Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The true causes of terrorism?

The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists
Bruce Schneier
Abrahms has an alternative model to explain all this: People turn to terrorism for social solidarity. He theorizes that people join terrorist organizations worldwide in order to be part of a community, much like the reason inner-city youths join gangs in the United States (or some other parts of the world, like rough Muslim neighborhoods in France).

The evidence supports this. Individual terrorists often have no prior involvement with a group's political agenda, and often join multiple terrorist groups with incompatible platforms. Individuals who join terrorist groups are frequently not oppressed in any way, and often can't describe the political goals of their organizations. People who join terrorist groups most often have friends or relatives who are members of the group, and the great majority of terrorist are socially isolated: unmarried young men or widowed women who weren't working prior to joining. These things are true for members of terrorist groups as diverse as the IRA and al-Qaida.
It makes sense to me. If joining the "official establishment" means you and your family have to grovel before thugs, either in the government or the local crime world or both, and therefore there is, from a certain point of view, a limited number of honorable or respectable ways to advance in that model, there will be a lot of pressure to join an alternative "social group".

For example: If, in a place like New York City, you grow up in any but the most luxurious neighborhoods, you and your family have essentially no right or means to protect yourselves or any business you own, unless one or more family members are connected to a local gang.

Kids will be under pressure from gangs to join the gangs, or else. If their parents try to interfere, they may be beaten or killed, and/or their homes or businesses sabotaged. The businesses will need to pay "protection money" to the local gang in any case.

There is no way to move ahead OR to have any kind of "respect" or protection except to join the gang. And even then, if a senior gang member wants to go out with your sister, or steal your wife, there's not much you can do about it, unless you want to take him out and take his place.

Why should standing up for honor or principle need to be such a dangerous and expensive choice?
We also need to pay more attention to the socially marginalized than to the politically downtrodden, like unassimilated communities in Western countries. We need to support vibrant, benign communities and organizations as alternative ways for potential terrorists to get the social cohesion they need. And finally, we need to minimize collateral damage in our counterterrorism operations, as well as clamping down on bigotry and hate crimes, which just creates more dislocation and social isolation, and the inevitable calls for revenge.

And part of that is not so binding and enslaving civilians in their own societies, and making them absurdly defenseless before the ruthless and lawless, that the only way out for them is for their families to associate themselves with gangs and similar organizations, or to grovel before them and hope for the best.

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