Terrorism Is Not About Terror

Terrorists act irrationally from a rational activism perspective, and groups act in ways most consistent with terrorism being about social status and belonging
sociology, politics
2009-04-092017-04-21 finished certainty: likely importance: 8

Sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis of ter­ror­ist groups’ longevi­ty, aims, meth­ods and suc­cesses re­veal that groups are self­-con­tra­dic­tory and self­-s­ab­o­tag­ing, gen­er­ally in­effec­tive; com­mon stereo­types like ter­ror­ists be­ing poor or ul­tra­-skilled are false. Su­per­fi­cially ap­peal­ing coun­ter-ex­am­ples are dis­cussed and re­ject­ed. Data on mo­ti­va­tions and the dis­so­lu­tion of ter­ror­ist groups are brought into play and the sur­pris­ing con­clu­sion reached: ter­ror­ism is a form of so­cial­iza­tion or sta­tus-seek­ing.

There is a com­mon­ly-be­lieved “strate­gic model” of ter­ror­ism which we could de­scribe as fol­lows: ‘ter­ror­ists are peo­ple who are ide­o­log­i­cally mo­ti­vated to pur­sue spe­cific un­vary­ing po­lit­i­cal goals; to do so, they join to­gether in long-last­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions and after the fail­ure of or­di­nary po­lit­i­cal tac­tics, ra­tio­nally de­cide to effi­ciently & com­pe­tently en­gage in vi­o­lent at­tacks on (usu­al­ly) civil­ian tar­gets to get as much at­ten­tion as pos­si­ble and pub­lic­ity for their move­ment, and in­spire fear & ter­ror in the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion, which will pres­sure its lead­ers to solve the prob­lem one way or an­oth­er, pro­vid­ing sup­port for the ter­ror­ists’ fa­vored laws and/or their ne­go­ti­a­tions with in­volved gov­ern­ments, which then often suc­ceed in gain­ing many of the orig­i­nal goals, and the or­ga­ni­za­tion dis­solves.’

Un­for­tu­nate­ly, this mod­el, is in al­most every re­spect, em­pir­i­cally false. Let’s look in some more de­tail at find­ings which cast doubt on the strate­gic mod­el.

The problem

From “What Ter­ror­ists Re­ally Want: Ter­ror­ist Mo­tives and Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Strat­egy”, Max Abrahms 2008:

Does the ter­ror­ist’s de­ci­sion-mak­ing process con­form to the strate­gic mod­el? The an­swer ap­pears to be no. The record of ter­ror­ist be­hav­ior does not ad­here to the mod­el’s three core as­sump­tions. Seven com­mon ten­den­cies of ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions flatly con­tra­dict them. To­geth­er, these seven ter­ror­ist ten­den­cies rep­re­sent im­por­tant em­pir­i­cal puz­zles for the strate­gic mod­el, pos­ing a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge to the con­ven­tional wis­dom that ter­ror­ists are ra­tio­nal ac­tors mo­ti­vated fore­most by po­lit­i­cal end­s…The seven puz­zles…are:

  1. ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions do not achieve their stated po­lit­i­cal goals by at­tack­ing civil­ians;
  2. ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions never use ter­ror­ism as a last re­sort and sel­dom seize op­por­tu­ni­ties to be­come pro­duc­tive non­vi­o­lent po­lit­i­cal par­ties;
  3. ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions re­flex­ively re­ject com­pro­mise pro­pos­als offer­ing sig­nifi­cant pol­icy con­ces­sions by the tar­get gov­ern­ment1;
  4. ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions have pro­tean po­lit­i­cal plat­forms;
  5. ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions gen­er­ally carry out anony­mous at­tacks, pre­clud­ing tar­get coun­tries from mak­ing pol­icy con­ces­sions;
  6. ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions with iden­ti­cal po­lit­i­cal plat­forms rou­tinely at­tack each other more than their mu­tu­ally pro­fessed en­e­my; and
  7. ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions re­sist dis­band­ing when they con­sis­tently fail to achieve their po­lit­i­cal plat­forms or when their stated po­lit­i­cal griev­ances have been re­solved.

Ter­ror­ism has­n’t im­pressed many ob­servers both on case-s­tud­ies & in gen­eral2. On sta­tis­ti­cal grounds, it’s in­con­tro­vert­ible that ter­ror­ism is a shock­ingly in­effec­tive strat­e­gy; from Abrahms 2012:

Jones and Li­bicki (2008) then ex­am­ined a larger sam­ple, the uni­verse of known ter­ror­ist groups be­tween 1968 and 2006. Of the 648 groups iden­ti­fied in the RAND-MIPT Ter­ror­ism In­ci­dent data­base, only 4% ob­tained their strate­gic de­mands. More re­cent­ly, Cronin (2009) has re­ex­am­ined the suc­cess rate of these groups, con­firm­ing that less than 5% pre­vailed…Chenoweth and Stephan (2008, 2011) pro­vide ad­di­tional em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence that met­ing out pain hurts non-s­tate ac­tors at the bar­gain­ing table. Their stud­ies com­pare the co­er­cive effec­tive­ness of 323 vi­o­lent and non­vi­o­lent re­sis­tance cam­paigns from 1900 to 2006. Like Gaibul­loev and San­dler (2009), the au­thors find that re­frain­ing from blood­shed sig­nifi­cantly raises the odds of gov­ern­ment com­pli­ance even after tac­ti­cal con­founds are held fixed. These sta­tis­ti­cal find­ings are re­in­forced with struc­tured in­-case com­par­isons high­light­ing that es­ca­lat­ing from non­vi­o­lent meth­ods of protest such as pe­ti­tions, sit-ins, and strikes to deadly at­tacks tends to dis­suade gov­ern­ment com­pro­mise. Chenoweth and Stephan em­ploy an ag­gre­gate mea­sure of vi­o­lence that in­cor­po­rates both in­dis­crim­i­nate at­tacks on civil­ians and dis­crim­i­nate at­tacks on mil­i­tary per­son­nel or other gov­ern­ment offi­cials, which are often differ­en­ti­ated from ter­ror­ism as guer­rilla at­tacks (Abrahms 2006; Cronin 2009; and Moghadam 2006). Other sta­tis­ti­cal re­search (Abrahms, 2012, Fort­na, 2011) demon­strates that when ter­ror­ist at­tacks are com­bined with such dis­crim­i­nate vi­o­lence, the bar­gain­ing out­come is not ad­di­tive; on the con­trary, the pain to the pop­u­la­tion sig­nifi­cantly de­creases the odds of gov­ern­ment con­ces­sions.3

effec­tive­ness is its own top­ic; we can note that many of the same cog­ni­tive bi­ases like the that skew our be­liefs on ter­ror­ism also ap­ply to guer­rilla war­fare as well—ev­ery­one re­mem­bers the suc­cess­ful Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, but who ever in­vokes the scores or hun­dreds of other re­volts & failed rev­o­lu­tions in the British Em­pire which in­volved guer­rilla tac­tics? (Or , for that mat­ter—eg. , the , or ? How well did the Amer­i­can South suc­ceed in se­ced­ing, in a con­flict with quite as many ir­reg­u­lar forces as the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion?) Does a close ex­am­i­na­tion of the , where the much-her­alded were de­stroyed after the and be­fore the crushed the ARVN and con­quered South Viet­nam, re­veal it to have been more effec­tive than con­ven­tional war­fare? A cur­sory look through any list of guer­rilla move­ments does not re­veal it to be a list of lu­mi­nar­ies. “No­body likes a loser”, least of all in war. But to re­turn to ter­ror­ism.

Worse, ter­ror­is­m—of any kind like hostage-tak­ing4, and in­clud­ing con­ven­tional war­fare tac­tics like civil­ian atroc­i­ties or strate­gic bomb­ing—re­li­ably pro­duces a po­lit­i­cal back­lash to­wards con­ser­vatism and bol­sters hard­lin­ers’ ap­proaches to ter­ror­ism56, pos­si­bly due to a / where the us­age of vi­o­lence is in­ferred to in­di­cate a group is in­trin­si­cally vicious/intransigent/hateful7, so there’s a dou­ble-wham­my—the ter­ror­ism makes any kind of com­pro­mise harder to reach, and if there is dan­ger of an agree­ment, the ex­trem­ists will try to sab­o­tage it, which in­tran­si­gence nat­u­rally makes any fu­ture agree­ments less like­ly.

To this we could add that there are many fewer ter­ror­ists than one might ex­pect, even for the most ap­par­ently suc­cess­ful and glob­ally pop­u­lar groups like Al Qaeda8.

Terrorist ineffectiveness

In a [pre­vi­ous study of mine]9 as­sess­ing ter­ror­is­m’s co­er­cive effec­tive­ness, I found that in a sam­ple of 28 well-known ter­ror­ist cam­paigns, the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions ac­com­plished their stated pol­icy goals 0% of the time by at­tack­ing civil­ians.

The al-Qaida mil­i­tary strate­gist, , com­plained that with its “hasty chang­ing of strate­gic tar­gets”, al-Qaida was en­gaged in noth­ing more than “ran­dom chaos”. Other dis­grun­tled al-Qaida mem­bers have re­proached the or­ga­ni­za­tion for es­pous­ing po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives that “shift with the wind”.

Who is effec­tive? How could ter­ror­ists be more effec­tive? Eas­ily. (See my es­say.) The strange thing is that we know, and they know, per­fectly well that there are at­tacks which do the US tremen­dous dam­age, yet they hardly ever use them. Why are there so few , so few 9/11s, so few s? Their eco­nomic mul­ti­plier is tremen­dous:

In his Oc­to­ber 2004 ad­dress to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, bin Laden noted that the 9/11 at­tacks cost al Qaeda only a frac­tion of the dam­age in­flicted upon the United States. “Al Qaeda spent $795,258$500,0002001 on the event,” he said, “while Amer­ica in the in­ci­dent and its after­math lost—ac­cord­ing to the low­est es­ti­mates—­more than $795$5002001 bil­lion, mean­ing that every dol­lar of al Qaeda de­feated a mil­lion dol­lars.”10

The ?

“Two Nokia mo­biles, $197$1502010 each, two HP print­ers, $394$3002010 each, plus ship­ping, trans­porta­tion and other mis­cel­la­neous ex­penses add up to a to­tal bill of $4,200. That is all what Op­er­a­tion He­m­or­rhage cost us,” the [AQ] mag­a­zine [In­spire] said.11

Iron­i­cal­ly, it was cheaper for Pales­tini­ans to launch sui­cide at­tacks:

Has­san cites one Pales­tin­ian offi­cials pre­scrip­tion for a suc­cess­ful mis­sion: “a will­ing young man. . . nails, gun­pow­der, a light switch and a short ca­ble, mer­cury (read­ily ob­tain­able from ther­mome­ter­s), ace­tone. . . . The most ex­pen­sive item is trans­porta­tion to an Is­raeli town” (30). The to­tal cost is about $239$1502001.12

Other air­line plots?

It is rec­og­nized that the cost of the ac­tual equip­ment used in an at­tack can be quite low. For ex­am­ple, the in­gre­di­ents used to build each bomb in­tended to blow up air­lin­ers bound for the United States from the United King­dom in 2006 are es­ti­mated to have cost only $20$152006.13 The cost of an has been es­ti­mated to be $34$252006 to $41$302006.14

Sim­i­lar­ly, the ma­te­r­ial cost for con­duct­ing a sui­cide bomb has been es­ti­mated at only $194$1502008.15…the FATF es­ti­mated that the bomb­ings of two U.S. em­bassies in East Africa had di­rect costs of $92,676$50,0001998.16 Other es­ti­mates, even for car-bomb sui­cide ter­ror­ists, are in sim­i­lar ranges, al­though prices vary greatly over time and so all of the above is out of date.17

Con­sid­er­ing Eu­ro­pean ter­ror­ism in­ci­dents as a whole, they are all uni­formly cheap, with the cheap­est be­ing knife/axe at­tacks (~$0); 3⁄4s cost <$10,000, with only 3 ex­ceed­ing $20,000.

Fund­ing seems to be a con­stant is­sue for spree killers or ter­ror­ists, even when ob­jec­tively there is no rea­son to think about it:

So ter­ror­ists want to hurt the US, they know many effec­tive ways to do so, and… hardly any­thing hap­pens. The work of ra­tio­nal ac­tors?

The solution

“When peo­ple see a strong horse and a weak horse, by na­ture, they will like the strong horse.”

Osama bin Laden, 2001

So, then, what is the ex­pla­na­tion for such self­-de­feat­ing, ir­ra­tional ac­tions? Can we ex­plain the self­-de­feat­ing as de­lib­er­ate, due per­haps to ? No; even if false flag at­tacks were more com­mon than every­one be­lieves and made up—a uni­ver­sal cen­tu­ry-long in every coun­try (de­spite the ab­sence of ev­i­dence)—say 20% of the scores of thou­sands of ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the 20th & 21st cen­turies, that still leaves count­less or­ga­ni­za­tions & ter­ror­ists in­ex­plic­a­bly in­com­pe­tent19 & ig­no­rant20. In the spirit of X Is Not About X posts (see “Pol­i­tics is­n’t about Pol­icy”), I’d like to offer one of my own: is not about ter­ror; it’s not even about pol­i­tics. It’s about so­cial­iz­ing.

There is com­par­a­tively strong the­o­ret­i­cal and em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence that peo­ple be­come ter­ror­ists not to achieve their or­ga­ni­za­tion’s de­clared po­lit­i­cal agen­da, but to de­velop strong affec­tive ties with other ter­ror­ist mem­bers. In other words, the pre­pon­der­ance of ev­i­dence is that peo­ple par­tic­i­pate in ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions for the so­cial sol­i­dar­i­ty, not for their po­lit­i­cal re­turn.

In Un­der­stand­ing ter­ror net­works (sum­mary), he writes:

Ibrahim com­mented on the su­pe­rior at­trac­tive­ness of a re­li­gious re­vival­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion over a sec­u­lar po­lit­i­cal one, namely the strong sense of com­mu­nion that Mus­lim groups pro­vided for their mem­bers…‘The mil­i­tant Is­lamic groups with their em­pha­sis on broth­er­hood, mu­tual shar­ing, and spir­i­tual sup­port be­come the func­tional equiv­a­lent of the ex­tended fam­ily to the young­ster who has left his be­hind. In other words, the Is­lamic group ful­fills a de-alien­at­ing func­tion for its mem­bers in ways that are not matched by other ri­val po­lit­i­cal move­ments’ (I­brahim, 198: 448)." "The Saidi branch was com­posed of sev­eral groups, based in provin­cial uni­ver­sity towns. They re­cruited heav­ily ac­cord­ing to kin­ship and tribal bonds.

…Friend­ships cul­ti­vated in the ji­had, just as those forged in com­bat in gen­er­al, seem more in­tense and are en­dowed with spe­cial sig­nifi­cance. Their ac­tions taken on be­half of God and the umma are ex­pe­ri­enced as sa­cred. This added el­e­ment in­creases the value of friend­ships within the clique and the ji­had in gen­eral and di­min­ishes the value of out­side friend­ships. To friends hov­er­ing on the brink of join­ing an in­creas­ingly ac­tivist clique, this promised shift in value may be diffi­cult to re­sist, es­pe­cially if one is tem­porar­ily alien­ated from so­ci­ety…once they be­come mem­bers, strong bonds of loy­alty and emo­tional in­ti­macy dis­cour­age their de­par­ture.

From Scott Atran’s 2003 re­view (ibid):

Stud­ies by psy­chol­o­gist Ariel Mer­ari point to the im­por­tance of in­sti­tu­tions in sui­cide ter­ror­ism (28). His team in­ter­viewed 32 of 34 bomber fam­i­lies in Palestine/Israel (be­fore 1998), sur­viv­ing at­tack­ers, and cap­tured re­cruiters. Sui­cide ter­ror­ists ap­par­ently span their pop­u­la­tion’s nor­mal dis­tri­b­u­tion in terms of ed­u­ca­tion, so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus, and per­son­al­ity type (in­tro­vert vs. ex­tro­vert). Mean age for bombers was early twen­ties. Al­most all were un­mar­ried and ex­pressed re­li­gious be­lief be­fore re­cruit­ment (but no more than did the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion). Ex­cept for be­ing young, un­at­tached males, sui­cide bombers differ from mem­bers of vi­o­lent racist or­ga­ni­za­tions with whom they are often com­pared (29: R. Ezekiel, The Racist Mind). Over­all, sui­cide ter­ror­ists ex­hibit no so­cially dys­func­tional at­trib­utes (fa­ther­less, friend­less, or job­less) or sui­ci­dal symp­toms. They do not vent fear of en­e­mies or ex­press “hope­less­ness” or a sense of “noth­ing to lose” for lack of life al­ter­na­tives that would be con­sis­tent with eco­nomic ra­tio­nal­i­ty. Mer­ari at­trib­utes pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity for at­tacks to re­cruit­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions, which en­list prospec­tive can­di­dates from this youth­ful and rel­a­tively un­at­tached pop­u­la­tion. Charis­matic train­ers then in­tensely cul­ti­vate mu­tual com­mit­ment to die within small cells of three to six mem­bers. The fi­nal step be­fore a mar­tyr­dom op­er­a­tion is a for­mal so­cial con­tract, usu­ally in the form of a video tes­ta­ment.

Psy­chol­o­gist Brian Bar­ber sur­veyed 900 Moslem ado­les­cents dur­ing Gaza’s first In­tifada (1987–1993) (31: B. Bar­ber, Heart and Stones). Re­sults show high lev­els of par­tic­i­pa­tion in and vic­tim­iza­tion from vi­o­lence. For males, 81% re­ported throw­ing stones, 66% suffered phys­i­cal as­sault, and 63% were shot at (ver­sus 51, 38, and 20% for fe­males). In­volve­ment in vi­o­lence was not strongly cor­re­lated with de­pres­sion or an­ti­so­cial be­hav­ior. Ado­les­cents most in­volved dis­played strong in­di­vid­ual pride and so­cial co­he­sion. This was re­flected in ac­tiv­i­ties: for males, 87% de­liv­ered sup­plies to ac­tivists, 83% vis­ited mar­tyred fam­i­lies, and 71% tended the wounded (57, 46, and 37% for fe­males). A fol­low-up dur­ing the sec­ond In­tifada (2000–2002) in­di­cates that those still un­mar­ried act in ways con­sid­ered per­son­ally more dan­ger­ous but so­cially more mean­ing­ful. In­creas­ing­ly, many view mar­tyr acts as most mean­ing­ful. By sum­mer 2002, 70 to 80% of Pales­tini­ans en­dorsed mar­tyr op­er­a­tions (32)…In con­trast to Pales­tini­ans, sur­veys with a con­trol group of Bosn­ian Moslem ado­les­cents from the same time pe­riod re­veal markedly weaker ex­pres­sions of self­-es­teem, hope for the fu­ture, and proso­cial be­hav­ior (30). A key differ­ence is that Pales­tini­ans rou­tinely in­voke re­li­gion to in­vest per­sonal trauma with proac­tive so­cial mean­ing that takes in­jury as a badge of hon­or. Bosn­ian Moslems typ­i­cally re­port not con­sid­er­ing re­li­gious affil­i­a­tion a sig­nifi­cant part of per­sonal or col­lec­tive iden­tity un­til seem­ingly ar­bi­trary vi­o­lence forced aware­ness upon them.

Con­sider data on 39 re­cruits to Harkat al-Ansar, a Pak­istani-based ally of Al-Qai­da. All were un­mar­ried males, most had stud­ied the Quran. All be­lieved that by sac­ri­fic­ing them­selves they would help se­cure the fu­ture of their “fam­ily” of fic­tive kin: “Each [mar­tyr] has a spe­cial place-a­mong them are broth­ers, just as there are sons and those even more dear” (34: D. Rhode, A. Chivers, New York Times, 2002-03-17, p. A1).

From the RAND study “De­rad­i­cal­iz­ing Is­lamic Ex­trem­ists”, Rabas et al 2010 (em­pha­sis added):

In a study of Colom­bian in­sur­gent move­ments, Flo­rez-Mor­ris found that mem­bers who re­mained in the group un­til it col­lec­tively de­mo­bi­lized did so as a re­sult of so­cial and prac­ti­cal needs, shared be­liefs, and the group’s role in boost­ing their self­-i­den­tity by mak­ing them feel im­por­tant. In ad­di­tion to these ben­e­fits, in­sur­gents were also de­terred from leav­ing by the lack of other op­tions, a re­sult of the clan­des­tine na­ture of the or­ga­ni­za­tion (Mauri­cio Flo­rez-Mor­ris, “Why Some Colom­bian Guer­rilla Mem­bers Stayed in the Move­ment Un­til De­mo­bi­liza­tion: A Mi­cro-So­ci­o­log­i­cal Case Study of Fac­tors That In­flu­enced Mem­bers’ Com­mit­ment to Three For­mer Rebel Or­ga­ni­za­tions: M-19, EPL, and CRS”, Ter­ror­ism and Po­lit­i­cal Vi­o­lence, Vol. 22, No. 2010-03-02, p. 218.)21

That study men­tions some in­ter­est­ing dat­a­points from the Saudi re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams:

The sec­ond study—which fo­cused on in­di­vid­u­als who had al­legedly par­tic­i­pated in vi­o­lence in Saudi Ara­bi­a—re­vealed an equally in­ter­est­ing set of fac­tors. Most sig­nifi­cant­ly, the data show greater do­mes­tic prob­lems and trou­bled home­lives for this group. Ap­prox­i­mately half came from homes with a fa­ther over the age of 50, and one-quar­ter (26%) came from polyg­a­mous house­holds. Saudi au­thor­i­ties stress that they be­lieve there is a cor­re­la­tion be­tween less at­ten­tion re­ceived at home and trou­ble later in life. Sim­i­lar­ly, over a third (35%) of the sec­ond study’s sub­jects came from homes with “fam­ily prob­lems”, and one-fifth were iden­ti­fied as or­phans with no tra­di­tional parental over­sight.

An­other RAND study () ex­am­ines de­tailed fi­nan­cial records of , find­ing that per­son­nel rep­re­sent a ma­jor cost of branch­es, which were highly profitable as they en­gaged in theft & ex­tor­tion, but not enough to com­pen­sate for the risk—even tak­ing into ac­count AQI’s pol­icy of pay­ing salaries to the fam­i­lies of dead or im­pris­oned mem­bers, mem­bers were for­feit­ing at least half their life­time in­come. But the RAND re­searchers also dis­cuss how US Army en­listed per­son­nel—pre­sum­ably bet­ter ed­u­cated and trained than AQI mem­ber­s—have dis­count rates as flab­ber­gast­ingly high as 22, and that their data did not al­low them to es­ti­mate the ed­u­ca­tion or skills of the AQI mem­bers or how much the mem­bers might be skim­ming off the mul­ti­far­i­ous crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties. Given that the cen­tral An­bar AQI group had to trans­fer $3,545$2,7002010 on av­er­age for one of the lo­cal groups to launch one at­tack and the raw ma­te­ri­als, as quoted pre­vi­ous­ly, are so cheap, one won­ders at the effi­ciency of AQI in turn­ing dol­lars into at­tacks; how much of the over­head is truly nec­es­sary with mem­bers ded­i­cated to the cause?

In­creased spend­ing from the AQI An­bar ad­min­is­tra­tion to its sec­tors in­creases the num­ber of at­tacks in those sec­tors, with one ad­di­tional at­tack oc­cur­ring for every ad­di­tional $3,545$2,7002010 trans­ferred…Putting to­gether an IED or buy­ing a mor­tar for an at­tack is cheap. How­ev­er, our find­ings add to the mount­ing ev­i­dence that mil­i­tant group op­er­a­tions in­volve far more than just one-time costs. Main­tain­ing a mil­i­tant or­ga­ni­za­tion can be quite ex­pen­sive. For AQI, per­son­nel costs for mem­bers con­sti­tuted the bulk of these ex­pens­es. With­out such re­cur­ring pay­ments, it is un­likely that AQI could main­tain its effec­tive­ness in com­mit­ting vi­o­lence. The group in­curred large costs keep­ing im­pris­oned mem­bers on the pay­roll as an oblig­a­tion to their fam­i­lies and pay­ing the fam­i­lies of dead mem­bers. Al­though such pay­ments likely in­creased the loy­alty of mem­bers, they also di­verted large amounts of money that could have oth­er­wise been used to at­tack Coali­tion and Iraqi forces.

“Psy­chol­ogy of Ter­ror­ism”, Bo­rum 2004:

A sim­i­lar mech­a­nism is one in which a des­per­ate quest for per­sonal mean­ing pushes an in­di­vid­ual to adopt a role to ad­vance a cause, with lit­tle or no thought­ful analy­sis or con­sid­er­a­tion of its mer­it. In essence, the in­di­vid­ual re­solves the diffi­cult ques­tion “Who am I?” by sim­ply defin­ing him or her­self as a “ter­ror­ist,” a “free­dom fight­er,” “shahid” or sim­i­lar role (Della Por­ta, 1992 ; Knut­son, 1981). Tay­lor and Louis (200453) de­scribe a clas­sic set of cir­cum­stances for re­cruit­ment into a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion: “These young peo­ple find them­selves at a time in their life when they are look­ing to the fu­ture with the hope of en­gag­ing in mean­ing­ful be­hav­ior that will be sat­is­fy­ing and get them ahead. Their ob­jec­tive cir­cum­stances in­clud­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for ad­vance­ment are vir­tu­ally nonex­is­tent; they find some di­rec­tion for their re­li­gious col­lec­tive iden­tity but the des­per­ately dis­ad­van­taged state of their com­mu­nity leaves them feel­ing mar­gin­al­ized and lost with­out a clearly de­fined col­lec­tive iden­tity” (p. 178).

Be­long­ing: In rad­i­cal ex­trem­ist groups, many prospec­tive ter­ror­ists find not only a sense of mean­ing, but also a sense of be­long­ing, con­nect­ed­ness and affil­i­a­tion. Luck­abaugh and col­leagues (1997) ar­gue that among po­ten­tial ter­ror­ists “the real cause or psy­cho­log­i­cal mo­ti­va­tion for join­ing is the great need for be­long­ing.” For these alien­ated in­di­vid­u­als from the mar­gins of so­ci­ety, “join­ing a ter­ror­ist group rep­re­sented the first real sense of be­long­ing after a life­time of re­jec­tion, and the ter­ror­ist group was to be­come the fam­ily they never had” (Post, 1984). This strong sense of be­long­ing has crit­i­cal im­por­tance as a mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor for join­ing, a com­pelling rea­son for stay­ing, and a force­ful in­flu­ence for act­ing. “Volkan (1997) .. ar­gued that ter­ror­ist groups may pro­vide a se­cu­rity of fam­ily by sub­ju­gat­ing in­di­vid­u­al­ity to the group iden­ti­ty. A pro­tec­tive co­coon is cre­ated that offers shel­ter from a hos­tile world” (Marsel­la, 2003). Ob­ser­va­tions on ter­ror­ist re­cruit­ment show that many peo­ple are in­flu­enced to join by seek­ing sol­i­dar­ity with fam­i­ly, friends or ac­quain­tances (Della Por­ta, 1995), and that “for the in­di­vid­u­als who be­come ac­tive ter­ror­ists, the ini­tial at­trac­tion is often to the group, or com­mu­nity of be­liev­ers, rather than to an ab­stract ide­ol­ogy or to vi­o­lence” (Cren­shaw, 1988). In­deed, it is the im­age of such strong co­he­sive­ness and sol­i­dar­ity among ex­trem­ist groups that makes them more at­trac­tive than some proso­cial col­lec­tives as a way to find be­long­ing (John­son & Feld­man, 1982).

Con­clu­sion: These three fac­tors—in­jus­tice, iden­ti­ty, and be­long­ing—have been found often to co-oc­cur in ter­ror­ists and to strongly in­flu­ence de­ci­sions to en­ter ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions and to en­gage in ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ty. Some an­a­lysts even have sug­gested that the syn­er­gis­tic effect of these dy­nam­ics forms the real “root cause” of ter­ror­ism, re­gard­less of ide­ol­o­gy. Luck­abaugh and col­leagues (1997), for ex­am­ple, con­cluded “the real cause or psy­cho­log­i­cal mo­ti­va­tion for join­ing is the great need for be­long­ing, a need to con­sol­i­date one’s iden­ti­ty. A need to be­long, along with an in­com­plete per­sonal iden­ti­ty, is a com­mon fac­tor that cuts across the groups.” Jer­rold Post (1984) has sim­i­larly the­o­rized that “the need to be­long, the need to have a sta­ble iden­ti­ty, to re­solve a split and be at one with one­self and with so­ci­ety—… is an im­por­tant bridg­ing con­cept which helps ex­plain the sim­i­lar­ity in be­hav­ior of ter­ror­ists in groups of widely differ­ent es­poused mo­ti­va­tions and com­po­si­tion.”

…Della Porta (1992), for ex­am­ple, notes that among Ital­ian ex­trem­ists, “the de­ci­sion to join an un­der­ground or­ga­ni­za­tion was very rarely an in­di­vid­ual one. In most cases it in­volved cliques of friends. In some cases re­cruit­ment was de­ter­mined by the in­di­vid­u­al’s sol­i­dar­ity with an”im­por­tant" friend who was ar­rested or had to go un­der­ground." More re­cent­ly, us­ing open source ma­te­ri­al, Marc Sage­man (2004) an­a­lyzed the cases of ap­prox­i­mately 172 global Salafi mu­ja­hedin and found that nearly two thirds “joined” the ji­had col­lec­tively as part of a small group (“bunch of guys”) or had a long­time friend who al­ready had joined.

One last quote (from Abrahms again):

Sec­ond, mem­bers from a wide va­ri­ety of ter­ror­ist group­s…say that they joined these armed strug­gles…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 10 times more likely to say that they joined the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion ‘be­cause their friends were mem­bers’ than be­cause of the ‘ide­ol­ogy’ of the group.

There are other in­ter­est­ing points; both of Abrahm­s’s pa­pers are well worth read­ing, as is Abrahms 2012:

A fi­nal ex­pla­na­tion is that ter­ror­ists de­rive util­ity from their ac­tions re­gard­less of whether gov­ern­ments com­ply po­lit­i­cal­ly. This in­ter­pre­ta­tion is con­sis­tent with the emerg­ing body of ev­i­dence that al­though ter­ror­ism is in­effec­tive for achiev­ing out­come goals, ter­ror­ism is in­deed effec­tive for achiev­ing process goals (e.g., Abrahms 2008; Arce and San­dler, 2007, 2010; Bloom, 2005; Kydd and Wal­ter 2002). Whereas ter­ror­ist acts gen­er­ally fail to pro­mote gov­ern­ment con­ces­sions, the vi­o­lence against civil­ians can per­pet­u­ate the ter­ror­ist group by at­tract­ing me­dia at­ten­tion, spoil­ing peace process­es, and boost­ing mem­ber­ship, morale, co­he­sion, and ex­ter­nal sup­port­…In­deed, ter­ror­ists tend to ramp up their at­tacks dur­ing peace process­es, pre­clud­ing con­ces­sions (see Kydd and Wal­ter, 2002).

  • Arce, Daniel. and San­dler, Todd. (2007) “Ter­ror­ist Sig­nal­ing and the Value of In­tel­li­gence”. British Jour­nal of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence 37 576–586
  • Arce, Daniel. and San­dler, Todd. (2010) “Ter­ror­ist Spec­tac­u­lars: Back­lash At­tacks and the Fo­cus of In­tel­li­gence”. Jour­nal of Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion 54 354–373.
  • Bloom, Mia M. (2004) “Pales­tin­ian Sui­cide Bomb­ing: Pub­lic Sup­port, Mar­ket Share, and Out­bid­ding”. Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence Quar­terly 119 61–88
  • Ky­dd, An­drew H. and Wal­ter, Bar­bara F. (2002) “Sab­o­tag­ing the peace: The pol­i­tics of ex­trem­ist vi­o­lence”. In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion 56 263–296

With this per­spec­tive, many things fall into place. For ex­am­ple, in the In Their Own Words: Voices of Ji­had, the au­thors re­mark:

The In­ter­net offers an­other ex­am­ple. It is awash in ji­hadi web sites, and there is lit­tle ques­tion that it is be­ing ex­ploited for train­ing, fundrais­ing, re­cruit­ment, and co­or­di­na­tion. Yet again, when brows­ing the blogs and chat rooms, one gets the im­pres­sion that what is be­ing wit­nessed is largely a form of “fan­tasy ji­had.” It is not com­fort­ing to see so many ob­vi­ously ed­u­cated23 young Mus­lims play­ing the game, but their par­tic­i­pa­tion does not mean that each log-on rep­re­sents a sleeper cell.

Cer­tainly not; in­deed, one could well pre­dict that ‘e-ji­had’ users will tend to be rather harm­less. It’s rather harder for on­line peers (com­pared to meat­space friends) to guilt one into ac­tion, after all. And one could well pre­dict that more ma­te­r­ial fac­tors would, say, in­flu­ence which cler­ics tend to be­come rad­i­cal­ized and ji­hadist, like ca­reer suc­cess in work­ing for a gov­ern­ment (Nielsen 2012).


The fore­go­ing was orig­i­nally posted to Less­Wrong.­com, where it was en­er­get­i­cally cri­tiqued.

Terrorism does too work!

There are mul­ti­ple mem­o­rable in­stances where ter­ror­ism seems to work. This should be no sur­prise; after all, if ter­ror­ism never worked, would we ever be con­cerned about it? Of course not. Ter­ror­ism works, darn it!24

Cited ex­am­ples in­clude the , the , , and . As one com­men­ta­tor wrote: “Let’s stop pre­tend­ing that ter­ror­ism does­n’t work. Do you think Eng­land would ever have talked with the IRA, or that Is­rael would have given ter­ri­tory to the Pales­tini­ans, if not for ter­ror­ism?”


There are sev­eral pos­si­ble replies. For ex­am­ple, Pa­pe’s work is fo­cused pretty much only on ; his find­ings on effec­tive­ness, even if cor­rect, may not gen­er­al­ize to the many non-sui­cide at­tacks. Fur­ther, Abrahms con­sider it un­clear how rea­son­able his spe­cific analy­sis is:

Not only is his sam­ple of ter­ror­ist cam­paigns mod­est, but they tar­geted only a hand­ful of coun­tries: ten of the eleven cam­paigns an­a­lyzed were di­rected against the same three coun­tries (Is­rael, Sri Lanka, and Turkey), with six of the cam­paigns di­rected against the same coun­try (Is­rael). More im­por­tant, Pape does not ex­am­ine whether the ter­ror­ist cam­paigns achieved their core pol­icy ob­jec­tives. In his as­sess­ment of Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ist cam­paigns, for ex­am­ple, he counts the lim­ited with­drawals of the Is­rael De­fense Forces from parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1994 as two sep­a­rate ter­ror­ist vic­to­ries, ig­nor­ing the 167% in­crease in the num­ber of Is­raeli set­tlers dur­ing this pe­ri­od-the most vis­i­ble sign of Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion. Sim­i­lar­ly, he counts as a vic­tory the Is­raeli de­ci­sion to re­lease Hamas leader Sheik from prison in Oc­to­ber 1997, ig­nor­ing the hun­dreds of im­pris­on­ments and tar­geted as­sas­si­na­tions of Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ists through­out the Pa­pe’s data there­fore re­veal only that se­lect ter­ror­ist cam­paigns have oc­ca­sion­ally scored tac­ti­cal vic­to­ries, not that ter­ror­ism is an effec­tive strat­egy for groups to achieve their pol­icy ob­jec­tives.

An­other is that this is an es­sen­tially sta­tis­ti­cal ar­gu­ment, over dozens or hun­dreds of ter­ror­ist groups. Ad­um­brat­ing 4 some­what suc­cess­ful groups would in­val­i­date an as­ser­tion along the lines of “All ter­ror­ist groups are un­suc­cess­ful”, but of course no one is mak­ing that claim. (Just that most are.)

The pre­vi­ously quoted 0% suc­cess rate fig­ure is a bit low. “Why Ter­ror­ism Does­n’t Work” back­tracks a lit­tle, and con­sid­ers a larger group (42, not 20). This larger group has a 7% suc­cess rate.

As fre­quently not­ed, Hezbol­lah suc­cess­fully co­erced the multi­na­tional peace­keep­ers and Is­raelis from south­ern Lebanon in 1984 and 2000, and the [1976–2009] won con­trol over the north­ern and east­ern coastal ar­eas of Sri Lanka from 1990 on. In the ag­gre­gate, how­ev­er, the ter­ror­ist groups achieved their main pol­icy ob­jec­tives only 3 out of 42 times–a 7% suc­cess rate. Within the co­er­cion lit­er­a­ture, this rate of suc­cess is con­sid­ered ex­tremely low. It is sub­stan­tially low­er, for ex­am­ple, than even the suc­cess rate of , which are widely re­garded as only min­i­mally effec­tive.

…This study an­a­lyzes the po­lit­i­cal plights of 28 ter­ror­ist group­s–the com­plete list of (FTOs) as des­ig­nated by the U.S. De­part­ment of State since 2001. The data yield two un­ex­pected find­ings. First, the groups ac­com­plished their 42 pol­icy ob­jec­tives only 7% of the time.

(For one par­al­lel in reg­u­lar pol­i­tics, con­sider Gilens & Page 2014.)

Per­haps these stud­ies are sim­ply too harsh and de­mand­ing?

Us­ing this list pro­vides a check against se­lect­ing cases on the de­pen­dent vari­able, which would ar­ti­fi­cially in­flate the suc­cess rate be­cause the most well known pol­icy out­comes in­volve ter­ror­ist vic­to­ries (e.g., the U.S. with­drawal from south­ern Lebanon in 198425). Fur­ther­more, be­cause all of the ter­ror­ist groups have re­mained ac­tive since 2001, am­ple time has been al­lowed for each group to make progress on achiev­ing its pol­icy goals, thereby re­duc­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of ar­ti­fi­cially de­flat­ing the suc­cess rate through too small a time frame. In fact, the ter­ror­ist groups have had sig­nifi­cantly more time than five years to ac­com­plish their pol­icy ob­jec­tives: the groups, on av­er­age, have been ac­tive since 1978; the ma­jor­ity has prac­ticed ter­ror­ism since the 1960s and 1970s; and only four were es­tab­lished after 1990.

A third coun­ters the ap­peal with Pa­pe’s au­thor­ity with the ob­ser­va­tion that “ter­ror­ism does­n’t work” is an old vein of thought; in 1976, ar­gued in “The Fu­til­ity of Ter­ror­ism” that ter­ror­ism is an in­effec­tive strat­e­gy, and said it “al­most never ap­pears to ac­com­plish any­thing po­lit­i­cally sig­nifi­cant.”26, and con­curs in this pes­simistic take27; Lo­masky goes so far as to ar­gue that ter­ror­ism is out­right coun­ter­pro­duc­tive in strength­en­ing the tar­geted gov­ern­ment.

One last con­sid­er­a­tion is that the listed groups may not’ve been very suc­cess­ful at all.

Hitting the broad side

The fol­low quotes are from Wikipedia, about the pre­vi­ously cited groups. Where pos­si­ble, I quote the sum­mary of that group’s aims.

  1. The IRA’s stated ob­jec­tive is to end “British rule in Ire­land,” and ac­cord­ing to its con­sti­tu­tion, it wants “to es­tab­lish an Irish So­cial­ist Re­pub­lic, based on the Procla­ma­tion of 1916.” Un­til the 1998 Belfast Agree­ment, it sought to end North­ern Ire­land’s sta­tus within the United King­dom and bring about a united Ire­land by force of arms and po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion.

  2. In 1988, the PLO offi­cially en­dorsed a two-s­tate so­lu­tion, with Is­rael and Pales­tine liv­ing side by side con­tin­gent on spe­cific terms such as mak­ing East Jerusalem cap­i­tal of the Pales­tin­ian state and giv­ing Pales­tini­ans the right of re­turn to land oc­cu­pied by Pales­tini­ans prior to the 1948 and 1967 wars with Is­rael.

  3. Hamas wants to cre­ate an Is­lamic state in the West Bank and the Gaza strip, a goal which com­bines Pales­tin­ian na­tion­al­ism with Is­lamist ob­jec­tives. Hamas’s 1988 char­ter calls for the re­place­ment of Is­rael and the Pales­tin­ian Ter­ri­to­ries with an Is­lamic Pales­tin­ian state.

  4. Hezbol­lah’s 1985 man­i­festo listed its three main goals as “putting an end to any colo­nial­ist en­tity” in Lebanon, bring­ing the Pha­langists to jus­tice for “the crimes they [had] per­pe­trat­ed,” and the es­tab­lish­ment of an Is­lamic regime in Lebanon. Re­cent­ly, how­ev­er, Hezbol­lah has made lit­tle men­tion of es­tab­lish­ing an Is­lamic state, and forged al­liances across re­li­gious lines. Hezbol­lah lead­ers have also made nu­mer­ous state­ments call­ing for the de­struc­tion of Is­rael, which they re­fer to as a “Zion­ist en­ti­ty… built on lands wrested from their own­ers.”

One strik­ing thing about the goals of these groups is how few of them have been ac­com­plished, and how often they seem to have sab­o­taged and un­done real progress to­wards res­o­lu­tion of their griev­ances. Any­one even slightly fa­mil­iar with Pales­tine and Is­rael in par­tic­u­lar must won­der whether Hamas or the PLO have helped the Pales­tin­ian cause more than they’ve hurt (an ob­ser­va­tion equally ap­plic­a­ble to Ire­land).


These ideas and analy­ses can make peo­ple quite an­gry. They view the pre­vi­ously men­tioned or­ga­ni­za­tions, as well as al-Qaeda, as be­ing such ob­vi­ous ex­am­ples that any­one sug­gest­ing that ter­ror­ism may be use­less is seen as be­ing a naive id­iot or per­haps be­ing dis­hon­est. The level of emo­tion seems quite un­war­rant­ed, and makes me think that there may be at play.

The (when “peo­ple base their pre­dic­tion of the fre­quency of an event or the pro­por­tion within a pop­u­la­tion based on how eas­ily an ex­am­ple can be brought to mind”) seems to ap­ply here. It is much eas­ier to think of claimed at­tacks than anony­mous ones, even though it was hinted at the be­gin­ning that ter­ror­ist at­tacks for which the group claims re­spon­si­bil­ity are ac­tu­ally in the mi­nor­i­ty! This very coun­ter-in­tu­itive claim seems to be borne out:

Since the emer­gence of mod­ern ter­ror­ism in 1968, 64% of world­wide ter­ror­ist at­tacks have been car­ried out by un­known per­pe­tra­tors. Anony­mous ter­ror­ism has been ris­ing, with 3 out of 4 at­tacks go­ing un­claimed since Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001. Anony­mous ter­ror­ism is par­tic­u­larly preva­lent in Iraq, where the US mil­i­tary has strug­gled to de­ter­mine whether the vi­o­lence was per­pe­trated by Shi­ite or Sunni groups with vastly differ­ent po­lit­i­cal plat­forms.28

(I­nas­much as peo­ple read about iden­ti­fied at­tacks and ig­nore anony­mous at­tacks, there may also be some at work as well.)

It’s about feeling better

Is­n’t it pos­si­ble that many ter­ror­ist acts are re­ally for the pur­pose of mak­ing the ter­ror­ists feel bet­ter about them­selves and their in­-groups? Like teenagers play­ing pranks, only with often-lethal con­se­quences.

This is some­what differ­ent from the sug­ges­tion that ter­ror­ists join for a group to spend time with; this hy­poth­e­sis is about so­cial net­works, self­-es­teem, and re­pair­ing in­juries to it. Ter­ror­ists are not mad293031 (de­spite an oc­cu­pa­tion con­ducive to it32), nor are they de­monic agents of de­struc­tion.

That said, the data on ter­ror­ist re­cruit­ment sug­gests that pres­tige & power of the group or promi­nent mem­bers has more to do with the at­trac­tive­ness of be­ing a ter­ror­ist than whether a re­cruit’s has re­cently been hu­mil­i­ated by an . Con­sider the . Were Mus­lims deeply offended by the di­rected against Sad­dam Hus­sein (and the con­se­quent Iraqi suffer­ing and death­s), or by the Pales­tin­ian sit­u­a­tion, then log­i­cally they would join be­fore 9/11 so as to aid al-Qaeda in strik­ing back against the USA. Of course, re­cruit­ment picked up after 9/11, in the face of enor­mous in­ter­na­tional pres­sure on any­thing that even was ru­mored to have Al Qaeda links33. Promis­ing young stu­dents drop their stud­ies to go fight in So­ma­li­a—as a group, not one by one.34 This is per­fectly log­i­cal and even pre­dicted by both the pres­tige and so­cial-ties the­o­ries, but it is harder to make it con­sis­tent with the self­-es­teem the­o­ry.

So­cial net­works can also be . It can be easy to miss this even when the ev­i­dence is star­ing one in the face. From , “The World of Holy War­craft: How al Qaeda is us­ing on­line game the­ory to re­cruit the masses”:

The coun­tert­er­ror­ism com­mu­nity has spent years try­ing to de­ter­mine why so many peo­ple are en­gaged in on­line ji­hadi com­mu­ni­ties in such a mean­ing­ful way. After all, the life of an on­line ad­min­is­tra­tor for a hard-line Is­lamist fo­rum is not as ex­cit­ing as one might ex­pect. You don’t get paid, and you spend most of your time post­ing links and videos, com­ment­ing on other peo­ple’s links and videos, and then com­ment­ing on other peo­ple’s com­ments. So why do peo­ple like Abu­mubarak spend weeks and months and years of their time do­ing it? Ex­pla­na­tions from schol­ars have ranged from the in­her­ently com­pul­sive and vi­o­lent qual­ity of Is­lam to the psy­chol­ogy of ter­ror­ists.

But no one seems to have no­ticed that the fer­vor of on­line ji­hadists is ac­tu­ally quite sim­i­lar to the fer­vor of any other on­line group. The on­line world of Is­lamic ex­trem­ists, like all the other worlds of the In­ter­net, op­er­ates on a sub­tly psy­cho­log­i­cal level that does a bril­liant job at keep­ing peo­ple like Abu­mubarak click­ing and post­ing away—and amass­ing all the rank­ings, scores, badges, and lev­els to prove it…It turns out that what dri­ves on­line ji­hadists is pretty much ex­actly what dri­ves In­ter­net trolls, air­line ticket con­sumers, and World of War­craft play­ers: com­pe­ti­tion…­Points can re­sult in an ar­ray of seem­ingly triv­ial re­wards, in­clud­ing a change in the color of a mem­ber’s user­name, the abil­ity to dis­play an avatar, ac­cess to pri­vate groups, and even a change in sta­tus level from, say, “peas­ant” to “VIP.” In the con­text of the gam­i­fied sys­tem, how­ev­er, these pal­try in­cen­tives re­ally mat­ter.

But for a se­lect few, the ad­dic­tion to win­ning bleeds over into phys­i­cal space to the point where those same in­cen­tives be­gin to shape the way they act in the real world. These in­di­vid­u­als strive to live up to their vir­tual iden­ti­ties, in the way that teens have re-cre­ated the video game Grand Theft Auto in real life, car­ry­ing out rob­beries and mur­ders.

One man in par­tic­u­lar has been able to take ad­van­tage of the in­cen­tives of on­line gam­i­fi­ca­tion to pur­sue re­al-life ter­ror­ist re­cruits: , the Amer­i­can-born al Qaeda cleric hid­ing in Yemen, fa­mous for hav­ing helped en­cour­age a num­ber of West­ern-based would-be ji­hadists into ac­tion. , the al­leged Fort Hood shooter, for ex­am­ple, mas­sa­cred a dozen sol­diers after ex­chang­ing a num­ber of emails with Awla­ki. , the Times Square bomber, ad­mit­ted Awlaki in­flu­enced him, and was one of Awlak­i’s stu­dents prior to at­tempt­ing to blow up an air­plane on Christ­mas Day 2009…His sup­port­ers vie for the right to con­nect with Awlaki, whether vir­tu­ally or ac­tu­al­ly—a pow­er­ful in­cen­tive that, from our ob­ser­va­tion, dri­ves many of them in­to, at the very least, more ac­tive lan­guage about ji­had.

A user who called him­self “Be­laid” on Awlak­i’s now-de­funct blog boasted to oth­ers about what he per­ceived to be a re­sponse to his email in Awlak­i’s lat­est blog post, say­ing: “S. An­war Al-Awlaki i sin­cerely love u for the Sake of Al­lah for what you are do­ing, I think you an­swered my e-mail by giv­ing us this doc­u­ment.” He then fol­lowed up by ex­press­ing his de­sire to tran­si­tion from vir­tual com­mu­ni­ca­tion to real com­mu­ni­ca­tion. “I ask Al­lah to make me go visit you so I can see you in real and we in sha Al­lah go to­gether do ji­had in­sha Al­lah in our life time!!!” he wrote in Jan­u­ary 2009.

The right in­ter­pre­ta­tion is al­most too ob­vi­ous to give. World of War­craft is not about com­pe­ti­tion any more than those fo­rums are; the lit­er­a­ture on MMORPGs and since the 1980s (and even video games35) in gen­eral have con­cen­trated on the so­cial as­pects36 of on­line in­ter­ac­tions. It’s a com­mon­place that long-term play­ers of Ul­tima On­line—no, Everquest, no, World of War­craft—do so not in or­der to com­pete for the high­est player level37 but in or­der to con­tinue play­ing with their . (In line with the fol­low­ing sec­tion, mar­riages be­tween play­ers who met in guilds are far from un­heard of; they are no longer even news.)

If we see ter­ror­ism as more of a tribal or gang ac­tiv­ity than po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism or war­fare, then on­line con­nec­tions be­come es­pe­cially im­por­tant to our analy­sis, oth­er­wise we will be fooled by so-called . Ear­lier ‘lone wolves’ like bombers or turn out on closer in­spec­tion to have ties, so­cial & oth­er­wise, to like-minded peo­ple; McVeigh lived with sev­eral other ex­trem­ists and was taught his bom­b-mak­ing skills by the Nichols, who also built the fi­nal bomb with him, while Rudolph re­mained on the run for sev­eral years in a com­mu­nity that wrote songs and sold t-shirts to praise him and was ul­ti­mately caught clean-shaven & wear­ing new sneak­ers. Lone wolves who gen­uinely had no con­tact with their con­fr­eres, such as , are van­ish­ingly rare ex­cep­tions among the dozens of thou­sands of ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the 20th cen­tu­ry, and as rare ex­cep­tions, oth­er­wise im­plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tions like men­tal dis­ease ac­count for them with­out trou­ble.

About the chicks, man

One com­menter sug­gested that Abrahms al­most has it right. Ter­ror­ists are seek­ing so­cial ties, but only as a sub­sti­tute for fe­male com­pan­ion­ship. The spe­cific ex­am­ple was the Amer­i­can novel/movie ; cer­tain­ly, when one thinks about it, it’s hard to not no­tice that the nar­ra­tor goes–thanks to lead­ing a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion–from be­ing a sin­gle loser who has to pre­tend to be ill (men­tally and phys­i­cal­ly) to get any at­ten­tion or so­cial in­ter­ac­tion, to be­ing an in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar guy with dozens of sub­or­di­nates to hang out with day and night and a girl­friend.

But an even bet­ter ex­am­ple might be Fa­tah’s cell.

In ’s “All You Need Is Love”, Bruce Hoff­man writes that a se­nior Fa­tah gen­eral told him of how they de­cided that Black Sep­tem­ber had out­lived its use­ful­ness, and needed to be dis­solved. But that was prob­lem­at­ic. Black Sep­tem­ber likely would not take dis­so­lu­tion ly­ing down:

‘It was the most elite unit we had. The mem­bers were sui­ci­dal—not in the sense of re­li­gious ter­ror­ists who sur­ren­der their lives to as­cend to heaven but in the sense that we could send them any­where to do any­thing and they were pre­pared to lay down their lives to do it. No ques­tion. No hes­i­ta­tion. They were ab­solutely ded­i­cated and ab­solutely ruth­less.’

What, then, did Fa­tah do in 1973? They must’ve suc­ceed­ed; we all know Black Sep­tem­ber is an­cient his­to­ry.

My host, who was one of most trusted deputies, was charged with de­vis­ing a so­lu­tion. For months both men thought of var­i­ous ways to solve the Black Sep­tem­ber prob­lem, dis­cussing and de­bat­ing what they could pos­si­bly do, short of killing all these young men, to stop them from com­mit­ting fur­ther acts of ter­ror.

Fi­nally they hit upon an idea. Why not sim­ply marry them off? In other words, why not find a way to give these men—the most ded­i­cat­ed, com­pe­tent, and im­placa­ble fight­ers in the en­tire PLO—a rea­son to live rather than to die? Hav­ing failed to come up with any vi­able al­ter­na­tives, the two men put their plan in mo­tion.

And it worked!

So ap­prox­i­mately a hun­dred of these beau­ti­ful young women were brought to Beirut. There, in a sort of PLO ver­sion of a col­lege mix­er, boy met girl, boy fell in love with girl, boy would, it was hoped, marry girl. There was an ad­di­tional in­cen­tive, de­signed to fa­cil­i­tate not just amorous con­nec­tions but long-last­ing re­la­tion­ships. The hun­dred or so Black Sep­tem­berists were told that if they mar­ried these wom­en, they would be paid $12,178$3,0001973; given an apart­ment in Beirut with a gas stove, a re­frig­er­a­tor, and a tele­vi­sion; and em­ployed by the PLO in some non­vi­o­lent ca­pac­i­ty. Any of these cou­ples that had a baby within a year would be re­warded with an ad­di­tional $20,296$5,0001973.

Both Abu Iyad and the fu­ture gen­eral wor­ried that their scheme would never work. But, as the gen­eral re­count­ed, with­out ex­cep­tion the Black Sep­tem­berists fell in love, got mar­ried, set­tled down, and in most cases started a fam­i­ly…the gen­eral ex­plained, not one of them would agree to travel abroad, for fear of be­ing ar­rested and los­ing all that they had—that is, be­ing de­prived of their wives and chil­dren. ‘And so’, my host told me, ‘that is how we shut down Black Sep­tem­ber and elim­i­nated ter­ror­ism. It is the only suc­cess­ful case that I know of.’

Of course, the base rate for be­com­ing a dis­pos­sessed young man be­com­ing a ter­ror­ist is so low that it would­n’t be a good use of young women to try to pre­vent ter­ror­ism by mar­ry­ing them off, while if you can tar­get the mar­riages to known ter­ror­ists, you have enough in­for­ma­tion that you would be bet­ter off just im­pris­on­ing or ex­e­cut­ing them. Sim­i­lar­ly, cases of women falling in love with ji­hadis on­line or through Twit­ter and trav­el­ing in groups to the Mid­dle East are not im­por­tant in an ab­solute num­bers sense but for the im­pli­ca­tions about their psy­chol­o­gy.

Black Sep­tem­ber is in­ter­est­ing for what the effect of mar­riage says about the mo­ti­va­tions of their mem­bers, not as a pro­to­type of a use­ful sup­pres­sion strat­e­gy—­most coun­tries do not have the same re­la­tion to ter­ror­ist groups that Fa­tah had to Black Sep­tem­ber, and can adopt more effec­tive strate­gies.

  1. As well as de­lib­er­ate sab­o­tage of pro­duc­tive peace pro­pos­als (to which de­ci­sion the­o­rists might re­act in hor­ror, after all, one can al­ways break a peace if it no longer seems like the course of ac­tion with the high­est mar­ginal re­turn): Ky­dd, An­drew H. and Wal­ter, Bar­bara F. (2002) “Sab­o­tag­ing the peace: The pol­i­tics of ex­trem­ist vi­o­lence”. In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion 56 263–296.↩︎

  2. “Does Ter­ror­ism Re­ally Work? Evo­lu­tion in the Con­ven­tional Wis­dom since 9/11”, Max Abrahms 2012:

    In the 1980s, Cren­shaw (Cren­shaw, 1988, 15) like­wise ob­served that ter­ror­ists do not ob­tain their given po­lit­i­cal ends, and “There­fore one must con­clude that ter­ror­ism is ob­jec­tively a fail­ure.” Sim­i­lar­ly, the RAND Cor­po­ra­tion (Cordes et al., 1984, 49) re­marked at the time that “Ter­ror­ists have been un­able to trans­late the con­se­quences of ter­ror­ism into con­crete po­lit­i­cal gains. . .[I]n that sense ter­ror­ism has failed. It is a fun­da­men­tal fail­ure.” In the 1990s, Held (1991, 70) as­serted that the “net effect” of ter­ror­ism is po­lit­i­cally coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. Chai (1993, 99) de­clared that ter­ror­ism “has rarely pro­vided po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fits” at the bar­gain­ing table. Schelling (1991, 20) agreed, pro­claim­ing that “Ter­ror­ism al­most never ap­pears to ac­com­plish any­thing po­lit­i­cally sig­nifi­cant.” Since the Sep­tem­ber 11 at­tacks, a se­ries of large-n ob­ser­va­tional stud­ies has offered a firmer em­pir­i­cal ba­sis. These in­di­cate that al­though ter­ror­ism is chill­ingly suc­cess­ful in count­less ways, co­erc­ing gov­ern­ment com­pli­ance is not one of them.6…Hard case stud­ies (Abrahms, 2010; Cron­in, 2009; Dan­nen­baum, 2011; Moghadam, 2006; Neu­mann and Smith, 2007) have in­spected the lim­ited his­tor­i­cal ex­am­ples of clear-cut ter­ror­ist vic­to­ries, de­ter­min­ing that these salient events were idio­syn­crat­ic, un­re­lated to the harm­ing of civil­ians, or both.

    • Cren­shaw, M. (1988). “The sub­jec­tive re­al­ity of the ter­ror­ist: Ide­o­log­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal fac­tors in ter­ror­ism”. In R. Slater and M. Stohl (Ed­s.), Cur­rent per­spec­tives on in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism (pp. 12–46)
    • Held, Vir­ginia. (1991) “Ter­ror­ism, Rights, and Po­lit­i­cal Goals”. In Vi­o­lence, Ter­ror­ism, and Jus­tice, edited by R.G. Frey and Christo­pher W. Mor­ris
    • Chai, Sun-Ki. 1993. “An Or­ga­ni­za­tional Eco­nom­ics The­ory of An­ti-Gov­ern­ment Vi­o­lence”, Com­par­a­tive Pol­i­tics 26(1): 99–110.
    • Schelling, Thomas C. (1991) “What Pur­poses Can In­ter­na­tional Ter­ror­ism Serve?” In Vi­o­lence, Ter­ror­ism, and Jus­tice, edited by Ray­mond Gille­spie Frey and Christo­pher W. Mor­ris
    • Moghadam, As­saf. (2006) “Sui­cide ter­ror­ism, oc­cu­pa­tion, and the glob­al­iza­tion of mar­tyr­dom: A cri­tique of dy­ing to win”. Stud­ies in Con­flict and Ter­ror­ism 29 707–729
  3. Ref­er­ences:

  4. Abrahms 2012:

    Gaibul­loev and San­dler (2009) an­a­lyze a dataset of in­ter­na­tional hostage crises from 1978 to 2005. They ex­ploit vari­a­tion in whether the hostage-tak­ers es­ca­late by killing the hostages in­stead of re­leas­ing them un­scathed. The study finds that hostage-tak­ers sig­nifi­cantly lower the odds of achiev­ing their de­mands by in­flict­ing phys­i­cal harm in the course of the stand­off. The au­thors con­clude that ter­ror­ists gain bar­gain­ing lever­age from re­straint, as es­ca­lat­ing to “blood­shed does not bol­ster a ne­go­ti­ated out­come” (19).

    • Gaibul­lo­ev, Khus­rav. and San­dler, Todd. (2009) “Hostage Tak­ing: De­ter­mi­nants of Ter­ror­ist Lo­gis­ti­cal and Ne­go­ti­a­tion Suc­cess”. Jour­nal of Peace Re­search 46 739–756
  5. Abrahms 2012:

    In a cou­ple of sta­tis­ti­cal pa­pers, Berrebi and Klor (2006, 2008) demon­strate that ter­ror­ist fa­tal­i­ties within Is­rael sig­nifi­cantly boost lo­cal sup­port for right-bloc par­ties op­posed to ac­com­mo­da­tion, such as the Likud. Other quan­ti­ta­tive work goes even fur­ther, re­veal­ing that the most lethal ter­ror­ist in­ci­dents in Is­rael are the most likely to in­duce this right­ward elec­toral shift. The au­thors (Gould and Klor, 2010, 1507) con­clude that height­en­ing the pain to civil­ians tends to “back­fire on the goals of ter­ror­ist fac­tions by hard­en­ing the stance of the tar­geted pop­u­la­tion.” These trends do not ap­pear to be Is­rael-spe­cific. [Gasseb­n­er, Jong-A-Pin, & Mireau 2008 find that es­ca­lat­ing to ter­ror­ism or with ter­ror­ism helps non-s­tate ac­tors to re­move in­cum­bent lead­ers of tar­get coun­tries from po­lit­i­cal office. Un­for­tu­nately for the ter­ror­ists, how­ev­er, tar­get coun­tries tend to be­come even less likely to grant con­ces­sion­s.] Chowani­etz (2010) an­a­lyzes vari­a­tion in pub­lic opin­ion within France, Ger­many, Spain, the United King­dom, and the United States from 1990 to 2006. For each tar­get coun­try, ter­ror­ist at­tacks have shifted the elec­torate to the po­lit­i­cal right in pro­por­tion to their lethal­i­ty. More anec­do­tal­ly, sim­i­lar ob­ser­va­tions (Mueller, 2006, 184; Neu­mann and Smith, 2005, 587; Wilkin­son, 1986, 52) have been reg­is­tered after mass ca­su­alty ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Egypt, In­done­sia, Jor­dan, the Philip­pines, Rus­sia, and Turkey. He­witt (1993, 80) offers this syl­lo­gism of how tar­get coun­tries typ­i­cally re­spond: “The pub­lic fa­vors hard-line poli­cies against ter­ror­ism. Con­ser­v­a­tive par­ties are more likely to ad­vo­cate hard-line poli­cies. There­fore, the pub­lic will view con­ser­v­a­tive par­ties as the best.” In a more re­cent sum­mary of the lit­er­a­ture, RAND (Ber­re­bi, 2009, 189–190) also de­ter­mi­nes: “Ter­ror­ist fa­tal­i­ties, with few ex­cep­tions, in­crease sup­port for the bloc of par­ties as­so­ci­ated with a more-in­tran­si­gent po­si­tion. Schol­ars may in­ter­pret this as fur­ther ev­i­dence that ter­ror­ist at­tacks against civil­ians do not help ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions achieve their stated goals (e.g., Abrahms, 2006).” Psy­chol­o­gists (e.g., Jost 2006, Jost 2008) have repli­cated these re­sults in lab­o­ra­tory ex­per­i­ments, fur­ther rul­ing out the pos­si­bil­ity of a se­lec­tion effect dri­ving the re­sults. Con­sis­tent with these quan­ti­ta­tive stud­ies, his­tor­i­cal re­search (e.g., Cron­in, 2009; Jones and Li­bicki, 2008) on ter­ror­ism is also find­ing that the stan­dard gov­ern­men­tal re­sponse is not ac­com­mo­da­tion, but provo­ca­tion par­tic­u­larly after the blood­i­est at­tacks.

    Per­haps un­sur­pris­ing­ly, the most no­to­ri­ous rebel lead­ers in mod­ern his­tory from Ab­dul­lah Yusuf Az­zam to Regis De­bray, Vo Nguyen Gi­ap, Che Gue­vara, and Car­los Marighela ad­mon­ished their foot-sol­diers against tar­get­ing the pop­u­la­tion since the in­dis­crim­i­nate vi­o­lence was prov­ing coun­ter­pro­duc­tive (Rapoport, 2004, 54–55; We­in­stein, 2007, 30–31; and Wilkin­son, 1986, 53, 59, 100, 112). In the months lead­ing up to his death, even Osama bin Laden com­manded his lieu­tenants to re­frain from tar­get­ing West­ern civil­ians be­cause in his view the in­dis­crim­i­nate vi­o­lence was not hav­ing the de­sired effect on their gov­ern­ments (“Bin Laden against At­tacks on Civil­ians, Deputy Says,” Reuters, 2011-02-25). Ac­cord­ing to con­tem­po­rary news ac­counts (“For Arab Awak­en­ing, Bin Laden Was Al­ready Dead,” Ra­dio Free Eu­rope, 2011-05-04), this grow­ing con­sen­sus is be­hind the pri­macy of non­vi­o­lence over ter­ror­ism in the Arab Awak­en­ing en­gulfing the Mid­dle East and North Africa…­More sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly, Pape (1996) sur­veys the uni­verse of strate­gic bomb­ing cam­paigns from the First World War to the 1990 Per­sian Gulf War. His analy­sis re­veals that gov­ern­ments reach an in­fe­rior bar­gain when their cam­paigns tar­get the pop­u­la­tion, an as­sess­ment reaffirmed in in­de­pen­dent sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis. In the most com­pre­hen­sive and re­cent study, Cochran and Downes (2011) ex­ploit vari­a­tion in the use of civil­ian vic­tim­iza­tion cam­paigns on in­ter­state war out­comes from 1816 to 2007. Their re­search shows that mil­i­tary lead­ers and politi­cians err in think­ing that civil­ian vic­tim­iza­tion pays. Though ob­vi­ously suc­cess­ful in stamp­ing out count­less civil­ians, in­dis­crim­i­nate bomb­ings, sieges, mis­sile strikes, and other painful meth­ods against the pop­u­la­tion do not yield a su­pe­rior set­tle­ment re­gard­less of the costs.

  6. This back­lash effect seems to’ve been de­lib­er­ately ex­ploited on oc­ca­sions; “When It Pays to Talk to Ter­ror­ists”, NYT:

    Most schol­ars of the now agree that at­tacks like were de­signed by ri­vals to shift power away from mod­er­ates and into the hands of more rad­i­cal fac­tions. The string of at­tacks at­trib­uted to the be­tween No­vem­ber 1971 and March 1973, of which Mu­nich was the most dra­mat­ic, were ac­tu­ally an in­di­ca­tion of the rifts within the P.L.O. While events like Mu­nich seized head­li­nes, a grow­ing num­ber of mod­er­ates within the P.L.O.—­most no­tably Arafat—were putting out feel­ers about the prospect of a two-s­tate so­lu­tion in the Is­raeli-Pales­tin­ian dis­pute.

    Al­though their rhetoric con­tin­ued to call for Is­rael’s de­struc­tion, mod­er­ate lead­ers sent pri­vate sig­nals in­di­cat­ing a will­ing­ness to com­pro­mise. “We need a change of tac­tics,” Arafat told So­viet offi­cials in 1971. “We can­not affect the out­come of the po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment un­less we par­tic­i­pate in it.” He then drew a map out­lin­ing a two-s­tate so­lu­tion for Is­rael and Pales­tine. As State De­part­ment offi­cials rec­og­nized in June 1972, the “young wolves” in the move­ment had forced Arafat to “back off” from se­ri­ous peace over­tures in or­der to re­main in pow­er.

    Mu­nich was also en­gi­neered to elicit vi­o­lent reprisals from the Is­raeli gov­ern­men­t—which it did in the form of airstrikes against Pales­tin­ian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria that killed hun­dreds, mostly civil­ians. Per­suaded of the fun­da­men­tal evil that Pales­tin­ian mil­i­tants rep­re­sent­ed, Amer­i­can lead­ers re­mained stead­fast in their re­fusal to con­demn Is­rael for its at­tacks on Syria and Lebanon, choos­ing in­stead to cast Amer­i­ca’s first lone veto of a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion on Sept. 10, 1972. The veto affirmed Wash­ing­ton’s po­si­tion on the P.L.O.: no recog­ni­tion, no ne­go­ti­a­tion and no le­git­i­macy for ter­ror­ists.

    “In­sti­tu­tions will try to pre­serve the prob­lem to which they are the so­lu­tion”; one sus­pects that the rar­ity of ter­ror­ism plus this back­fire effect is the rea­son so many have been con­ducted or by gov­ern­ments, as epit­o­mized by the “”. This ob­ser­va­tion would also ex­plain other odd­i­ties where we no­tice that se­cret po­lice seem to often hold off on death blows, en­gage in ter­ror­ism them­selves, or sup­port it over­seas de­spite the pre­dictable risk of cat­a­strophic blow­back: many well-known in­stances can be listed such as FBI in­fil­tra­tion of the Ku Klux Klan (peak­ing at in­for­mants com­pris­ing up to 20% of its mem­bers, lead­er­ship po­si­tions in 7 of 14 groups, head of one state’s Klans­men, run­ning its own splin­ter group, and pos­si­bly shield­ing in­for­mants who mur­dered); the FBI’s reg­u­lar cre­ation of ‘ter­ror­ist plots’ dur­ing the War on Ter­ror; Adolf Hitler join­ing the Ger­man Work­ers’ Party at the be­hest of the Re­ich­swehr as an in­for­mant; the old ru­mors that Stalin was an Okhrana mole in ad­di­tion to the Okhrana forg­ing , Ger­man fund­ing & lo­gis­tics sup­port for Lenin & the Bol­she­viks; CIA sup­port for ji­hadists (part of a net­work of events lead­ing to 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq); the (spon­sored by the Ser­bian gov­ern­ment, which then ex­pe­ri­enced the blow­back of WWI); Ger­many con­tin­ues to in­ves­ti­gate how the was funded by in­tel­li­gence agen­cies & per­mit­ted to keep killing de­spite be­ing in­fil­trated (Neo-Nazi groups in Ger­many are par­tic­u­larly no­to­ri­ous for be­ing rid­dled with in­for­mants and gov­ern­ment agents); Pak­istan’s has long funded or con­trolled Is­lamist groups in­tended for use against In­dia (par­tic­u­larly in the Kash­mir) de­spite the ex­is­ten­tial threat those groups pose to the Pak­istani state etc. The case of the Okhrana is suffi­ciently strik­ing as to be worth quot­ing: “From the Okhrana to the KGB: Con­ti­nu­ities in Russ­ian for­eign in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions since the 1880s”, An­drew 1989?:

    After its foun­da­tion in 1881, the Okhrana rapidly de­vel­oped a net­work of agents and agents provo­ca­teurs, ini­tially to pen­e­trate the rev­o­lu­tion­ary Di­as­pora abroad. In 1886, Rachkovsky’s agents blew up the Peo­ple’s Will print­works in Geneva, suc­cess­fully giv­ing the im­pres­sion that the ex­plo­sion was the work of dis­affected rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies. In 1890, Rachkovsky un­masked a sen­sa­tional bom­b-mak­ing con­spir­acy by Russ­ian emi­gres in Paris; the lead­ing plot­ter was, in re­al­i­ty, one of his own agents provo­ca­teurs. The most suc­cess­ful in­tel­li­gence pen­e­tra­tion any­where in Eu­rope be­fore World War I was the Russ­ian re­cruit­ment of the se­nior Aus­trian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence offi­cer, Colonel Al­fred Redl. The Redl sto­ry, like those of the Cam­bridge moles, has been em­broi­dered with a good many fan­tasies. But even the un­em­broi­dered story is re­mark­able. In the win­ter of 1901–1902, Colonel Batyush­in, head of Russ­ian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence in War­saw, dis­cov­ered that, un­known ei­ther to his su­pe­ri­ors or to his friends, Redl was a promis­cu­ous ho­mo­sex­u­al. By a mix­ture of black­mail and bribery of the kind some­times em­ployed later by the KGB; he re­cruited Redl as a pen­e­tra­tion agent. With the money given him by the Rus­sians, Redl was able to pur­chase cars for him­self and for one of his fa­vorite lovers, a young Uh­lan offi­cer to whom he paid 600 crowns a month. Redl pro­vided vo­lu­mi­nous in­tel­li­gence dur­ing the decade be­fore his sui­cide in 1913, in­clud­ing Aus­tri­a’s mo­bi­liza­tion plans against both Rus­sia and Ser­bia.4

    The Bol­she­viks learned from Okhrana files after the Feb­ru­ary Rev­o­lu­tion that al­most from the mo­ment the Russ­ian So­cial De­mo­c­ra­tic Labour Party split into Bol­she­viks and Men­she­viks in 1903, they had been more suc­cess­fully pen­e­trated than per­haps any other rev­o­lu­tion­ary group. Okhrana knowl­edge of Bol­she­vik or­gan­i­sa­tion and ac­tiv­i­ties was so de­tailed and thor­ough that, though some of its records were scat­tered when its offices were sacked in the after­math of the Feb­ru­ary Rev­o­lu­tion, what sur­vived has be­come one of the ma­jor doc­u­men­tary sources for early Bol­she­vik his­to­ry. Of the five mem­bers of the Bol­she­vik Par­ty’s St. Pe­ters­burg Com­mit­tee in 1908 and 1909, no less than four were Okhrana agents.5 The most re­mark­able mole, re­cruited by the Okhrana in 1910, was a Moscow worker named Ro­man Ma­li­novskv, who in 1912 was elected as one of the six Bol­she­vik deputies in the Du­ma, the tsarist par­lia­ment. “For the first time,” wrote Lenin en­thu­si­as­ti­cal­ly, “we have an out­stand­ing leader (Ma­li­novsky) from among the work­ers rep­re­sent­ing us in the Du­ma.” In a party ded­i­cated to pro­le­tar­ian rev­o­lu­tion but as yet with­out pro­le­tar­ian lead­ers, Lenin saw Ma­li­novsky, whom he brought on to the Bol­she­vik Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, as a por­tent of great im­por­tance: “It is re­ally pos­si­ble to build a work­ers’ party with such peo­ple, though the diffi­cul­ties will be in­cred­i­bly great.”…By 1912, Lenin was so con­cerned by the prob­lem of Okhrana pen­e­tra­tion that, on his ini­tia­tive, the Bol­she­vik Cen­tral Com­mit­tee set up a three­-man “provo­ca­tion com­mis­sion” that in­cluded Ma­li­novsky… S. P. Belet­sky, the di­rec­tor of the Po­lice De­part­ment, de­scribed Ma­li­novsky as “the pride of the Okhrana.” But the strain of his dou­ble life even­tu­ally proved too much. Even Lenin, his strongest sup­port­er, be­came con­cerned about his heavy drink­ing. In May 1914, the new Deputy Min­is­ter of the In­te­ri­or, V. F. Dzhunkovsky, pos­si­bly fear­ing the scan­dal that would re­sult if Ma­li­novsky’s in­creas­ingly er­ratic be­hav­ior led to the rev­e­la­tion that the Okhrana em­ployed him as an agent in the Du­ma, de­cided to get rid of him. Ma­li­novsky re­signed from the Du­ma, and he fled from St. Pe­ters­burg with a 6,000-ru­ble pay­off that the Okhrana urged him to use to start a new life abroad. But Lenin had been so thor­oughly de­ceived that, when proof of Ma­li­novsky’s guilt emerged from Okhrana files opened after the Feb­ru­ary Rev­o­lu­tion in 1917, he at first re­fused to be­lieve it.7

  7. “The Cred­i­bil­ity Para­dox: Vi­o­lence as a Dou­ble-Edged Sword in In­ter­na­tional Pol­i­tics”, Abrahms 2013↩︎

  8. “Why Is It So Hard to Find a Sui­cide Bomber These Days?”, Charles Kurz­man, Sep­tem­ber 2011:

    Re­cruit­ment diffi­cul­ties have cre­ated a bot­tle­neck for Is­lamist ter­ror­ists’ sig­na­ture tac­tic, sui­cide bomb­ing. These or­ga­ni­za­tions often claim to have wait­ing lists of vol­un­teers ea­ger to serve as mar­tyrs, but if so they’re not very long. Al Qaeda or­ga­nizer Khalid Sheikh Mo­hammed made this point un­in­ten­tion­ally dur­ing a 2002 in­ter­view, sev­eral months be­fore his cap­ture. Mo­hammed bragged about al Qaeda’s abil­ity to re­cruit vol­un­teers for “mar­tyr­dom mis­sions”, as Is­lamist ter­ror­ists call sui­cide at­tacks. “We were never short of po­ten­tial mar­tyrs. In­deed, we have a de­part­ment called the De­part­ment of Mar­tyrs.” “Is it still ac­tive?” asked Yosri Fouda, an Al Jazeera re­porter who had been led, blind­fold­ed, to Mo­hammed’s apart­ment in Karachi, Pak­istan. “Yes, it is, and it al­ways will be as long as we are in ji­had against the in­fi­dels and the Zion­ists. We have scores of vol­un­teers. Our prob­lem at the time was to se­lect suit­able peo­ple who were fa­mil­iar with the West.” No­tice the scale here: “scores”, not hun­dred­s—and most deemed not suit­able for ter­ror­ist mis­sions in the West. After Mo­hammed’s cap­ture and “en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion” by the CIA, us­ing meth­ods that the U.S. gov­ern­ment had de­nounced for decades as tor­ture, fed­eral offi­cials tes­ti­fied that Mo­hammed had trained as many as 39 op­er­a­tives for sui­cide mis­sions and that the 9/11 at­tacks in­volved 19 hi­jack­ers “be­cause that was the max­i­mum num­ber of op­er­a­tives that Sheikh Mo­hammed was able to find and send to the U.S. be­fore 9/11.” Ac­cord­ing to a top White House coun­tert­er­ror­ism offi­cial, the ini­tial plans for 9/11 called for a si­mul­ta­ne­ous at­tack on the U.S. West Coast, but al Qaeda could not find enough qual­i­fied peo­ple to carry it out. Mo­hammed’s claim that al Qaeda was “never short of po­ten­tial mar­tyrs” seems to have been false brava­do.

    …How­ev­er, all these es­ti­mates must be re­garded as ex­ag­ger­a­tions. By the U.S. Jus­tice De­part­men­t’s count, ap­prox­i­mately a dozen peo­ple in the coun­try were con­victed in the five years after 9/11 for hav­ing links with al Qae­da. Dur­ing this pe­ri­od, fewer than 40 Mus­lim Amer­i­cans planned or car­ried out acts of do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism, ac­cord­ing to an ex­ten­sive search of news re­ports and le­gal pro­ceed­ings that I con­ducted with David Schanzer and Ebrahim Moosa of Duke Uni­ver­si­ty. None of these at­tacks was found to be as­so­ci­ated with al Qae­da. A month after Taher­i-Azar’s at­tack in Chapel Hill, Mueller vis­ited North Car­olina and warned of Is­lamist vi­o­lence “all over the coun­try.” For­tu­nate­ly, that pre­dic­tion was also wrong. To put this in con­text: Out of more than 150,000 mur­ders in the United States since 9/11—currently more than 14,000 each year—Is­lamist ter­ror­ists ac­counted for fewer than three dozen deaths by the end of 2010.

  9. That pre­vi­ous study is Max Abrahm­s’s “Why Ter­ror­ism Does Not Work”; In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity 31.2 (2006) 42–78.↩︎

  10. “Death by a Thou­sand Cuts”, For­eign Pol­icy↩︎

  11. “Qaeda Branch Aimed for Broad Dam­age at Low Cost”, New York Times↩︎

  12. Scott Atran 2003, “Gen­e­sis of Sui­cide Ter­ror­ism” re­view↩︎

  13. “Craig Whit­lock, "Al-Qaeda Mas­ters Ter­ror­ism on the Cheap," The Wash­ing­ton Post, Au­gust 24, 2008.”↩︎

  14. “David Axe, "Sol­diers, Marines Team Up in ‘Trail­blazer’ Pa­trols", Na­tional De­fense: NDIA’s Busi­ness and Tech­nol­ogy Mag­a­zine, April 2006.”↩︎

  15. Bjorn Lom­borg, “Is Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Good Value for Mon­ey?” The Me­chan­ics of Ter­ror­ism, NATO Re­view, April 2008.↩︎

  16. pg 91, , RAND 2010.↩︎

  17. Wired, “$265 Bomb, $300 Bil­lion War: The Eco­nom­ics of the 9/11 Er­a’s Sig­na­ture Weapon”, sourc­ing 2011 es­ti­mates from :

    …ac­cord­ing to the Pen­tagon’s bomb squad, the av­er­age cost of an IED is just a few hun­dred bucks, pocket change to a well-funded in­sur­gency. Worse, over time, the av­er­age cost of the cheapo IEDs have dropped from $1,533$1,1252006 in 2006 to $343$2652009 in 2009. A killing ma­chine, in other words, costs less than a 32-gig iPhone…On av­er­age, a “vic­tim-op­er­ated” bom­b—one set to ex­plode when its tar­get or a civil­ian in­ad­ver­tently sets it off—­cost a mere $343$2652009…The next most plen­ti­ful cat­e­gory of bomb, those set off with com­mand wires lead­ing from the de­vice, also cost $343$2652009 on av­er­age in 2009, ac­count­ing for an­other 23.8% of at­tack­s…Bombs ac­ti­vated with a re­mote det­o­na­tor like a cell­phone cost a mere $445$3452011 and ac­counted for a sur­pris­ingly smal­l­—12.6%—of at­tacks, per­haps ow­ing to the U.S.’ hard-won abil­ity to jam the det­o­na­tor sig­nal…­For in­sur­gents to turn a car into a bomb or con­vince some­one to kill him­self dur­ing a det­o­na­tion—or both­—the cost shoots up into the thou­sands: $12,952$10,0322011 for a sui­cide bomber; $19,779$15,3202011 for a car bomb; nearly 19 grand to drive a car bom­b…­Most of those bombs have got­ten cheaper to pro­duce. In 2006, vic­tim-op­er­ated IEDs cost an av­er­age of $1,533$1,1252006. Com­mand-wire bombs were $1,725$1,2662006. Re­mote det­o­na­tion bombs? The same…­Car bombs cost $2,283$1,6752006 on av­er­age in 2006—which seems ab­surdly low, given the cost of one in­volves ac­quir­ing and then trick­ing out a car. And the go­ing rate on sui­cide bombers ap­pears to have risen, from $8,130$5,9662006 in 2006 to nearly dou­ble that in 2009. Ac­cord­ing­ly, both ac­counted for over 16% of IED at­tacks in ’06. And JIEDDO says it has pre­lim­i­nary re­port­ing in­di­cat­ing that sui­cide bombers cost $38,732$30,0002011 as of Jan­u­ary.

  18. “AP sources: Christ­mas bomber con­sid­ered Hous­ton, Chicago, then picked cheap­est op­tion: De­troit”, Wash­ing­ton Post↩︎

  19. From the ; “12 peo­ple killed, 11 in­jured, in at­tack on Paris offices of satir­i­cal news­pa­per”:

    It is un­der­stood the gun­men ini­tially burst into num­ber 6 rue Nico­las-Ap­pert in a Paris neigh­bour­hood, where the archives of the Char­lie Hebdo are based, shout­ing “is this Char­lie Hebdo?” be­fore re­al­is­ing they had got the wrong ad­dress.

  20. “Two British men ad­mit to link­ing up with ex­trem­ist group in Syr­ia: Yusuf Sar­war and Mo­hammed Ahmed, who were re­ported to po­lice by fam­ily mem­ber, plead guilty to ter­ror­ism offences”:

    Two Birm­ing­ham men ad­mit­ted on Tues­day to link­ing up with an ex­trem­ist group fight­ing ji­had in Syr­ia, after a fam­ily mem­ber re­ported them to the po­lice…Po­lice did not know the men had trav­elled to Syr­ia, where they spent eight months, un­til one of their moth­ers con­tacted de­tec­tives in May last year, shortly after the pair had left. She had found a note writ­ten by her son say­ing he had gone to fight and wished to “die as a mar­tyr”. The men were ar­rested on their re­turn to Britain in Jan­u­ary and de­tec­tives found pic­tures of them pos­ing with weapons and be­lieve the pair had been in or around Alep­po, the scene of heavy fight­ing be­tween forces loyal to Syr­ian pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad and rebel groups, among whom are or­gan­i­sa­tions the west now con­sid­ers as ex­trem­ist…Their path to rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion in­volved in­spi­ra­tion from ma­te­r­ial from Osama bin Laden’s men­tor, Ab­dul­lah Az­zam, on­line ma­te­ri­al, and us­ing the in­ter­net to chat with ex­trem­ists over­seas. As part of their prepa­ra­tions they or­dered books on­line from Ama­zon, in­clud­ing ti­tles such as Is­lam For Dum­mies, the Ko­ran For Dum­mies and Ara­bic For Dum­mies.

  21. Quoted from foot­note 81, page 23↩︎

  22. A rate that may re­flect var­i­ous as­sump­tions the re­searchers made or cul­tural differ­ences, as a 2011 Dan­ish pa­per found dis­count rates closer to 5%.↩︎

  23. Atran 2003:

    Re­search by Krueger and Maleck­ova sug­gests that ed­u­ca­tion may be un­cor­re­lat­ed, or even pos­i­tively cor­re­lat­ed, with sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism (26). In a De­cem­ber 2001 poll of 1357 West Bank and Gaza Pales­tini­ans 18 years of age or old­er, those hav­ing 12 or more years of school­ing sup­ported armed at­tacks by 68 points, those with up to 11 years of school­ing by 63 points, and il­lit­er­ates by 46 points. Only 40% of per­sons with ad­vanced de­grees sup­ported di­a­logue with Is­rael ver­sus 53% with col­lege de­grees and 60% with 9 years or less of school­ing. In a com­par­i­son of Hezbol­lah mil­i­tants who died in ac­tion with a ran­dom sam­ple of Lebanese from the same age group and re­gion, mil­i­tants were less likely to come from poor homes and more likely to have had sec­ondary-school ed­u­ca­tion…A Sin­ga­pore Par­lia­men­tary re­port on 31 cap­tured op­er­a­tives from and other Al-Qaida al­lies in South­east Asia un­der­scores the pat­tern: “These men were not ig­no­rant, des­ti­tute or dis­en­fran­chised. All 31 had re­ceived sec­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion. . . . Like many of their coun­ter­parts in mil­i­tant Is­lamic or­ga­ni­za­tions in the re­gion, they held nor­mal, re­spectable jobs. . . . As a group, most of the de­tainees re­garded re­li­gion as their most im­por­tant per­sonal val­ue. . . se­crecy over the true knowl­edge of ji­had, helped cre­ate a sense of shar­ing and em­pow­er­ment vis-a-vis oth­ers.” (35; “White Pa­per—The Je­maah Is­lamiyah Ar­rests”, Sin­ga­pore Min­istry of Home Affairs, 2003-01-09)…in Pak­istan, lit­er­acy and dis­like for the United States in­creased as the num­ber of re­li­gious madrasa schools in­creased from 3000 to 39,000 since 1978 (27, 38).

  24. See, for ex­am­ple, Dy­ing to Win: the Strate­gic Logic of Ter­ror­ism or “The Strate­gic Logic of Sui­cide Ter­ror­ism”, Amer­i­can Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence Re­view, 97(3); Au­gust 2003, pg 13.↩︎

  25. See ↩︎

  26. Schelling. “What Pur­poses Can ‘In­ter­na­tional Ter­ror­ism’ Serve?”, Vi­o­lence, Ter­ror­ism, and Jus­tice 1991↩︎

  27. “In al­most none of the in­stances of ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity is there any gen­uine like­li­hood that the as­sault on per­son or prop­erty will serve to ad­vance the claimed po­lit­i­cal ends.” from “The Po­lit­i­cal Sig­nifi­cance of Ter­ror­ism”, Vi­o­lence, Ter­ror­ism, and Jus­tice↩︎

  28. Abrahms ref­er­ences his analy­sis of a com­pre­hen­sive RAND dataset of global ter­ror­ism in­ci­dents, and also “Why Ter­ror­ists Don’t Claim Credit” (in Ter­ror­ism and Po­lit­i­cal Vi­o­lence, Vol 9 #1 1997).↩︎

  29. “Does Ter­ror­ism Re­ally Work? Evo­lu­tion in the Con­ven­tional Wis­dom since 9/11”, Max Abrahms 2012:

    A the­o­ret­i­cal pos­si­bil­ity is that ter­ror­ists are sim­ply ir­ra­tional or in­sane. Yet psy­cho­log­i­cal as­sess­ments (see Atran 2004; Berrebi 2009; Eu­ben 2007; Hor­gan 2005; Mer­ari 2006; and Vic­to­roff 2005) of ter­ror­ists in­di­cate that they are cog­ni­tively nor­mal. An al­ter­na­tive ex­pla­na­tion with su­pe­rior em­pir­i­cal sup­port is that ter­ror­ists sim­ply over­es­ti­mate the co­er­cive effec­tive­ness of their ac­tions. By most de­fi­n­i­tions, ter­ror­ism is di­rected against civil­ian tar­gets, not mil­i­tary ones (Abrahms 2006; Ganor 2002; Good­win 2006; Hoff­man 2006; Schmid and Jong­man 2005).12 When bar­gain­ing the­o­rists point to cases of suc­cess­ful ter­ror­ist cam­paigns, how­ev­er, their ex­am­ples are usu­ally of guer­rilla cam­paigns, such as the U.S. and French with­drawals from Lebanon after the 1983 Hezbol­lah at­tacks on their mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions. In­ter­est­ing­ly, Osama bin Laden also ref­er­enced his­tor­i­cally suc­cess­ful guer­rilla cam­paigns as proof that ter­ror­ist cam­paigns would pre­vail. Con­tent analy­sis of bin Laden’s state­ments re­veals that the 9/11 at­tacks were in­tended to em­u­late three salient guer­rilla vic­to­ries in par­tic­u­lar: the afore­men­tioned U.S. and French with­drawals from Lebanon in the early 1980s, the So­viet with­drawal from Afghanistan in the late 1980s, and the U.S. with­drawal from So­ma­lia in 1994, de­spite the fact that these cam­paigns were di­rected against mil­i­tary per­son­nel, not civil­ians. Hamas lead­ers make the same mis­take; they often cite the U.S. and French with­drawals from Lebanon as ev­i­dence that blow­ing up Egged buses in Jerusalem will like­wise force the Is­raelis to cave. Ac­cord­ing to Wilkin­son (1986, X, 53, 85), in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism be­gan in the late 1960s be­cause em­u­la­tors tried to repli­cate the po­lit­i­cal suc­cesses of the an­ti-colo­nial strug­gles.

    • Atran, Scott (2004) Trends in Sui­cide Ter­ror­ism: Sense and Non­sense. Pa­per pre­sented to World Fed­er­a­tion of Sci­en­tists Per­ma­nent Mon­i­tor­ing Panel on Ter­ror­ism, Erice, Sici­ly, Au­gust
    • Eu­ben, Rox­anne L. (2007) “Re­view Sym­po­sium: Un­der­stand­ing Sui­cide Ter­ror”. Per­spec­tives on Pol­i­tics 5 118–140.
    • Hor­gan, John. (2005) “The So­cial and Psy­cho­log­i­cal Char­ac­ter­is­tics of Ter­ror­ism and Ter­ror­ists”. In Root Causes of Ter­ror­ism: Myths, Re­al­i­ties and Ways For­ward, edited by Tore Bjor­go. New York: Tay­lor and Fran­cis
    • Mer­ari, Ariel. (2006) “Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­pects of Sui­cide Ter­ror­ism”. In Psy­chol­ogy of Ter­ror­ism, edited by Bruce Bon­gar et al. New York: Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity Press
    • Vic­to­roff, Jeff. (2005) “The Mind of the Ter­ror­ist: A Re­view and Cri­tique of Psy­cho­log­i­cal Ap­proaches”. Jour­nal of Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion 49 3–42
    • Ganor, Boaz. (2002) “Defin­ing ter­ror­ism: Is one man’s ter­ror­ist an­other man’s free­dom fight­er?” Po­lice Prac­tice and Re­search: An In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal 3 287–304
    • Good­win, Jeff. (2006) “A The­ory of Cat­e­gor­i­cal Ter­ror­ism”. So­cial Forces 84 2027–2046.
    • Schmid, Alex P. and Jong­man, Al­bert J. (2005) Po­lit­i­cal ter­ror­ism: A new guide to ac­tors, au­thors, con­cepts, data bases, the­o­ries and lit­er­a­ture
  30. Bo­rum 2004:

    Psy­chol­o­gy, as a dis­ci­pline, has a long his­tory of (per­haps even a bias to­ward) look­ing first to ex­plain de­viant be­hav­iors as a func­tion of psy­chopathol­ogy (i.e., men­tal dis­ease, dis­or­der, or dys­func­tion) or mal­ad­justed per­son­al­ity syn­dromes. As Schmid and Jong­man (1988) not­ed, “The chief as­sump­tion un­der­ly­ing many psy­cho­log­i­cal ‘the­o­ries’…is that the ter­ror­ist in one way or the other not nor­mal and that the in­sights from psy­chol­ogy and psy­chi­a­try are ad­e­quate keys to un­der­stand­ing.” In re­al­i­ty, psy­chopathol­ogy has proven to be, at best, only a mod­est risk fac­tor for gen­eral vi­o­lence, and all but ir­rel­e­vant to un­der­stand­ing ter­ror­ism. In fact, “the idea of ter­ror­ism as the prod­uct of men­tal dis­or­der or psy­chopa­thy has been dis­cred­ited” (Cren­shaw, 1992).

    …N­ev­er­the­less, the re­search that does ex­ist is fairly con­sis­tent in find­ing that se­ri­ous psy­chopathol­ogy or men­tal ill­nesses among ter­ror­ists are rel­a­tively rare, and cer­tainly not a ma­jor fac­tor in un­der­stand­ing or pre­dict­ing ter­ror­ist be­hav­ior (M­c­Cauley, 2002 ; Sage­man, 2004)…In the opin­ion of Fried­land (1992), “as for em­pir­i­cal sup­port, to date there is no com­pelling ev­i­dence that ter­ror­ists are ab­nor­mal, in­sane, or match a unique per­son­al­ity type. In fact, there are some in­di­ca­tions to the con­trary.” The two most sig­nifi­cant schol­arly re­views of the “men­tal dis­or­der” per­spec­tive on ter­ror­ism are that of Ray Cor­rado (198178) and An­drew Silke (1998). Al­though writ­ten nearly twenty years apart, both reached sim­i­lar con­clu­sions. Ac­knowl­edg­ing that some stud­ies have found psy­chopatho­log­i­cal dis­or­ders among some ter­ror­ists, Silke (1998), sum­ma­rized his re­view of the lit­er­a­ture with the fol­low­ing con­clu­sions: “The cri­tique finds that the find­ings sup­port­ing the pathol­ogy model are rare and gen­er­ally of poor qual­i­ty. In con­trast, the ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing ter­ror­ist nor­mal­ity is both more plen­ti­ful and of bet­ter qual­i­ty.” An even more re­cent re­view of the sci­en­tific and pro­fes­sional lit­er­a­ture by Ruby (2002) sim­i­larly “con­cludes that ter­ror­ist are not dys­func­tional or patho­log­i­cal; rather, it sug­gests that ter­ror­ism is ba­si­cally an­other form of po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated vi­o­lence that is per­pe­trated by ra­tio­nal, lu­cid peo­ple who have valid mo­tives.”

    …Is­raeli psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor Ariel Mer­ari is one of the few peo­ple in the world to have col­lected sys­tem­at­ic, em­pir­i­cal data on a sig­nifi­cant sam­ple of sui­cide bombers. He ex­am­ined the back­grounds of every mod­ern era (s­ince 1983) sui­cide bomber in the Mid­dle East. Al­though he ex­pected to find sui­ci­dal dy­nam­ics and men­tal pathol­o­gy, in­stead he found that “In the ma­jor­i­ty, you find none of the risk fac­tors nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with sui­cide, such as mood dis­or­ders or schiz­o­phre­nia, sub­stance abuse or his­tory of at­tempted sui­cide .”

    …N­early a decade lat­er, psy­chol­o­gist John Hor­gan (2003) again ex­am­ined the cu­mu­la­tive re­search ev­i­dence on the search for a ter­ror­ist per­son­al­i­ty, and con­cluded that “in the con­text of a sci­en­tific study of be­hav­iour (which im­plies at least a sense of rigour) such at­tempts to as­sert the pres­ence of a ter­ror­ist per­son­al­i­ty, or pro­file, are piti­ful.” This ap­pears to be a con­clu­sion of con­sen­sus among most re­searchers who study ter­ror­ist be­hav­ior. “With a num­ber of ex­cep­tions (e.g., Feuer 1969), most ob­servers agree that al­though la­tent per­son­al­ity traits can cer­tainly con­tribute to the de­ci­sion to turn to vi­o­lence, there is no sin­gle set of psy­chic at­trib­utes that ex­plains ter­ror­ist be­hav­ior” (M­c­Cormick, 2003).

  31. “MI5 re­port chal­lenges views on ter­ror­ism in Britain: So­phis­ti­cated analy­sis says there is no sin­gle path­way to vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism”:

    It con­cludes that it is not pos­si­ble to draw up a typ­i­cal pro­file of the “British ter­ror­ist” as most are “de­mo­graph­i­cally un­re­mark­able” and sim­ply re­flect the com­mu­ni­ties in which they live. The “re­stricted” MI5 re­port takes apart many of the com­mon stereo­types about those in­volved in British ter­ror­ism. They are mostly British na­tion­als, not il­le­gal im­mi­grants and, far from be­ing Is­lamist fun­da­men­tal­ists, most are re­li­gious novices. Nor, the analy­sis says, are they “mad and bad”. Those over 30 are just as likely to have a wife and chil­dren as to be lon­ers with no ties, the re­search shows…­Far from be­ing re­li­gious zealots, a large num­ber of those in­volved in ter­ror­ism do not prac­tise their faith reg­u­lar­ly. Many lack re­li­gious lit­er­acy and could ac­tu­ally be re­garded as re­li­gious novices. Very few have been brought up in strongly re­li­gious house­holds, and there is a higher than av­er­age pro­por­tion of con­verts. Some are in­volved in drug-tak­ing, drink­ing al­co­hol and vis­it­ing pros­ti­tutes. MI5 says there is ev­i­dence that a well-estab­lished re­li­gious iden­tity ac­tu­ally pro­tects against vi­o­lent rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion. The “mad and bad” the­ory to ex­plain why peo­ple turn to ter­ror­ism does not stand up, with no more ev­i­dence of men­tal ill­ness or patho­log­i­cal per­son­al­ity traits found among British ter­ror­ists than is found in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. Far from be­ing lone in­di­vid­u­als with no ties, the ma­jor­ity of those over 30 have steady re­la­tion­ships, and most have chil­dren. MI5 says this chal­lenges the idea that ter­ror­ists are young men dri­ven by sex­ual frus­tra­tion and lured to “mar­tyr­dom” by the promise of beau­ti­ful vir­gins wait­ing for them in par­adise. It is wrong to as­sume that some­one with a wife and chil­dren is less likely to com­mit acts of ter­ror­ism. Those in­volved in British ter­ror­ism are not un­in­tel­li­gent or gullible, and nor are they more likely to be well-e­d­u­cat­ed; their ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment ranges from to­tal lack of qual­i­fi­ca­tions to de­gree-level ed­u­ca­tion. How­ev­er, they are al­most all em­ployed in low-grade jobs.

  32. “Are Ter­ror­ists Men­tally De­ranged?”, Ruby 2002:

    Specifi­cal­ly, any psy­chopathol­ogy demon­strated by ter­ror­ists at a higher rate than non­ter­ror­ists may be the effect of ter­ror­ist be­hav­ior, not its cause. In fact, the unique de­mands of a ter­ror­ist lifestyle are likely to en­gen­der the sub­se­quent de­vel­op­ment of psy­cho­log­i­cal idio­syn­crasies, which could then in­flu­ence the ter­ror­ist’s be­hav­ior. These idio­syn­crasies can be­come patho­log­i­cal, just as any in­tense and un­con­ven­tional lifestyle can lead to psy­cho­log­i­cal pe­cu­liar­i­ties. For in­stance, it is rea­son­able to as­sume that a ter­ror­ist will want to avoid de­tec­tion and ap­pre­hen­sion as he/she goes about the plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion of ter­ror­ist acts. This surely would lead to an in­creased level of aware­ness, in or­der to de­tect any sur­veil­lance. Such a height­ened level of aware­ness, de­pend­ing on how in­tense and chron­ic, could de­velop into no­tice­able sus­pi­cious­ness of oth­ers and a cer­tain level of rigid­ity of ac­tions. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing thought processes and be­hav­iors could be de­scribed as para­noid, ob­ses­sive, and com­pul­sive. More­over, if the ter­ror­ist main­tains a high level of in­ter­per­sonal cau­tion and sig­nifi­cantly re­duces emo­tional and so­cial con­nec­tion with oth­ers, sub­se­quent be­hav­iors and thought processes could meet the DSM-IV cri­te­ria for para­noid, ob­ses­sive-com­pul­sive, or schizoid per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders.

  33. This to be a ma­jor fac­tor be­hind US sup­port of the of So­ma­lia; the in­va­sion crushed the mod­er­ate which had been restor­ing or­der & jus­tice to the fa­mously an­ar­chic coun­try. The re­sults can be judged for one­self.↩︎

  34. “A Call to Ji­had, An­swered in Amer­ica”, The New York Times 2009 ():

    For a group of stu­dents who often met at the school, on the Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota cam­pus, those words seemed es­pe­cially fit­ting. They had fled So­ma­lia as small boys, es­cap­ing a cat­a­strophic civil war. They came of age as refugees in Min­neapolis, em­brac­ing bas­ket­ball and the prom, hip-hop and the Mall of Amer­i­ca. By the time they reached col­lege, their dreams seemed within grasp: one planned to be­come a doc­tor; an­oth­er, an en­tre­pre­neur. But last year, in a study room on the first floor of Carl­son, the men turned their en­er­gies to a differ­ent en­ter­prise. “Why are we sit­ting around in Amer­i­ca, do­ing noth­ing for our peo­ple?” one of the men, Mo­hamoud Has­san, a skinny 23-year-old en­gi­neer­ing ma­jor, pressed his friends. In No­vem­ber, Mr. Has­san and two other stu­dents dropped out of col­lege and left for So­ma­lia, the home­land they barely knew. Word soon spread that they had joined the Shabaab, a mil­i­tant Is­lamist group aligned with Al Qaeda that is fight­ing to over­throw the frag­ile So­mali gov­ern­ment.

    …For many of the men, the path to So­ma­lia offered some­thing per­sonal as well—a sense of ad­ven­ture, pur­pose and even re­new­al. In the first wave of So­ma­lis who left were men whose up­rooted lives re­sem­bled those of im­mi­grants in Eu­rope who have joined the ji­had. They faced bar­ri­ers of race and class, re­li­gion and lan­guage. Mr. Ahmed, the 26-year-old sui­cide bomber, strug­gled at com­mu­nity col­leges be­fore drop­ping out. His friend Za­karia Maruf, 30, fell in with a vi­o­lent street gang and later stocked shelves at a Wal-Mart. Mr. Has­san, the en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent, was a ris­ing star in his col­lege com­mu­ni­ty…“Now they feel im­por­tant,” said one friend, who re­mains in con­tact with the men and, like oth­ers, would only speak anony­mously be­cause of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

    …At the root of the prob­lem was a “cri­sis of be­long­ing,” said Mo­hamud Ga­lony, a sci­ence tu­tor who was friends with Mr. Ahmed and is the un­cle of an­other boy who left. Young So­ma­lis had been raised to honor their fam­i­lies’ tribes, yet felt dis­con­nected from them. “They want to be­long, but who do they be­long to?” said Mr. Ga­lony, 23. By 2004, Mr. Ahmed had found a new cir­cle of friends. These re­li­gious young men, pegged as “born-a­gains” or “fundis,” set them­selves apart by their dress. Their trousers had gone from sag­ging to short, em­u­lat­ing the Prophet Muham­mad, who was said to have kept his clothes from touch­ing the ground…The full di­men­sions of the re­cruit­ment effort also re­main un­clear. A close friend of sev­eral of the men de­scribed the process as “a chain of friend­ship” in which one group en­cour­aged the next. “They want to bring peo­ple they are close with be­cause they need that fa­mil­iar­i­ty,” the friend said. “They cre­ated their own lit­tle Amer­ica in So­ma­lia.”

  35. One did not play by one­self; one played it with oth­ers. And to a con­sid­er­able de­gree, one built and hacked on Space­war as much as one com­peted with other play­ers.↩︎

  36. One of the most cited es­says in the lit­er­a­ture is “”.↩︎

  37. Com­pet­ing for the high­est level is ac­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble in those MMORPGs which im­ple­ment a .↩︎