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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why." - James Thurber

***

What Terrorists Really Want / Max Abrahms (Continued):

"Since the emergence of modern terrorism in 1968, 64 percent of worldwide terrorist attacks have been carried out by unknown perpetrators. Anonymous terrorism has been rising, with three out of four attacks going unclaimed since September 11, 2O01. Anonymous terrorism is particularly prevalent in Iraq, where the U.S. military has struggled to determine whether the violence was perpetrated by Shiite or Sunni groups with vastly different political plaforms...

The tendency for terrorist organizations to refrain from issuing policy demands increased in the late 1990s, leading Hoffman to conclude that the coercive logic of terrorism is “seriously flawed.”...

Particularly in the early stages of their existence, terrorist organizations purporting to light for a common cause frequently attack each other more than their mutually declared enemy.

The Tamil Tigers, for example, did not target the Sinhalese government in the mid-1980s. Instead, it engaged in a “systematic annihilation” of other Tamil organizations “espousing the same cause” of national liberation...

In recent years, the same phenomenon has been endemic in terrorist hot spots. In Chechnya, local terrorist orgamzations have been terrorizing each other despite their joint political platform to establish Chechen independence. And in southern Iraq, Shiite militias with a shared ideological stance have been mainly blowing each other up, to the obvious benefit of the Sunnis...

The strategic model assumes that because terrorists are motivated by relatively stable policy aims, the violence will cease when the organization’s stated grievances have been lifted. A puzzle for the model then is that terrorist organizations resist disbanding when their political rationales have become moot. Pape’s research demonstrates that contemporary guerrilla campaigns have coerced major policy concessions from target countries; yet none of the organizations that also use terrorism have disbanded. Hezbollah, for example, remains an operational terrorist group, despite the fact that its guerrilla attacks on the Israel Defense Forces achieved the stated goal of liberating southern Lebanon in May 2000. When their political rationale is losing relevance, terrorist organizations commonly invent one. Klaus Wasmund’s case study of the RAF shows, for example, that the German terrorists were “aggravated” when the Vietnam War ended because they suddenly faced a “dilemma of finding a suitable revolutionary subject.” Instead of abandoning the armed struggle, the RAF turned overnight into a militant advocate of the Palestinian cause. Similarly, the 9/11 commission explains that upon discovering in April 1988 that the Soviets were planning to withdraw from Afghanistan, the mujahideen made the collective decision to remain intact while they hunted for a new political cause. In this way, terrorist organizations contrive a new political raison d’être, belying the assumption that terrorists are motivated by relatively stable policy preferences reflected in their organizations’ political platforms...

[Ed: I think the same can be said of almost all pressure groups or lobbies.]

Empirical evidence is accumulating in terrorism studies arid political psychology that individuals participate in terrorist organizations not to achieve their political platforms, but to develop strong affective ties with fellow terrorists.

First, psychologist Jeff Victoroff has concluded in a précis of the terrorism literature that “the claim that no individual factors identify those at risk for becoming terrorists is based on completely inadequate research.” Terrorist organizations appeal disproportionately to certain psychological types of people, namely. the socially alienated. Melvin Seeman defines alienation broadly as the feeling of loneliness, rejection, or exclusion from valued relationships, groups, or societies. Demographic data show that the vast majority of terrorist organizations are composed of unmarried young men or widowed women who were not gainfully employed prior to joining them...

Second, members from a wide variety of terrorist groups—including ETA, the IRA, the Italian Communist Party, the RAE the Red Brigades, Turkish terrorist organizations, and the Weather Underground—say that they joined these armed struggles not because of their personal attachment to their political or ideological agendas, but to maintain or develop social relations with other terrorist members. These are not the statements of a small number of terrorists; in the Turkish sample, for instance, the 1,100 terrorists interviewed were ten times more likely to say that they joined the terrorist organization “because their friends were members” than because of the “ideology” of the group...

These findings are also consistent with a fascinating July 2007 study of Guantanamo Bay detainees. Researchers from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center found in their sample of 516 detainees that knowing an al-Qaida member was a significantly better predictor than believing in the jihad for turning to terrorism—even when a militant definition of jihad was used and other variables were held constant."

(To be continued)
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