Friday, November 20, 2015

Terror in the Name of God

Read this back when it came out.  Jessica Stern has gone on to do more work in the field of terrorism, violence, and its consequences.  Worth rereading in the context of the November 2015 attacks in Paris and possible endemic terror tactics around the world.

_Terror in the Name of God:  Why Religious Militants Kill_ by Jessica Stern
(HarperCollins, 2003  ISBN:  978-0060505325)

(xix)  What surprised me most was my discovery that the slogans sometimes mask not only fear and humiliation, but also  greed - greed for political power, land, or money.  Often, the slogans seem to mask wounded masculinity.

(xx)  First, terrorism is aimed at noncombatants.  This characteristic of terrorism distinguishes it from some war-fighting.  Second, terrorist use violence for dramatic purpose:  instilling fear in the target audience is often more important than the physical result.  This deliberate creation of dread is what distinguishes terrorism from simple murder of assault.

(xxiv)  This book is partly about how leaders bring themselves and their followers to the point where their empathy for victims is gone.

(15)  Terrorists often strike people who know them as two different people:  the family man and the killer...  Public shaming of members is one of the hallmarks of a cult.

(16)  Cutting off information from the outside world and destroying personal possessions or anything that reminds members of their precult lives is another common practice among cults...  [a French fascist felt he as if he was joining a religious order] that required that he "divest himself of his past" to be reborn as a person capable of what Himmler called heroic cruelty.

(26)  I tell Kerry [Noble] that I've noticed that one thing that distinguishes religious terrorists from other people is that they know with absolute certainty that they're doing good.  They seem more confident and less susceptible to self-doubt than most other people.

(50)  profile of a typical Palestinian suicide bomber before 9/11/01
Young, often a teenager.
He is mentally immature.
There is pressure on him to work.
He cant find a job.
He has no options, and there is no social safety net to help him.
He would try to work for the PA [Palestinian Authority] but he doesn't get a job because he has no connections.
He tries to get into Arafat's army, but again, he doesn't have the right connections.  He doesn't have "vitamin W."  (Vitamin W is an expression for wasta in Arabic, which refers to political, social, and personal connections.)
he has no girlfriend or fiancee.
On the days he's off, he has no money to go to the disco and pick up girls (even if it were acceptable).
No means for him to enjoy life in any way.
Life has no meaning but pain.
Marriage is not an option - it's expensive and he can't even take care of his own family.
He feels he has lost everything.
The only way out is to find refuge in God.
He goes to the local mosque... He begins going to the mosque five times a day - even for the 4 am prayers.  (An average devout Muslim will not attend the early-morning prayer.)

(52)  Soldiers are trained to risk their lives for their country;  but a suicide bomber goes into the operation assuming not that he might die, but that he will die.  The more training a soldier receives, the more skilled he is at avoiding death, whereas the opposite is true for a suicide bomber.  When such a person makes a cost-benefit analysis about the value of his life versus the value of his death, he attaches greater value to death - both for his country and for himself.

(137)  The bottom line, I now understood, is that purifying the world through holy war is addictive.
NB:  Addiction may be the dominant political force in the US today and is a defining characteristic of late stage capitalism, IMHO.  Anne Wilson Schaef's _When Society Becomes an Addict_ and _The Addictive Organization_ are good resources on this topic.

(143)  We will see terrorist groups competing for market share in the same way firms or humanitarian organizations do.  They advertise their mission and accomplishments.  They meet with high-level donors.  Just like humanitarian NGOs, they may begin to view their donors as the most important entity to please, rather than their clients, as the appearance of accomplishment becomes more important than actually achieving social or religious justice.

(173)  As military technology continues to improve and spread, enabling what political scientist Joseph Nye calls the "privatization of war," virtual networks and even lone-wolf avengers could become a major threat.

(209)  It occurs to me that he [Syed Salahuddin of the Hizb-ul Mujahideen, the largest Kashmir-based militant group] seems to agree with the proposition that the rise of nongovernmental organizations (including terrorist groups) is weakening the relative power of states.

(225)  The U.S. cruise missile attacks against militant training camps in August 1998 "damaged the image of the United States," Sami-ul-Haq [of Pakistan's Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islan party] explained, and turned Osama bin Laden, an ordinary man, into a hero.  America's opposition to madrassahs is damaging the image still further, instilling "sentiments of violence" in madrassah students, he tells me.

(230)  Asked about the biggest threat to their groups' survival, a militant says that "free secular education for all" leading to an "increase in the literacy rate" is the gravest threat to the survival of the jihadi groups in Pakistan.
NB:  A broadcast/Internet/hard copy literacy campaign that blankets Pakistan as a "public service."  Perhaps adapting Paolo Freire's methods in teaching literacy in the Brazilian favelas?

(276)  The tri-border area where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet is becoming the new Libya:  The place where terrorists with widely disparate ideologies - the Marxists groups FARC and ELN, American white supremacists, Hamas, Hezbollah, and members of bin Laden's International Islamic Front - meet to swap tradecraft. Authorities worry that the more sophisticated groups could make use of the Americans as participants in their plots, possibly to bring in materials.

(279)  The most resilient group discussed in this book is the save-the-babies group Army of God, a virtual network  whose members meet only to discuss the mission, not concrete plans.

(283)  Whenever we face a terrorist threat, we should ask ourselves:  Who stands to gain?  Who is making money?  Who is receiving benefits of any kind?  Who is taking advantage of whom?

(284)  Other factors that appear to increase a country's susceptibility to terrorism include a "youth bulge," and especially, a high ratio of men to women.  Young males comprise a growing fraction of the population across the Islamic world.  Studies suggest that countries with a high ratio of males to females, and with young men comprising a large fraction of the population, are significantly more prone to violence of all kings.

(287)  But democratization is not necessarily the best way to fight Islamic extremism.  Most states that attempt to transition from autocracy to democracy get stuck in a kind of in-between state.  and electoral democracy does not necessarily imply liberal democracy, especially in the Islamic world.  Algeria's Islamist party won democratically, shortly after a drop in world oil prices.  In Pakistan, Islamist parties - some of which openly promote a "Talibanization" of Pakistan - did well in the 2002 parliamentary elections, in part because of the government's continuing failure to provide public services, but also because of anger about Islamabad's concession to the Uniterd States in the war on terrorism.

(289)  Another, equally important question often overlooked by policy makers and analysts is:  How can we fight terrorist groups without making the problem - hatred of the new world order and of America - even worse.

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