Understanding Terrorism

Like the rest of us, terrorists have emotions and objectives.

Fear leads to anger…

Fear is the operative element of terrorism. Lacking the conventional means to wage war against a much stronger opponent, terrorists weaponize fear by randomly targeting civilians. Doing so makes anyone a potential victim, even though very few are ever harmed, statistically speaking. Despite causing a larger loss of life than any other terror attack since then, 9/11 didn’t even come close to posing an existential threat to the United States. Still, the panic it caused, and the political and military overreactions it provoked, have been far reaching. The events of that day led to the creation of an extensive surveillance apparatus, an extrajudicial targeted assassination program, and terrible human rights abuses in prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. These phenomena have fundamentally altered the political culture in Western democracies, showing that a poor reaction to fear is indeed more destructive to our society than any terror attack has been.

  1. Intended to coerce governments or societies
  2. Committed in the pursuit of political goals
Dylann Roof (Source: gq.com)

Human, all too human

Readying ourselves and tempering our reaction is an important step, but no analysis of terrorism would be complete without contemplating a terrorist’s motives. Recognizing the strategic logic of terrorism in a conflict is straightforward, yet that hardly explains why someone might feel justified in taking innocent human life. Seeing the world through the eyes of a terrorist is difficult, but not impossible.

  1. An identity crisis that emerges from that sense of grievance
  2. A sense of belonging, often provided by a charismatic recruiter
  3. An ideological narrative that provides the mission or the cause
(Source: tenor.com)

2018 winner of the Dalton Camp Award for essay-writing. M.A. Political Science. I'll go to the mat for the Oxford comma.

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