What Motivates Terrorism


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An exploration of the motivating factors for terrorism

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What Motivates Terrorism

  1. 1. What Motivates Terrorism? Jeremiah Granden: INTA 6103
  2. 2. Primary Texts• Andrew H. Kydd and Barbara F. Walter, “The Strategies of Terrorism,”• Robert A. Pape, “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,”• Jerrold M. Post, Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World,• ***Walter Enders and Xuejuan Su, “Rational terrorists and Optimal Network Structure
  3. 3. “The Strategies of Terrorism”• Costly Signaling – Terror used to demonstrate commitment and capacity to inflict harm• Five Key Strategies – Attrition – Intimidation – Provocation – Spoiling – Outbidding• Terrorism is a rational strategy• Example – Shining Path• Counterexample – Aum Shinryko
  4. 4. “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism”• Suicide terror designed to coerce democracies to make concessions on matters of self-determination• Other principle points – Facet of greater strategic campaign – On the rise over last twenty years – Best suited for mid-level goals – Best defended against by domestic defense tactics• Suicide terrorism is a rational strategy• Example – Tamil Tigers• Counterexample – 2002 Helsinki Mall Bombing?
  5. 5. Why terrorism cannot be rational• Per structural arguments terrorism is a rational strategy• Power of terrorism stems from outbidding rationality – Skewing rational valuation by killing and dying makes terrorism frightening and inspiring• Optimal network structure requires that individual terrorists and terror cells embody both the rational strategist (RS) and the irrational actor (IA) – Gunman licking blood off the floor (IA) also bears responsibility for the greater strategic goal (RS) – Constant interplay of rational and irrational muddle personal and group conceptions – Pathologies presumed throughout the system• Critical Case - Black September
  6. 6. Why terrorism cannot be rationalRational Terror network “Real” Terror network RS IA RS RS IA RS IA IA RS IA
  7. 7. Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World• “Us versus them” mentality is a common feature of most terror groups. This attracts people who – see the world in black and white terms – want a scapegoat – want to belong – are action oriented and not prone to reflection• This “terrorist identity” can be found in all groups, regardless of affiliation or goals• Terrorism is a way of coping with psychological turmoil• Example: Continuity Irish Republican Army?• Counterexample: Kurdistan Workers’ Party?
  8. 8. The dilemma that positing a terrorist identity creates• Terrorists because they belong to terror groups or belong to terror groups because they are terrorists? – Terror group as siren drawing psychologically wounded people in to do its bidding – Terror group as empty space where terrorists inscribe their pathologies• Critical Case: 2005 London Attacks – Were attackers Jihadi fighters or disaffected immigrants? – Different policy recommendations for each
  9. 9. Questions• Which of these arguments, if either, do you find satisfying?• Are terrorists rational actors?• How can you use policy to limit or remove the motivation to commit terrorist acts?