If we continue to create a world where there is poverty and disrespect,
there will continue to be terrorism.
~ Jodie Evans ~
Lately, it has become common to associate terrorism with religious groups, particularly radical radicals within Islam. Ben Norton quotes Max Abrahms' observation that scholars have traditionally conceived of terrorism as, "a political communication strategy in which groups use violence to amplify their grievances and the costs to the target countries of ignoring them." He notes that no one claims responsibility for the majority of terrorist attacks unless they have something to gain from it politically.
Abrahms notes that terrorist groups are not acting with a common motivation. He sees these groups as varyingly significant. He also cites differences in motivation between the leaders of such groups and those actually carrying out the terrorist acts.
Daniel Pipes writes in an article in the New York Sun that at one time terrorists generally noted their goals such as the release of imprisoned members of their groups. In more recent times, demands are not usually made before acting and terrorist attacks take place without any announcement of what the terrorists are aiming to accomplish. He suggests possible motivations such as personal grievances of individual terrorists related to their anger about poverty, cultural alienation or prejudice, and attempts to get various governments to change their policies. LaTely, a major goal has been the establishment of a caliphate, although it is unclear what that would actually mean if the goal was met.
It is easy to forget the role of our country in creating terrorist movements. In the case of ISIS, the United States and other Western powers-probably unintentionally-destabilized the government of Iraq through misguided intervention and left a power vacuum and lack of leadership as well as warring factions. This in turn created fertile ground for the roots of ISIS to take hold.
There is no easy solution to dealing with ISIS or other terrorist organizations. Their leaders are bent on destroying the influence of the "devil" United States in the Middle East. Reasoning with them does not appear to be a promising strategy.
Many of those at the bottom of terrorist ranks who actually carry out the terrorist attacks are alienated individuals who see life as holding no future for them, at least on Earth. These people tend to escape our notice, much as do youths with potential violence in their future in our own country.
Tori DeAngelis suggests characteristics of potential recruits to terrorist organizations by John Horgan, director of the Pennsylvania State University Center for the Study of Terrorism:
As a world society, it is our challenge to identify these people, understand their frustrations, and help them see more constructive alternatives. This is a big order one more humane than trying to destroy everyone with such leanings.
Joanne Bourke in her book, Deep Violence, says, "Evidence suggests that killing leaders of terrorist organizations pushes those groups into becoming more aggressive, in part by fueling fury about the power of Western nations such as the US." This piece of wisdom should humble us and remind us that we are not all powerful.
DeAngelis suggests that there are several promising avenues of approach to changing the "hearts and minds of terrorist detainees." These include:
Before such efforts can lead to success, those working with captured terrorists must first manage their own perceptions and emotions about the people with what they work, looking beyond their initial reactions. Next, let's take a look at violence in our culture not related to terrorism.