socialized to a particular moral code could commit such violent anti-social acts. Insofar as the individual submerges his own identity into the group, the group's moral code becomes the individual's moral code. As Crenshaw has observed, "the group as selector and interpreter of ideology, is central." What the group, through its interpretation of its ideology, defines as moral is moral, and becomes the authority for the compliant member. And if the ideology indicates that "they are responsible for our problems", to destroy them is not only viewed as justified but can be seen to be a moral imperative.
The Pressure to Commit Acts of Violence
In attempting to clarify whether acts of political violence are chosen as a willful strategy or are products of psychological forces, it is of central importance to evaluate the goal of the act of violence. The rationalist school, as espoused by Crenshaw, would aver that in an unequal political struggle, acts of political terrorism become an equalizer. These acts of political violence call forceful attention to their legitimate grievances and have an impact on much wider audience than the immediate target of the violence. Indeed, as Schmid has usefully clarified, it is very important to differentiate between the target of the violence and the target of influence. But there is an implicit assumption in this line of reasoning that the political violence is instrumental, a tactic to achieve the group's political goals, to help it achieve its cause.
The position argued in this paper that political violence is driven by social psychological forces follows a different line of reasoning. It does not view political violence as instrumental, as a means to an end, but as the end itself. The cause is not the cause. The cause, as codified in the group's ideology, according to this line of reasoning, becomes the rationale for acts the terrorists are driven to commit. Indeed, the central argument of this position is that individuals become terrorists in order to join terrorist groups and commit acts of terrorism.
That is surely an extreme statement, but since we are discussing political extremism, perhaps that excess can be forgiven. If the cause were indeed the cause, should not its achievement lead to the dissolution of the terrorist groups committing violent acts in its name? Consider the Basque separatist movement. Many would say they have achieved a significant proportion of their goals. While not a separate nation to be sure, the degree of autonomy they have achieved is remarkable.Why does not ETA clap its collective hands in satisfaction, declare victory, dissolve the organization, and go back to work in the region's factories? Yet ETA roars on. - Its goals are absolutist, and nothing less that total victory will suffice, say its leaders, although many Basque politicians feel their actions are counterproductive.
In part, this has to do with the difficulty individuals who externalize their difficulties, and have sought an external target to attack, have in giving up their espoused cause. Before joining the group, he was alone, not particularly successful. Now he is engaged in a life and death struggle with the establishment, his picture is on "Most Wanted" posters. He sees his leaders as internationally prominent media personalities. Within certain circles, he is lionized as a hero He travels first class, and his family is provided for should his acts of heroism lead to his death as a martyr to the cause. Surely this is the good life, not easily relinquished.
If the major definition of authenticity is "revolutionary heroism", this has important implications for the outcomes of debates and personal rivalries within the group. The advocate of prudence and moderation is quickly likely to lose his position of leadership to a bolder individual committed to continue the struggle. This suggests a dynamic within the group pressing for the perpetuation of violence and leading towards ever-riskier decisions.
Terrorist Psychology: Implications for Counter-terrorist Strategy
If these conclusions concerning the individual, group and organizational psychology of political terrorism are valid, what are theimplications for anti-terrorist policy? (It is interesting to observe how passionately arguments are waged concerning counter-terrorist policies given the relative lack of reliable understanding of terrorist psychology.) This emphasizes that this is no mere academic exercise, for after all, policies designed to deter terrorists from their acts of terrorism should be based on an understanding of "what makes terrorists tick."
Since terrorisms differ in their structure and dynamics, counter- terrorist policies should be appropriately tailored. As a general rule, the smaller and more autonomous the group, the more counterproductive is external force. When the autonomous cell comes under external threat, the external danger has the consequence of reducing internal divisiveness and uniting the group against the outside enemy. The survival of the group is paramount because of the sense of identity it provides. Terrorists whose only sense of significance comes from being terrorists cannot be forced to -give up terrorism, for to do so would be to lose their very reason for being. To the contrary, for such individuals violent societal counter-reactions reaffirm their core belief that "it's us against them and they are out to destroy us. " A tiny band of insignificant individuals has been transformed into a major opponent of society, making their "fantasy war", to use Ferracuti's apt term, a reality. One can indeed make the case that left to their own devices; these inherently unstable groups will self-destruct.
Similarly, for terrorist organizations for which violence is defined as the only legitimate tactic for achieving their espoused goals, outside threat and a policy of reactive retaliation cannot intimidate the organizational leadership into committing organizational suicide and ceasing to exist. For that is what ceasing committing acts of political violence would be if those acts were the sole self-definition.
For complex organizations dedicated to a cause, such as Basque separatism, where an illegal terrorist wing operates in parallel with a legal political wing as elements of a larger loosely integrated organization, the dynamics-and the policy implications are again different. In such circumstances, if the overall organizational goals-in this case Basque separatism-are threatened by societal reactions to terrorism, one can make a case that internal organizational constraints can operate to constrain the terrorist wing. However, insofar as the terrorist group is not fully under political control, this is a matter of influence and partial constraint, for as has been noted earlier, ETA has its own internal dynamics and continues to thrive despite the significant degree of separatism already achieved.
For state-supported and directed terrorist groups, the terrorist group is in effect a paramilitary unit under central overnmental control. In this situation, the individual, group and organizational psychological considerations discussed thus far are not especially relevant. The target of the antiterrorist policy in this circumstance is not the group per se but the chief of state and the government of the sponsoring state. Since the survival of the state and national interests are the primary values, there is a rational case to be made that retaliatory policies can have a deterring effect, at least in the short term. But even in this circumstance, to watch the children in the camps in the aftermath of bombing attacks shaking their fists in rage suggests such tactics are contributing to rising generations of terrorists.
Just as political terrorism is the product of generational forces, so too it is here for generations to come. When hatred is bred in the bone, and passed from generation to generation, it does not yield easily to peace talks.There is no short-range solution to the problem of terrorism. Once an individual is in the pressure cooker of the terrorist group, it is extremely difficult to influence him. In the long run, the most effective antiterrorist policy is one that inhibits potential recruits from joining in the first place, for once an individual is in the grip of the terrorist group the power of the group and organizational psychology will increasingly dominate his psychology.
Political terrorism is not only a product of psychological forces, its central strategy is psychological. For political terrorism is, at base, a particularly vicious species of psychological warfare. It is violence as communication Up until now; the terrorists have had a virtual monopoly on the weapon of the television camera as they manipulate their target audience through the media.Countering the terrorists' highly effective media-oriented strategy through more effective dissemination of information and public education must be key elements of a pro- active program.
As important as it is to inhibit potential terrorists from joining, so too it is important to facilitate terrorists leaving. The powerful hold of the group has been described in detail. By creating pathways out of terrorism, that grip can be reduced. Amnesty programs modeled after the highly effective program of the Italian government can usefully contribute to that goal.
And reducing support for the group-both in its immediate societal surroundings and in the nation at large-are further long-range programs to foster. Terrorists perpetuate their organizations by shaping the perceptions of future generations of terrorists. Manipulating a reactive media, they demonstrate their power and significance and define the legitimacy of their cause. To counter them, effective education and dissemination of objective information is required.
One does not counter psychological warfare with smart bombs and missiles, although they can certainly play a useful role in a military campaign against harboring states. One counters psychology warfare with psychological warfare. In the long run, the most effective ways of countering terrorism is to:
1.Inhibit potential terrorists from joining the group
Security alone cannot accomplish this. Alienated youth must be able to envisage a future within the system that promises redress of long-standing economic and social inequity and come to believe that political activism can lead to their finding a pathway to these goals. Otherwise, striking out violently in despair will continue to seem like the only course available.
2.Produce dissension within the group
The groups are virtual hot-houses of tensions and rivalries. Active measures are required to magnify these tensions and pressures.
3.Facilitate exit from the group,
Once a terrorist has become a member of a group and committed terrorist acts, he is a wanted criminal, and it can seem he has "no way out." Yet, as noted above, with the pentiti program in Italy, a similar program in the Basque region, and the so-called "super grass" program in Northern Ireland, where reduced sentences or amnesty is offered for cooperation with the authorities, in effect a "protected witness" program, including for the Basque region plastic surgery and resettlement in Latin America, this can not only facilitate exit but also can produce dissension within the group as well.
4.Reduce support for the group.
This is particularly important, as important as inhibiting potential recruits from joining in the first place, indeed contributing to this goal.Thus the group or organization must be marginalized, its leader delegitimated. Osama bin Laden at the present is a romantic hero to many alienated youth in the Islamic world, his organization al Qaeda a highly attractive option to consider. An effective strategic communication program will increasingly marginalize al Qaeda as an aberrant extremist group that is contrary to mainstream Islam, and will depict bin Laden not as a heroic figure, but as a selfconsumed individual whose extreme actions damage all of Islam and the future of aspiring Muslim youth.
All of these goals are components of a strategic communication process that must be a central component of our anti-terrorist policy. This is not a policy that will swiftly end terrorism, but a process that must be put in place. Just as many of the attitudes that have made the path of terrorism attractive to alienated youth have taken place over decades, it will require decades to reduce the attractiveness of terrorism for those who have been raised in a climate dominated by hopeless and despair, with hatred bred in the bone, so that extremism and violence have increasingly come to be seen as the only course.