Why Terrorism Doesn't Work

This is an interesting paper on the efficacy of terrorism:

This study analyzes the political plights of twenty-eight terrorist groups -- the complete list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) as designated by the U.S. Department of State since 2001. The data yield two unexpected findings. First, the groups accomplished their forty-two policy objectives only 7 percent of the time. Second, although the groups achieved certain types of policy objectives more than others, the key variable for terrorist success was a tactical one: target selection. Groups whose attacks on civilian targets outnumbered attacks on military targets systematically failed to achieve their policy objectives, regardless of their nature.

The author believes that correspondent inference theory explains this. Basically, the theory says that people infer the motives of an actor based on the consequences of the action. So people assume that the motives of a terrorist are wanton death and destruction, and not the stated aims of the terrorist group:

The theory posited here is that terrorist groups that target civilians are unable to coerce policy change because terrorism has an extremely high correspondence. Countries believe that their civilian populations are attacked not because the terrorist group is protesting unfavorable external conditions such as territorial occupation or poverty. Rather, target countries infer from the short-term consequences of terrorism -- the deaths of innocent citizens, mass fear, loss of confidence in the government to offer protection, economic contraction, and the inevitable erosion of civil liberties -- the objectives of the terrorist group. In short, target countries view the negative consequences of terrorist attacks on their societies and political systems as evidence that the terrorists want them destroyed. Target countries are understandably skeptical that making concessions will placate terrorist groups believed to be motivated by these maximalist objectives.

This certainly explains a great deal about the U.S.'s reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Many people -- along with our politicians and press -- believe that al Qaeda terrorism is different, and they're just out to kill us all. (In fact, I'm sure I'll get blog comments along those lines.) The paper examines this belief: where it came from, how it manifested itself, and why it is wrong.

Posted on July 3, 2007 at 6:21 AM • 113 Comments

Comments

alabamatoyJuly 3, 2007 6:37 AM

"Many people believe that al Qaeda terrorism is different, and they're just out to kill us all."

I guess Im one of those people. After seeing all the media coverage with the rag-headed fidels carrying "death to America" signs, I have little reason to believe otherwise....

~CW~July 3, 2007 6:50 AM

i would suspect al qaeda is actively out to "kill us" rathen then to stop our way of life.

of course the public never hear the reasons for the attack beyond the previously mentioned "death to America" slogans but whether that is the government not releasing the info or simply al qaeda (or other terrorist groups) not communicating is hard to say

~CW~July 3, 2007 6:51 AM

sorry that first line was meant to say

"i would suspect al qaeda is not actively out to "kill us" rathen then to stop our way of life."

FloJuly 3, 2007 7:02 AM

@alabamatoy
So 200 d***heads carrying "death to [insert whatever country/culture]" lead you to believe, really believe, that behind them, thousand of people are actively conspiracing to plant a bomb in your backyard ?
Watching Sky News and BBC News/ Al Jazeera english these days is so fun: same event, completely different coverage.
Sky (and I guess Fox News too...) is sensationalist as ever, while other media (Radio Canada/RTBF/Al Jazeera/TV 5/BBC, etc...) report on these events as "a bunch of guys linked to al qaeda rammed their cars in a doorway at Glasgow aiport. In other news, ten killed in an ambush in Iraq, 50 killed by a drough in southern Europe. Oh, and, by the way, hundreds of thousands of people displaced and dying in the middle of nowhere across the border from Darfur"
Even the link to al qaeda looks weak to me (remember, al qaeda, billions of dollars, plane hijacking, etc... not DIY gas canisters... )

A Specific Anonymous PersonJuly 3, 2007 7:40 AM

It seems to me that publicizing this might help to deter terrorism -- if it doesn't work, maybe people will be less likely to try to blow themselves up.

Kevin LydaJuly 3, 2007 7:47 AM

Bin Laden has published various goals over time. They mainly consist of destroying America's economic might - which worked well against the Soviet Union - and reducing American influence around the world.

So far we've done a good job of fulfilling his goals.

GomezJuly 3, 2007 7:51 AM

A lack of historical appreciation allows people to be recruited into delusional gangs. Fortunately this means damage is limited since we get hit by third-rate muppets, viz Glasgow.

A lack of historical appreciation allows nations to be recruited into delusional wars. Unfortunately this means damage is enormous since we bully the defenceless, viz Iraq.

I know which scares me more.

buntklicker.deJuly 3, 2007 7:55 AM

@alabamatoy: Even if they are out to kill us all, from their point of view they are not *just* out to kill us all. They are out to salvage what they believe is right, and killing us all is just a means to this end, not an end in itself.

Which does not mean that does make it right in any way I could subscribe to. Of course not. But to understand them, it might be helpful to understand their point of view and their motives, however vile they might be seen from our end.

Brian CarnellJuly 3, 2007 8:22 AM

"This certainly explains a great deal about the U.S.'s reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Many people -- along with our politicians and press -- believe that al Qaeda terrorism is different, and they're just out to kill us all. (In fact, I'm sure I'll get blog comments along those lines.) The paper examines this belief: where it came from, how it manifested itself, and why it is wrong."

This is very odd.

So terrorism like the 9/11 attacks rarely succeeds because we (not unreasonably IMO) ignore the specific policy demands of the terrorists and instead infer that the terrorists are out to destroy us and/or our way of life.

So, isn't the upshot that if we start going "hey, they just killed a few thousand civilians, lets read their policy statements" that terrorism will be more likely to succeed?

It would seem to be in our best interests to make it clear that if you carry out terrorist attacks against civilians that we will treat that as an attack on our way of life, etc., and you won't be invited to the table to discuss your policy concerns.

I mean, if my neighbor and I have a dispute over a tract of land and he hits me, generally I'm going to call the police and have him arrested not go, "gee Bob, now I see how serious you are about this, lets sit down and talk."

C GomezJuly 3, 2007 8:22 AM

@Bruce:

Nice try... trying to disarm anyone who dares believe al-Qaeda is out to cause massive death and destruction.

I have stated many times on this blog that we don't, in the public, have enough information about al-Qaeda. We don't really know if it is one massive terrorist network or just an ideal that a few disconnected crazies believe in and act on independently... or something in between.

This is a failure of governments to find a way to explain the threat without calling everything classified.

Still, 9/11 demonstrated what exactly? I couldn't care less what a person's motive is when they use terrorism to deliberately attack civilians. It is no different from committing genocide. The planes were chosen and targets selected merely because they housed Americans.

You could make a decent claim to me that the Pentagon is a valid military target. I would even say so would be the White House, were it actually a target. However, once you mix in a clearly civilian target, the whole act is merely terrorism and is outside the bounds of morality and law of war.

The essay may be quite right in illustrating that terrorism breeds little but contempt. That's great. Maybe the supposed terrorists should be reading it. Otherwise, it's falling on deaf ears. I've felt from the beginning that terrorism must never be allowed to accomplish a single gain. The essay merely supports that. In fact, the data is not unexpected.

Note this comment is not an endorsement of any current government policy... because the two are disconnected. I merely point out that terrorism should not be allowed to make any gain, terrorists are sub-humans who have given up their human rights, and we could use more information on the size and scope of real terrorist groups.

I suspect, in the modern age, terrorism is the only recourse of someone unwilling to bargain diplomatically or work politically. You could never take on a more powerful state, so you have to resort to illegal warfare. Doesn't make it right... just makes you inhuman.

mordarageekJuly 3, 2007 8:29 AM

I've noticed in listening to the news lately that the new identification of choice is "inspired by al-Qaeda," which for some reason reminds me of the movie trailers which begin with "from the production assistant who brought bottled water to the set designer of The 40 Year Old Virgin..."

Because we can easily make the connection al-Qaeda = 9/11 = bad, we get to stop paying attention after the mention of al-Qaeda. Our judgment is already made and the news organization doesn't have to waste precious time explaining why a couple of morons driving through the front door of an airport and setting themselves on fire is significant.

It's a win-win-win, really. We don't have to do any more work because we already know that al-Qaeda is a bunch of bad people. The media doesn't have to do any more work because we've already stopped paying attention. The would-be terrorists don't have to do any more work because they've now been associated with people far more dangerous and fear-worthy than they will ever be.

Brian CarnellJuly 3, 2007 8:32 AM

"I've noticed in listening to the news lately that the new identification of choice is "inspired by al-Qaeda," which for some reason reminds me of the movie trailers which begin with "from the production assistant who brought bottled water to the set designer of The 40 Year Old Virgin...""

Its an effective branding strategy from the terrorists point of view.

Consider acts of violence carried out by animal rights extremists in the United States. Typically, those carrying out such acts do so in the name of the Animal Liberation Front. But the ALF isn't a real organization -- it's more like a brand or tag that extremists who have never met each other use. By using a consistent name for a wide variety of different acts, they get the media to cover the acts as if they were committed by a single organization.

Ed T.July 3, 2007 8:42 AM

"...terrorists are sub-humans who have given up their human rights..."

I understand the sentiment. However, I certainly *don't* agree with it. We think of groups like Hamas, AQ, etc. as terrorists. Well, I am sure there were folks who would have considered the following as terrorists as well:

* The colonial revolutionaries who fought the British on the North American continent.

* The French Underground and other Resistance movements who fought against Hitler's occupation during the 1940s.

* The American Indians who struggled against the settlers, as well as the settlers (not to mention the US Army) who fought *them*.

Unfortunately, pretty much any form of "irregular" warfare can be cast as an act of 'terrorism'. And, last I heard we weren't summarily revoking human rights.

What the essay (and Bruce) is trying to say IMO is that terrorism is *a means to an end* - not an end in itself. Maybe a fine distinction, but one worth keeping in mind - after all, since the good guys have to win *every time*, it is helpful to have valid intel on the bad guys to help figure out what their plans are - and if our judgement is so clouded by the misconception of why they do what they do, it is unlikely that we will interpret any intel we get hold so as to draw the proper conclusions.

~EdT.

ScarybugJuly 3, 2007 8:45 AM

This is what I've been saying. If al-Qaeda really wanted to accomplish its stated goals. (The ones about getting the US out of the middle-east anyway) They should be acting more like Ghandi. Ghandi caused massive problems to the problems that be, but won the support of the average person because he stated his goals and acted with nonviolent defiance.

But the leaders of al-Qaeda don't actually care about the stated goals, they're using their followers to gain power and influence for themselves, by vilifying the west. Meanwhile, our leaders vilify them, and gain influence over us. Both sides become the villain the leaders warn about, thereby justifying each others violence and demands for more power.

josephdietrichJuly 3, 2007 8:48 AM

@~CW~: Bin Laden has made it quite clear in his pronouncements why his organization is making war on America. Michael Scheuer went over this at length in his book "Imperial Hubris". Bin Laden has stated he wants to:

1) end US support for Israel,
2) force Western troops out of the Middle East,
3) end US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan,
4) stop US support of Russian, Indian, and Chinese policies against their Muslim minorities,
5) end US pressure on Arab oil companies to keep the prices low, and
6) end US support for Arab governments they see as illegitimate.

The other members of al Qaeda (or al Qaeda-inspired groups and individuals) almost certainly have other reasons involving things like revenge and anger at Western actions, but at their root they are all motivated in some way in reaction to Western foriegn policy. They clearly hate Americans and they want to kill a lot of them, but they want to do so for specific reasons.

ForRealJuly 3, 2007 8:51 AM

From the point of view of a government civilian targeted terror is a nuisance, a major nuisance for sure, but does not threaten the state. On the other hand, successful terror acts against the military have another name low intensity warfare.
Success in attacking the military, at whatever level, is called victory even if it is on small scale.
Civilian attacks are only a nuisance, not because people are unimportant, but because the population of a county is expendable from the perspective of a state.
Targeted attacks, including attacks on civil administrators, such as mayors, and the police are also military targets in low intensity warfare.
Look at Vietnam. While ultimately full scale warfare drove the French then later the US (surrogate) governments out of Vietnam, it was successful targeted low intensity decided the struggle.
World War Two is another example. Hitler's armys were destroyed by the US, Russian and allied armys. Terror bombing, such as Dresden, didn't win the war.

CJJuly 3, 2007 9:17 AM

@tom m: fanatacalism?

There's a perfectly good word already (fanaticism), no need to go making up new ones :-)

Baron Dave RommJuly 3, 2007 9:41 AM

Al Qaeda has succeeded in many of its stated goals:

1) US military out of Saudi Arabia
2) Ousting Saddam Hussein from power
3) The growth of Al Qaeda
4) Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law on the rise
5) Create panic and terror in the US and any non-Muslim countries.

They've been less successful with purely political goals, such as establishing Sunni in Shiite countries (eg Iran and to a lesser extent Iraq) and wiping Israel off the map.

Further, Al Qaeda has largely succeeded, due to the cowardice and resolute incompetence of the Bush administration, in another of their goals: To dismantle the US Constitution (and Western law in general) in favor of totalitarian regimes. They insist that in a clash of cultures, theirs will win out, and so far that's happening.

Oh, and various oil states and other not-quite-admitting-it backers of the terrorist groups have made a staggering amount of money. Oil prices are waaaaay up, the 9/11 attacks generated a lot of money in short sells, and so on.

SleestackJuly 3, 2007 9:56 AM

So how should civilized societies respond to terrorist attacks where innocent civilians are killed, throw buckets of fairy dust at the perpetrators? Rarified, introspective academic discussions are fine and the understanding that can come of it may be useful. But idiots with car bombs are hardly swayed by elegant arguments.

FooDooHackedYouJuly 3, 2007 10:01 AM

I seriously doubt that leadership in the US thinks that the Al Qaeda, people that need some serious counseling, are only out to kill. They have clearly stated that they want a large Islamic state, that they wish to seriously dampen the US economy, etc... It doesn't really matter if their main objectives are to kill innocent civilians or not. If they do it then that's what they've done and they are facing the consequences and will continue to face them...

Victor BogadoJuly 3, 2007 10:05 AM

I don't know why people see the WTC as a purely civilian target, yes it was filled with civilians and it sure did raised the civilian body count. But they were both an economic and more importantly a symbolic target. They represent the power and pride of the American people.

One can see the effects of those attacks on the psyche of the American people just seeing that in the place of the towers there is still an open wound. The great achievements of the larger city in the world were reduced to dust and the power that they used to represent is not there anymore.

Back in 2001 I used to think that the USA would quickly build something even bigger in the place of the twin towers, to send a message, "we cannot be terrorized". But the message we get now, here on the exterior, is of a nation that allows it self to become terrorized by a bottle of water.

EthanJuly 3, 2007 10:12 AM

That's hardly a controlled study. In order to determine whether terrorism is effective you _at least_ need to control for how feasible it is that the terrorists can achieve their goals.

Perhaps it is the other way around, people who believe that their aims are a long shot resort to blowing up innocent people -- not that blowing up innocent people makes their aims a long shot.

AnonymousJuly 3, 2007 10:22 AM

Bin Laden can say anything he wants about his motivations, but I tend to distrust someone who kills people to reach their goals. Anyone who gets into power by whatever means tends to want to keep that power. Having people running out with bombs attached to themselves at your command tends to go to your head, and that is what happens to all of these terrorist leaders. They are essentially worshiped, and they know it, and they don't want it to stop.

And amen to Sleestack.

AnonymousJuly 3, 2007 10:22 AM

TERROR TERROR TERROR!
OMGTHETERRORISTSWTFBBQ!!!!

I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT ANYMORE!!! STOP IT ALREADY! I'VE HAD ENOUGH!!!

Really. It's getting old. Quit obsessing about TERRAH, all you Yanks out there (and Brits too).
There are shitloads of more important things out there!

C GomezJuly 3, 2007 10:32 AM

@ Ed.T:

I think it's very important to differentiate intentional murder of civilians... specifically targeting civilians... over legitimate military targets. A revolution or civil war can still be conducted in accordance with the rules of warfare. You keep civilians out of harms way.

Look, we can go back in history and discuss wrongs. You pointed a few of them out. I also think your first two examples are poor, while the last one has merit.

The key here is the rules of warfare are well established and they have been created to protect civilians when warfare breaks out. It doesn't mean there won't be civilian casualties, but it does mean that when you step outside of these bounds, you really don't deserve any protections of any conventions. If you're going to fight asymetrically, we shouldn't be required to treat you symetrically under legal systems.

Of course the point of the essay is: terrorism rarely accomplishes its means. But this doesn't make it right. It also doesn't mean the answer is: "Well, let's just sit back and wait terrorism out." People are injured and die, and really one is too many.

Please note (I think it's silly to have to post this disclaimer every time but at least it can prevent morons who just assume this means otherwise): this does not constitute any agreement with current Western government policy. It just means what it says: resorting to terrorism, in my opinion, should strip you of legal rights. You've chosen to operate outside international conventions of warfare... deal with the consequences.

SleestackJuly 3, 2007 10:33 AM

@Anonymous

Thanks for your insight. You're right, this Yank will seek more information on Paris Hilton and the iPhone.

C GomezJuly 3, 2007 10:34 AM

@Victor Bogado:

Your analysis of the WTC not being a civilian target is just sad. I'm sorry you think that way. It's a very sad statement.

I suppose the innocent civilians on the passenger jets were also not civilian targets.

You do not use civilians as missiles or flying bombs. It is illegal warfare.

Andre LePlumeJuly 3, 2007 10:37 AM

"Correspondent inference theory", eh?

How about "revealed preferences"?
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revealed_preference)

Reader XJuly 3, 2007 10:56 AM

Doesn't the author presume somewhat that the prinicipal strategy of all terrorists is to coerce the target population? Many terror groups also seek political gains in their own polities, and recent events have led me to wonder whether al Qaeda, for example, is all that interested in influencing the actions of the groups they target.

Reader XJuly 3, 2007 10:57 AM

And Bruce, could you please fix the brain-dead CGI script to check for double posts? ;-)

tucsonishotttJuly 3, 2007 11:03 AM

perhaps the free wales army were the most succesful terrorist organization in the modern era. they achieved a number of their goals (bi lingual road signs, welsh language tv channel, welsh assembly) without actually killing anyone. i think they blew up a few tv relay stations, but, all in all, they were a very civilized - and under publiced - bunch, imo.

GavinJuly 3, 2007 11:29 AM

To trot out a tired phrase, "one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter"

The IRB/IRA of 1919-21 were 'terrorists', but targeted military institutions and ultimately achieved their goal of the Irish Free State.

The paper above seems somewhat selective..

GavinJuly 3, 2007 11:41 AM

Also, his use of the RIRA, instead of the PIRA is particularly fallacious and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the Irish situation. Who knows which others he has cherry picked?

Choosing small, splintered terrorist groups, is hardly the most useful dataset. Analyzing well funded, larger organizations to a greater depth would appear to be more appropriate.

A Concerned British ColonistJuly 3, 2007 11:44 AM

Terrorist are clearly out to destroy our way of life, and to reject our nation's ability to prosper economically. They ascribe higher purpose to their activities such as freedom, liberty, and representation in the political process, but those are rationalizations for the base activities they pursue.

In this post-"Crossing of the Delaware" era where surprise attacks and "ungentlemanly" conduct by our opponents is increasing normal and the values our society holds dear are thrown aside for tactical advantage one can only conclude that these terrorist are out to destroy our way of life. We need not read their "Common Sense" nor legitimize their bid for representation by listening to their needs, as it is clear they simply wish to destroy the British way of life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

PapeJuly 3, 2007 11:46 AM

A lot of fools here are being hypocrital, acting as if this is only the other side, the enemy doing this, to us! How egotisitical can you get as a nation?

The USA kills foreign civilians all the time. Period. Whether it is bombs raining down on their hospitals or homes, or soldiers murdering anyone of age in sight (and those not), or economic sanctions that lead to the deaths of several hundred thousand children, or general indiscriminate targetting of everything (as in Laos).

Get your facts straight about US foreign policy.

Clive RobinsonJuly 3, 2007 11:46 AM

@Paul Crowley

`I can't find the words "Provisional", "Ireland" or "Eire" in that paper.`

Anything on how the Israeli State came to be?

Read more at,

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/jun2003/...

It would appear that the "Stern Gang" did indead get the ultimate terorist prize of a "nation state" out of their terorist activities.

Several other Nations likewise where born of what others would consider terorism not freedom fighting and some are still trying.

I think the papers author is guilty like me of been a little selective in our choice of "case studies" to support the our hypotheses ;)

Sez MeJuly 3, 2007 11:54 AM

@Pape:

Get a grip. You're irrational and incorrect rants make you look bad.

Curious GeorgeJuly 3, 2007 12:03 PM

For those who (like me) have enough curiosity to at least wonder what the political aims of a group like Al Qaeda might be:

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/worldview/story/...

Hope this helps raise the level of understanding.

Also, it doesn't appear that Bruce is saying that we shouldn't care about terrorism because it lacks long-term efficacy. On the contrary, the article he linked to is an examination of how the reaction to terrorism relates to its efficacy as a tactic. A single act of terrorism, in other words, is not capable of achieving political aims, even when the devastation is at the level of the attacks perpetrated on 9/11/01. It is the reaction garnered by the act that determines what happens next.

Must_B_MeJuly 3, 2007 12:04 PM

This fails to take false flag terror operations in to effect, which have proven to be quite successful in justifying policy changes.

VajkJuly 3, 2007 12:05 PM

All this talk about al Qaeda this and al Qaeda that ignores one simple fact: al Qaeda does not exist. It's made up by the US propaganda machine to justify the "War on Terror". It's easy to convince a country to accept this war when you have one clear enemy than instead of having hundreds or groups or simply nameless groups.

Al Qaeda has no command structure, it's just random groups fighting for the same ideas: Death to America! (or something like that)

Putting all these groups under the same umbrella is just as silly as putting all drug traffickers under the "Medellin Cartel" label or all organized criminals under the "Mafia" label.

ArtJuly 3, 2007 12:11 PM

But what is terrorism?

The dictionary says:

the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.

When Fox News calls the Glasgow incident a "holocaust", isn't that an act of terrorism? They are trying to advance a political climate of fear.

When President Bush tells a reporter, "they want to come here and kill your children", isn't he committing an act of terrorism? He's trying to indirectly threaten the reporter and make him stop asking questions about loss of freedoms.

When we drop a 2000-lb bomb on an Iraqi neighborhood and kill 50 civilians, isn't that an act of terrorism? Aren't we using violence to attain a political end?

JonJuly 3, 2007 12:17 PM

"If we fight a war and win it with H-bombs, what history will remember is not the ideals we were fighting for but the methods we used to accomplish them. These methods will be compared to the warfare of Genghis Khan who ruthlessly killed every last inhabitant of Persia." - Hans A. Bethe

JonJuly 3, 2007 12:29 PM

@Art

A key portion of the definition missing from your dictionary is that terrorism is not an act of a government, but of individuals. When a government uses force it is generally either war (legitimate use of force) or a war crime (illegitimate use of force).

A more proper definition would be:
The use of force by a non-government entity against the civilian population of a country in order to bring about social or political change.

This definition lays out 3 key requirements to be terrorism:
1. Can't be a government.
A legitimate government is recognized as having the right to conduct war. When they delibrately and directly kill civilians then its a war crime, not terrorism.

2. Must be against the civilian population of a country.
Obviously there needs to be an allowance for a legitimate revolutionary force that fights against the military of a country but is not a real government.

3. Has to be for a social or political purpose.
Yeah it spreads fear and terror, but some crazy dude with a rifle shooting people at random with no goal isn't a terrorist.

Terrorist apologistJuly 3, 2007 12:32 PM

"* The colonial revolutionaries...

* The French Underground...

* The American Indians...

Unfortunately, pretty much any form of "irregular" warfare can be cast as an act of 'terrorism'."

The distinctive feature of terrists is that they attack uninvolved civilians.

Colonial revolutionaries went after the British military. The French underground targetted Nazi troops. The American Indians targetted the military and irregulars (settlers).

Hence, none of these are terrists.

WarnerBJuly 3, 2007 12:36 PM

Sufferin' Succotash!

We've not seen the case where terrorism actually hits a big enough target that matters in the grand scheme of things.

If terrorists were to nuke New York, for an extreme example, I think they'd get a seat at whatever bargaining table they wanted, especially if they were organized enough to prove they could do it again at will.

Instead, we've got Elmer Fudd Mohammed trying to blow up his BBQ pit in the airport and Daffy Duck Ahmed unable to light up his shoelaces on a plane. Except for a few successes, they've proven themselves to be about as sharp as a sack of wet mice.

Brandioch ConnerJuly 3, 2007 12:57 PM

@Jon
"A key portion of the definition missing from your dictionary is that terrorism is not an act of a government, but of individuals."

Why make that distinction?

It seems that you're trying to shift focus from the act to the the person. But the focus should be on the act.

"When a government uses force it is generally either war (legitimate use of force) or a war crime (illegitimate use of force)."

But if our government gives weapons and training and money to people who commit acts of terrorism, our government isn't guilty of terrorism?

Again, focus on the act, not the organization.

And I'm not even addressing governmental terrorism against its own citizens. An example being Russia's seeming involvement with killing journalists.

Which is why it is often pointed out that one man's "terrorist" is another man's "freedom fighter".

Coalition of the DrillingJuly 3, 2007 1:01 PM

The ULTIMATE definition of terrorism: Terrorism is if the other side is doing it.
Doesn't anybody see that most 'acts of terrorism' are false flag operations by the people/organizations that profit most from a climate of fear???

Sez MeJuly 3, 2007 1:19 PM

Someone actually said that Bush warning us that terrorists want to kill our children--an absolute fact--is terrorism. That's ludicrous bordering the incredible. And this isn't a defense of Bush, it would be the same if it were clinton.

So, when someone pulls a fire alarm even when there is a real fire, is that terrorism because it frightens people?

Under the same logic, anyone who has ever accused president bush of lying us into war is also a terrorist because it scares people (i disagree with the notion that Bush lied us into a war, but i certainly wouldn't define terrorism in such a way as to call his detractors "terrorists")

Absurd. and unbelievably irresponsible.

If we've gone so far off the map that intellectual people can actually twist the definition of terrorism to basically include people they don't like politically while simultaneously downplaying deadly enemies, then I really worry about "civlized" society.

Bob GoldsteinJuly 3, 2007 1:23 PM

According to the data in this paper, terrorists groups with limited objectives succeeded 3 out of 7 times. But those with guerrilla tactics succeeded only 3 of 10 times. So why are guerrilla tactics a better predictor of success?

I think 3 successes is simply not a large enough number to base conclusions. Still, an interesting effort.

ARMJuly 3, 2007 1:26 PM

So let's take the 6 items that josephdietrich culled from "Imperial Hubris."

1) end US support for Israel,
2) force Western troops out of the Middle East,
3) end US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan,
4) stop US support of Russian, Indian, and Chinese policies against their Muslim minorities,
5) end US pressure on Arab oil companies to keep the prices low, and
6) end US support for Arab governments they see as illegitimate.

The central question becomes this - if Bin Laden were to acheive all of these ends, would he stop or would we still see random killings of westerners and their sympathizers - just for the sake of doing so. Put another way, if Bin Laden had a switch that he could throw to make these things go his way with absolutely zero bloodshed, would he use it? The answer to that depends on how serious we consider him to be about his goals. If Bin Laden is a "professional" about what he's doing, then we can reasonably assume that he's not simply being bloodthirsty. My personal suspicion is that Bin Laden is portrayed as a homocidial maniac to head off calls to buy him off by giving him what he wants, regardless of the appropriateness or long-term consequences of doing so.

On another note, the "comparison of sins" is not worthwhile, if for no other reason than it presumes that people on the whole ascribe to some tennant of fairness, rather than doing what they think will get them what they want, and leads to historical whitewashing. Note "Terrorist apologist," above. To cleanse favored groups of the modern definition of terrorist, the fact that American Colonial revolutionaries routinely targeted Tory sympathizers and that the French Underground had no qualms about murdering those who they beleived (rightly or wrongly) collaborated with the Nazis is conveniently forgetten, and American settlers in the old west are re-classified into "irregulars," so as to make them "legitimate military targets."

Attempting to classify groups of people as "good" or "bad," or certain tactics as "right" or "wrong" is a waste of time. If Jack does something that Jill considers to be against her interests, she's going to oppose him, regardless of the moral determinations Tom, Dick and Harry make. What's going to matter to both of them is "what works" and "what doesn't work."

dragonfrogJuly 3, 2007 1:35 PM

@Scarybug

"If al-Qaeda really wanted to accomplish its stated goals (...) they should be acting more like Ghandi. Ghandi caused massive problems to the problems that be, but won the support of the average person because he stated his goals and acted with nonviolent defiance."

While I admire Ghandi's principles and success, and I do wish that Islamists would follow his tactics, I cannot agree with your statement above. Ghandi's tactics relied on a whole host of circumstances that are absent in the Middle East:

1 - A direct colonial occupation.

Ghandi was able to provoke the colonial powers into very graphically showing their barbarism, and producing images of white-skinned colonial officers beating and shooting peaceful brown-skinned protesters.

This condition is absent from the Middle East - the US colonizes largely by proxy. The images would be of brown-skinned soldiers shooting citizens of their own countries.

2 - A recognition that the citizens of the occupying country are moral people who would oppose their government's actions if they only knew how brutal they were.

US citizens might in fact oppose their government's oppressive actions if they knew of them, or they might not. The criticla thing is, the Al Qaeda leaders (if there is such a thing) do not believe this to be the case, so they do not see the point in illustrating to the American public how bad their government's actions are

3 - A relatively free press, and a government relatively inexperienced in dealing with same.

Several times in Iraq, US soldiers and/or contractors fired with live ammunition (not rubber bullets & tear gas) on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations. This was years ago, when the Iraqi people still believed they might yet get a democracy out of all this mess.

This was precisely the sort of image that led the British population to shame their government into freeing India. But the US government is wise to that sort of thing now, and they have the news media thoroughly under their thumb. Not a hint of any of these incidents reached the ears and eyes of 99% of US citizens.

TheMajorityLdrJuly 3, 2007 1:47 PM

It may very well be that a majority of terror groups fail to accomplish their stated foreign policy objectives; however, an even percursory examination of al-Qaeda's objectives and goals, as stated by Osama bin Laden, demonstrates that the U.S. is playing into his strategy. The entire goal of al-Qaeda terrorism against U.S. interests was to provoke imperial overreach--to provoke an intervention in Muslim lands that would unite disparate Sunni Muslim groups against the U.S. We have absolutely zero credibility in that part of the world as a result of the Iraq war and occupation, and our military resources are being continually drained. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda seem to have proven the theory that the U.S. cannot withstand foreign intervention when American casualties are involved, and through daily deaths of American soldiers, political support for sustaining the war effort has all but evaporated--which, bin Laden hopes, will produce an isolationist sentiment that allows for radical Islam to sweep over the Middle East. So I'm not ready to accept this thesis just yet.

gexJuly 3, 2007 2:01 PM

Al Qaeda may be different in that they realized that they only need to cause a little bit of death and destruction. They knew they could sit back and watch the Neo-cons finish the job for them.

ARMJuly 3, 2007 2:02 PM

@ TheMajorityLdr

"So I'm not ready to accept this thesis just yet."

Just what thesis is that?

That overall terrorism is ineffective? The fact that al-Quaeda might achieve its stated political goals isn't going to significantly alter the fact that most other groups have failed in theirs.

That al-Quaeda will fail? That's not part of the thesis. Just because the overall failure rate is high doesn't preclude any given goal from being met, just that it's less likely than most people think it is.

It seems to me the REAL question is whether or not Mr. Abrahms is correct in making the assumption that a terrorists STATED goals are in close correspondence to their ACTUAL goals. If you don't accept that theory, then his paper doesn't work.

buermannJuly 3, 2007 2:08 PM

A relevant question might be: what's the rate of success for US-backed terrorist groups that mysteriously didn't make it onto the State Dept. list?

X10July 3, 2007 2:09 PM

Are you sure terrorism doesn't work? Have you gone through airport security lately? Seen the cost involved, and the time lost? I can't even travel with just carry-on luggage. Whenever I'm in line, ready to take off my shoes (with the associated health risk) and have my Blackberry go dead in the scanner, I think of a certain Arab, sitting in the desert, laughing at me.

Sez MeJuly 3, 2007 2:11 PM

@gex: "They knew they could sit back and watch the Neo-cons finish the job for them."
------------------
Cheap shot.

ARMJuly 3, 2007 2:25 PM

@ Sez Me

Actually, no. It's NOT a cheap shot. It's a beautiful example of Correspondent Inference theory working here in the United States. Oppenents of the current adminstration and its policies see the negative outcomes of the War on Terror, and presume that those outcomes were the intended goals of the WoT, regardless of the administration's STATED goals...

SleestackJuly 3, 2007 3:15 PM

@ARM

I disagree the intended goals of this specific U.S. administration are to restrict liberty but are instead unintended consequences of the WoT. To spin it more to your direction; they've done nothing to slow the inevitable expansion of governmental authority at the expense of our freedoms.

docwhatJuly 3, 2007 3:19 PM

Unfortunately, a lot of the motivation of these groups is religious and it's hard to convince someone to drop their suicide belt if they believe that they are going to be rewarded in a fictional next life.

As a tactic to prevent suicide bombers, wouldn't getting them to swear on a koran (any version), bible (any version), etc. that there isn't a god via a remote camera and microphone stop a lot of suicide bombers?

After all, if they swear there isn't a god then their religions all say that they can't go to heaven. Makes the idea of blowing something up a little more scary.

Ciao!

Geoff LaneJuly 3, 2007 3:23 PM

"When Fox News calls the Glasgow incident a "holocaust", isn't that an act of terrorism? They are trying to advance a political climate of fear."

What Fox are advancing is a blatant lie. The jeep caused some damage to a doorway and a slight amount of fire damage to some cladding.
Nobody in the building was injured.

The airport fire appliances were on site in minutes (which caused the airport to be closed because takeoffs and landings are not allowed without emergency facilities in place.)

The only significance of this event was the spectacular incompetence of supposably educated doctors who seem to have avoided high school chemistry entirely.

ARMJuly 3, 2007 3:47 PM

@ Sleestack

I take no position on the administration's goals. I only point out that just as Mr. Abrahms states that Correspondent Inference torpedoes terrorist attempts to have their stated goals credited, that the administration has the same problem. Whether or not the erosion of civil liberties is intentional or not, there is a large community of critics that believes that the Bush administration deliberately plays up the terrorist threat as a tactic in attacking civil liberties, and that when they profess this belief, it is not in the service of taking a "cheap shot" against the administration and Neo-conservatives, but rather their sincere (if possibly inaccurate) opinion.

Sez MeJuly 3, 2007 4:01 PM

I remember when 9/11 happened, there was significant number of people who argued that the government should have "connected the dots." To be fair to government without defending what are often incorrect tactics, we can't expect them to "connect the dots" without information. If I was the person responsible for protecting the lives of my citizens from attacks, I'd want as much information as necessary to do just that without any ill intent (i'm not saying the government has no dubious motives, but I'm not going to say all of them are out to get us either).

We must realize this is a tradeoff, as most things are. We must realize with increasing security we often risk our liberties, and when protecting our liberties we often decrease our security. One can't prevent what one can't predict.

I do think the government has gone too far, but I can't completely blame them for it. If, in this post 9/11 world, another major terrorists attacks happen, they'll be the ones having to explain why they didn't piece it together. Most would rather have to explain why they are collecting too much data than why several thousand people are dead because they weren't able to stop it.

Simply put, if we want the government to change their priorities, we need to change our expectations. We can't have it both ways.

AndreasJuly 3, 2007 4:30 PM

So, surprise, surprise, we find contradictions between an organisation's goals, its actual acts, and the actual consequences of these acts.
Well, it's not as if the same didn't happen on the individual level.
Past behaviour is still the best predictor of future behaviour.
So, if Al Quaida repeatedly attacks American and Western targets, chances are they will do so in the future - unless counteracted - regardless of whether their goal is to a) free Saudi Arabia, b) destroy Western culture, or c) give Mr. Bin Laden a hard-on.

Pat CahalanJuly 3, 2007 5:54 PM

Regarding the question, "Isn't dropping a 2000 lb bomb and killing a bunch of civilians an act of terrorism?"

No, it's not... presuming of course that the 2000 lb bomb was dropped on something that was designated a military target, and the civilian deaths were accidental. If I'm intending to blow up a weapons factory and I hit an orphanage instead, that's not terrorism, it's a mistake, albeit a horrible one.

Regarding "aren't the terrorists getting what they want":

Terrorism is the *willful* targeting of non-combatants in an attempt to induce terror with the presumption that a terrorized populace will change in accordance with your goals; that is, killing non-combatants with the purpose of creating fear, presuming that the fearful will accede to your demands.

All this paper shows is that the presumption is wrong; the action itself provides an equal or greater disincentive to the target population to change the way your organization wishes them to change.

In other words, terrorism is self-defeating when it comes to creating policy change in the target environment. That doesn't mean that you can't terrorize people, just that they're unlikely to cave in. They may even change, but they are not going to change in accordance with *your* agenda, only in accordance with *their* agenda.

So, yes, the US has thrown away a lot of the civil liberties as an overreaction to terrorism, but although that may be a side effect that the terrorists can get behind, it's not even really correct to say that they're getting what they want because of their actions, they're getting some of the things that they may want as a byproduct of our actions.

It's a fine distinction, but important. In the first case, the terrorist have initiative and control over the agenda, in the second case, the terrorized have the initiative and control over the agenda. Strategically, the second case may seem to be just fine if you're the terrorist, but lack of control can turn around and bite you in the rear faster than you can realize.

CassandraJuly 3, 2007 6:08 PM

As many have said, terror is a tactic. Like most tactics, building a strategy out of a single tactic or using only a single tactic is ultimately going to be ineffective. This was true for Sparta and its battlefield tactics as much as it would be for a terror organization.

Both terror and guerrilla tactic work best with stealth which is ultimately incompatible with marketing or branding "new world views" or "political change" if facing a strong hierarchal force (conventional military). The transition from guerrilla to statesmen is difficult or even impossible - consider Somalia recently. The necessity is to have an alternate channel of operation to perform that communication function. IRA + Sein Fenn are an apt example.

It's certainly possible to more strongly disconnect the two channels. The best possible operational success for terror or guerrilla tactics happens this way. Nothing would be quite so terrifying as *never* finding out the who or why of some devastating attack. In a way any communiques from Al Queda are operational flaws. Being disconnected also gives free rein to political communications and demands.

It's this part that raises the spectre of Al Queda being nothing more than a False Flag organization. As time goes on it rapidly becomes the only possibility that fits all the accumulated facts.

This begs the question: is the entire premise of the paper accidentally or purposely so narrow as to be meaningless? Or is it false flag propaganda itself?

UNTERJuly 3, 2007 7:19 PM

Colonial revolutionaries went after the British military. The French underground targetted Nazi troops. The American Indians targetted the military and irregulars (settlers).

Hence, none of these are terrists.

====

Whaahh?? Wishful thinking there? There is no clear line between "irregulars" and "civilians". The French underground targeted, among others, "collaborators", in other words civilians in order to intimidate other civilians. The American Indians and the US Army targeted not only soldiers, but the infrastructure - killing women and children in villages and settler towns.

We can go on and on and on. It's not the tactics, stupid! It's the goal and the efficacy of the tactics toward that strategic goal that are morally judged. The US is not judged amoral, in general, for intentional attacks on civilian populations in Japan and Europe. Why? The goal is generally lauded, and the US was successful in winning (and therefore ending) WWII.

These attempts to legally bind methods is simply absurd. When it is efficacious to eliminate methods, it is because they are simple (say the spreading of a chemical agent), and they are generally destructive to all sides (say applying radiological poisons). But to say that "terrorism", whatever the hell that is, is "evil" in all cases (by anyone who is not a pacifist), is either disingenuous or simply moronic.

Al-Qaeda is bad because their goals of a Shariah state is offensive morally, and the price in human lives paid is unlikely to advance their cause. On the other hand, tar-and-feathering civilians as was done by the American Revolutionaries is morally acceptable because we agree with their goals, and it was likely to lead to success in the war.

BockworthJuly 3, 2007 7:46 PM

2 comments:

(1) A relevant issue that no one seems to be discussing: Okay, so terrorism is not very effective. But is it MORE EFFECTIVE THAN THE ALTERNATIVES? 7% success is not very good, but it is better than 0%. So despite its ineffectiveness, a radical group might still rationally conclude that terrorism is their best strategy.

(2) About the "stated goals of Al Qaeda": AFAIK there is no such thing. Yes, O. bin Laden has released a number of communications; in some of these he talks about what he is trying to accomplish. But a stated goal of O.b.L. is not the same as a goal of Al Qaeda. Have there been any public communications at all that are supposed to have come from Al Qaeda? I don't think so. (But go ahead and prove me wrong ....)

RonJuly 3, 2007 7:58 PM

An interesting paper, and some of its conclusions are valid, but this quant of "7 percent of their objectives were acheived" is silly.

First, not all objectives are equally important.

Second, there are stated and unstated objectives. The stated objective might be "let my province secede from the country", while the unstated objective might be, "let us extort a bigger share of natural resource revenues".

Then there are individual objectives: the terrorist leader who organizes the plot os very different from the foot soldier who carries it out. A top level leader might do it for the ego boost. He might have led a group during an earlier civil insurrection and doesn't want to let go of the identity/rle he's forged over the years. There is evidence that Bin Laden became the head of what became Al Qaeda during the mujahedeen fight to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan, and with that war won he didn't want to let go of his position as leader of a merry band of thugs and killers, so he found a new purpose.

That means that the "objectives" are just the tail wagging the dog, an excuse not a cause. The underlying solution is to have fewer armed groups looking for a purpose - which means the underlying cause of Al Qaeda was Reagan's funding of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 80s.

LEGJuly 3, 2007 8:11 PM

ARM said: "It seems to me the REAL question is whether or not Mr. Abrahms is correct in making the assumption that a terrorists STATED goals are in close correspondence to their ACTUAL goals. If you don't accept that theory, then his paper doesn't work."

Bingo. I believe that terrorists want to promote timidity in the West toward the encroachment of radical Islam (e.g., subjugated and uber-clothed women, special privileges for Muslims, suppression of criticism of all this). They are winning on these fronts.

People try extra-hard to be nice to Muslims precisely because of the terrorism of radical Muslims. Kinda like you are nice to somebody named Petrucci if the Mafia is active in your neighborhood. If terrorism didn't work, gangs wouldn't exist.

Pacifism today was made possible only by the sacrifices of past generations who knew better. It's the moral equivalent of today's politicians' spending of the peace dividend and more, dumping the whole mess on the next generation of taxpayers. Spending down our inheritance, in this case a cultural inheritance achieved through strong and unabashed defense of what we used to call Western values. You know, the values that common sense used to tell us were superior to tribal or other values because they produced superior outcomes, including human freedom, unprecedented in world history.

UNTERJuly 3, 2007 8:12 PM

And Ron, there is always the old "We're going to kill a bunch of people to cover up an assassination we've been paid to do, and call it terrorism."

Naaah, that never happens....

i,bigfootJuly 3, 2007 8:19 PM

@Andy
"Terrorism is only a tactic. The ultimate goal is a Sharia state and the whole world under Islam."

It would also seem that the goal of recreating the caliphate is still being accomplished. It was needful for al Qaeda to show the Islamic world that the west, specifically the US, could be beaten in military conflict. I think that the current state of affairs in Iraq and Afghanistan is demonstrating to the entire world that western military might is not as effective as it was thought to be.
I don't think that the US was a target because it was "The US" but rather it was targeted simply because it was the powerful western nation.

AnonymousJuly 3, 2007 8:44 PM

@Geoff Lane,

"incompetence of supposably educated doctors who seem to have avoided high school chemistry entirely."

Jeesh I don't know what area you grew up in but I don't know of any Western "High School" teaching "Bomb Making 101"

The LPG cylinder explodes in the same way a balloon does simply due to the internal presure exceding the physical capabilities of the cylinder. However unlike a balloon a cylinder tends to only split which tends to vent the gas and obviously slows the release of it significantly.

The propane gas does not normaly "explode" in the normal sense the problem being,

C3H8 + 5O2 -> 3CO2 + 4H2O

It requires a lot of oxygen (5 x O2) very very quickly for all the LPG to combust in a short enough time for it to be considered an explosion (ie detonation not deflagration) . Likewise Butane

2 C4H10 + 13O2 -> 8CO2 + 10H2O

Requires even more oxygen (13 x O2).

In both cases from the physical rupturing of the cylinder the gas probably cannot expand fast enough for there to be sufficient oxygen from fuel/air mixing for a super sonic blast wave (detonation) to be formed. What you get instead is either a burning vent stream or a fireball (deflagration) where the chemical energy is released as the hot propane meets the oxygen in the air and physics not chemistry is the main determinant of what happens at the fuel air interface.

If however you bleed of sufficient propane and then put oxygen back into the LPG cylinder then you would assuming they mix and disperse adequately get the posibility of the propane exploding in the excepted sense (ie detonation not deflagration). In which case you end up with a high end Fuel Air Explosive (FAE). There is a niffty little animated gif of an FAE in action at,

http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/dumb/...

And you can read an interesting explination of vapor cloud explosions from which the gif came from at,

http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/dumb/fae.htm

SamhJuly 3, 2007 8:59 PM

@~CW~

I'm not sure it's about destroying the American way of life so much as American foreign policy.

Clive RobinsonJuly 3, 2007 9:31 PM

@i,bigfoot

"I don't think that the US was a target because it was "The US" but rather it was targeted simply because it was the powerful western nation."

I think you will find that dear old Osama Bin Laden picked out the U.S. specifically because it supported the House of Saud. He has a long long running argument against them and senior members of his own family who made their millions from the largess of the house of Saud, and their strong conections with the Bush Gov.

The largess his father, Mohamed received was in part due to the way he engineered the transfer of the Saudi throne away from the corrupt King Saud to the pious King Faisal in the 1960's.

So Osama's father was effectivly a "king maker" and Osama is very well aware of the many failings of the House of Saud.

It is reported that Osama is still smarting over the rejection from the House of Saud in 1991 of his offer to provide a fighting force to protect the kingdom from Saddam Hussein.

On the bright side for Osama he might not have long to wait. The death of King Fahd in Aug 2005 after ten years of being unable to rule effectivly due to ill health, and the poor economic state of the Kingdom is reported to have weakened the House of Saud to the point where it is no longer viable. It has also been noted on several occasions that it appears that only the current U.S. Gov are stopping the House of Saud falling due to the complex relations between the Bin Laden family and the House of Saud and the need for cheap oil.

antimediaJuly 3, 2007 9:47 PM

@josephdietrich "The other members of al Qaeda (or al Qaeda-inspired groups and individuals) almost certainly have other reasons involving things like revenge and anger at Western actions, but at their root they are all motivated in some way in reaction to Western foriegn policy. They clearly hate Americans and they want to kill a lot of them, but they want to do so for specific reasons."

I had to chuckle when I read this having read this (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=465570&in_page_id=1770) just yesterday.

"When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network - a series of British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology - I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy."

It's amazing how stupid educated people can be.

JOJuly 3, 2007 10:06 PM

Bin Laden gave an interview in Esquire in 1998 (he was on the cover) where saying he wanted to kill Americans in the military and taxpayers, for supporting Israel.

http://www.esquire.com/ESQ0299-FEB_LADEN

"We do not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians; they are all targets in this fatwa." Bin Laden argued that American outrage at attacks on American civilians constitutes a great double standard.

KanlyJuly 3, 2007 10:11 PM

@Concerned British Colonist: "Terrorist are clearly out to destroy our way of life, and to reject our nation's ability to prosper economically."

Maybe you ascribe too much to them. I can't imagine the Glasgow Gang chatting in the car beforehand about such subject matter. Try a brainwashed, religious fervor. They're feeling strong, pumped and happy. They're going to get their 72 virgins/raisins. A moment of absolute clarity. Everything they ever thought was right. God be praised.

Same depth of logic with Bush and his decision to invade Iraq. You reckon he did it because of some socioeconomic incremental theory Condi came up with? Nah. He did it because he wanted to feel like a man.

Blair supported it because he thought himself a great man destined for great things, and history would remember him as the stateman who brought forth the "Flower of Democracy" aross the world: Jefferson. Lincoln. Blair.

Howard supported it because he's a footnote on the world stage that the likes to feel important.

Every seemingly complex sociopolitical phenomena has pretty simple roots. Don't miss the trees when you look at the forest.

Bruce SchneierJuly 3, 2007 10:18 PM

"Nice try... trying to disarm anyone who dares believe al-Qaeda is out to cause massive death and destruction."

Of course they're out to cause massive death and destruction; I never meant to imply otherwise. The question is whether that's their ultimate goal, or whether that's just a means to a political end.

Ugly AmericanJuly 4, 2007 3:44 AM

The problem is, some people cave in and do give terrorists what they want. Take Spain for example. They gave them everything they asked for.

And the result? Of course, the terrorists did it again and wanted more.

I encourage everyone to look up how muslim suicide attacks were stopped by the US 100 years ago in the south pacific. By ritually defiling the bodies with pig fat and doing the reverse of whatever they demanded. It worked quite well.

Sez MeJuly 4, 2007 1:48 PM

@Bruce Schneier: "Of course they're out to cause massive death and destruction; I never meant to imply otherwise. The question is whether that's their ultimate goal, or whether that's just a means to a political end."
----------------
I think it is both an ultimate goal and a means to a goal, mostly the latter. For most front line terrorists, they don't have much of a goal behind their death (martyrdom to them) and the 72 virgins they believe are awaiting them. The terrorist leadership (for lack of a better term) use the front line terrorists as a means to an other goal.

Best,
sm

BillOGoodsJuly 4, 2007 1:56 PM

I thought the idea that “everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten��? was cute, albeit absurd. But trying to determine the “real motives��? of (okay, I won’t say “terrorists��?) anyone intending to kill or maim innocents to accomplish a “higher��? purpose is a fool’s errand. We did learn in kindergarten that bullies can’t be allowed to get their way, otherwise more, and stronger bullies will result. So, in order to defeat bloodthirsty tactics, the motives of the bloodthirsty are irrelevant.

Besides, why should the bloodthirsty be believed? Why should it matter? Does anyone doubt that if Hamas, Hizballah, and the like minded decided to lay down arms and bombs the Middle East would become an economic powerhouse of productive and civilized people overnight? Yet, if Israel decided to discontinue its military, there would be instant genocide, then a factional war among Arabs? No, liberty and economic freedom are not to be found on Al Qaeda’s or any other Middle East-violent organization’s agenda, if they really have one. So, there is nothing to discuss with them, anyway. Anyone that uses death as a tactic and does not have freedom and liberty as their only goal, cannot and should not be taken seriously.

Besides, the entire premise of Bruce’s referenced article is dubious because, as pointed out by a poster, the stated “success��? rates are more than acceptable to the alleged disenfranchised, given the alternative of infinite obscurity.

Nations have a vital interest in protecting the life and property of their citizenry. The US Constitution creates a constitutionally limited republican form of government with at least one purpose being to “provide for the common defence . . . .��? When the US or any other free state reacts to this form of violence, i.e., terrorism, the critiques are inspired largely for political advantage, but a free electorate ultimately “gets it,��? i.e., they learned in kindergarten that the bully needs to be removed from the room.

NMJuly 5, 2007 10:00 AM

"I guess Im one of those people. After seeing all the media coverage with the rag-headed fidels carrying "death to America" signs, I have little reason to believe otherwise...."

Al Qaeda killed 3000 on 9/11

America has killed on the order of 1 million arabs in Iraq.

If someone's out to "kill us all", which is it?

Sez MeJuly 5, 2007 10:28 AM

@NM: "America has killed on the order of 1 million arabs in Iraq."

Ridiculous statement. Even if you count the terrorists among the dead and blame America for innocents blown up by terrorists, the number 1 million is still a huge stretch.

I'm not downplaying civilian deaths by any means. But we certainly are fighting an enemy that loves to kill civilians and loves to get innocents in the crossfire so that when then cause them to get killed they can say "see, America's bad!" and count on people such as yourself to eat it up. It is logic like this that makes killing innocent people such a good PR move for terrorists.

There has never been a war without casualties, and I can't think of a war in living memory where the enemy was as willing to kill as many of their own as this enemy is.

I know there are many moral arguments against imperfect America. But yours is not one of them. It is very hard to take a person who makes such ridiculous accusations seriously.

JaredJuly 5, 2007 10:44 AM

> Someone actually said that Bush warning us that terrorists want to kill our children--an absolute fact--is terrorism

No, see that's not what he said, stop drinking the kool-aid and start hearing what they say, not what you want to hear. BushCo have repeatedly made the claim that "a vote for a Democrat is a vote for the terrorists". I.e., vote Republican or you'll die.

That is blatant, unfounded fear-mongering. It may not be terrorism since there's no actual violence involved, but it's definitely terrorizing.

And on another note, you guys who sit in your chairs shaking with fear at the thought of an invasion by the Islamic Hordes® are truly pathetic. Yeah, there's a billion muslims out there. So what? Even _if_ a large chunk of them decided to go to war, and _if_ they could all rally around a single flag and march on the West (a scenario which is roughly on par with the earth spinning backwards), what'll they do? Ride over on their magic carpets and fire AK-47's into the air until you surrender? The US and the other western nations are simply too large, too powerful, and too wealthy to fall before anything short of a NATO-vs-Soviet-style ICBM attack. We lost a major American city to a hurricane 2 years ago, and on the whole, it hasn't fazed us a bit.

The only people that can really screw things up for all of us are _us_. And we are doing exactly that by voting for and listening to these secretive, authoritarian fear-mongerers who love nothing more than to push security theater that just happens to make them more powerful. Terrorists could not possibly have taken away our right to a trial by jury, but our duly elected representatives managed it with the stroke of a pen.

You want to believe that there's an epic war going on, and to a great extent that's true. But you've got the teams all wrong. There is a conflict between rational thought and freedom on one side, and knee-jerk reactionaries and religious fundamentalism on the other. And in that conflict, guys like Bush and bin Laden are on the same side.

JaredJuly 5, 2007 10:58 AM

> Sez Me: Ridiculous statement. Even if you count the terrorists among the dead and blame America for innocents blown up by terrorists, the number 1 million is still a huge stretch.

You really do live in your own little world, don't you? How's the weather there? The last estimates were at ~650,000 and that was 9 months ago. At best, we'll still rack up that 1,000,000th death within a year.

(Cue GOP talking point about how the Lancet study was flawed for no particular reason other than that it would be bad news for the war-mongerers if it were accurate).

Clive RobinsonJuly 5, 2007 11:09 AM

@Sez Me

"Ridiculous statement. Even if you count the terrorists among the dead and blame America for innocents blown up by terrorists, the number 1 million is still a huge stretch."

Possibly not depending on how you count it when you include all the early deaths caused by American imposed sanctions between the two wars it could be several times that.

Irespective of that however is the humanitarian disaster in the making that Iraq currently is. Due to the effects of the war and ongoing military activities Iraq is hemoraging refugees to other parts of the world.

For the rest of us how long before some of the undesirables / insergants / whatever you wish to call them think "ahh time to make like a refugee as good cover" to the detriment of the nation that takes them in...

Sez MeJuly 5, 2007 11:20 AM

Thanks for the tips guys, but I enjoy the weather here on planet earth just fine and I don't partake in Kool Aid. The reverse of what you say is true also--something being pro-Bush and pro-America doesn't make it true, but neither does something being anti-Bush and anti-America. All the world's problems are not America's fault, no matter how much you want to believe that.

Funny how differeing opinions are dismissed as GOP talking points or Bush Kool Aid without knowing what I really think about either. The GOP thoroughly deserved its spanking last year, and Bush is so completely inept that he's losing a propaganda war to a bunch of thungs who blow up children. Is that GOP or Bush Kook Aid talking?

I'm merely saying we need to be fair. Not liking someone or some thing doesnt justify any crazy statement against them, and not believing wild accusations against someone doesn't mean you are in the tank for them. BTW, I also defended Clinton against wild accusations that he bombed al queda to stall his impeachment--must have been that GOP Kool Aid.

JaredJuly 5, 2007 12:10 PM

Republicans have been loudly, explicitly, obnoxiously, and indiscriminantly accusing of "sympathizing with terrorists" anyone who didn't advocate widespread slaughter of Muslims for years now. And you have the gall to get your panties in a self-righteous twist when we point out how using lies, exaggerations, and fear-mongering to terrorize the population into giving absolute unaccountable power and control over the most lethal army in history to a, by your own admission, bumbling idiot of man, might be a Bad Thing?

Sez MeJuly 5, 2007 1:00 PM

Gall? Panties in a twist? Nice additions to Bush Kook Aid and GOP Kool Aid. I really enjoy the mature and rational discussions.

They way I see it is this. We have differing opinions, and believe or not, I respect that. I won't stoop to accusing someone of being in the tank for the DNC or drinking kool aid, I'd rather have dialogue. It seems hurling insults and accusing them of having their panties in a twist is where the real gall is.

I'm tuning out. Most the time I enjoy dialoging with people I disagree with this because I realize I'm fallible an may be wrong, but I don't learn much talking about twisted panties.

GlennJuly 5, 2007 1:30 PM

@Bockworth:

"A relevant issue that no one seems to be discussing: Okay, so terrorism is not very effective. But is it MORE EFFECTIVE THAN THE ALTERNATIVES? 7% success is not very good, but it is better than 0%. So despite its ineffectiveness, a radical group might still rationally conclude that terrorism is their best strategy."

Exactly what I was wondering about. How does terrorism's effective compare with, say, hunger strikes or economic sanctions?

BillOGoodsJuly 5, 2007 4:15 PM

Ahhhh. I think not, Jared. It's hard to agree with anything you say, but the most outrageous just might be that you seem to say enemy combatants deserve to have formal criminal charges, a jury trial, and all the protections afforded by the US Constitution, do you?

Are you nuts? Or have I read too much into your broad statement? If not, are they entitled to high priced legal counsel paid for by the taxpayers, too?

Ali QudabiJuly 5, 2007 6:57 PM

Terrorism doesn't work, because when you kill people and blow stuff up, no one gives a rat's *ss why you did it, they simply want you dead. - Pretty simple to me.

Henk ter HeideJuly 7, 2007 7:32 AM

A few month after the 9/11 attack Dutch television showed an interview with some al Qaeda spokes person who stated that the goal of the attack was to get in a war with the United States and lose that war.
The hope was that the United States would come with some kind of Marshall plan after al Qaeda lost. This would greatly help the followers of al Qaeda.

MozJuly 7, 2007 1:59 PM

@BillOGoods

I'm always trying to work this out. Our claim is that a) justice has to be done: People who are mistaken to be enemy combatants where they are actually not are entitled to representation. This means that you have to give the representation to enemy combatants since you can't tell for sure whether there was a mistake until there is a proper investigation (==full trial). and that b) justice has to be seen to be done: If you don't give the full trial, the "enemy combatants" just claim that they were innocent and the process was fixed against them. Their ability to claim this means that your own system of justice works as propaganda against you.

Are you honestly unable to follow these arguments? Do you honestly believe that every single person labeled as an "enemy combatant" really is one (absolutely zero false positives)? Do you believe that everybody, even your enemies, really thinks the US provides justice but pretends not to? Do you have another reason/justification for using a different system of justice from the standard one?

BillOGoodsJuly 7, 2007 10:01 PM

Okay, Moz, you are apparently fine with the notion that an enemy can flip the bird to the Geneva Conventions, not fight under a flag, and not wear uniforms to identify themselves, and so on. Thereby forcing the United States to treat them all as criminals and---this part is unbelievable---giving these scumbags the rights of a citizen of the US or, at least, a resident, under the US Constitution. They get a trial in a Washington, DC, federal court.

What a war strategy---publicly try every battlefield scum bag and run the risk we reveal on a silver plater tactics, methods, informants, and strategies---AQ just has to order the transcript.

Of course, we have to abide by every jot and tiddle of the GC. It's a one way street.

This Nation declared war. Talk to me when that changes. Until then, do we or don't we have faith in our institutions, like the military, or not? None of these issues were raised in World War II, Korea, or even Vietnam. Believe it or not, Moz, you can get justice in front of a Military Tribunal.

In those cases that don't appear fair, we can investigate after we win the war---like we did in WWII. Not until then.

You act like these guys in GitMo are just innocent family men that were tending their crops and got swept up as prisoners of war. I find that highly improbable. We aren't dealing with US Citizens.

I have faith the Military will afford them due process as least as consistently as an Article III federal court. You are the one assuming War Tribunals are predisposed to be unfair. There's no evidence of that. No court or tribunal under any circumstances is "zero false positives." Moreover, you don't owe a federal district court trial to non-citizens who were not residents.

Finally, it does not matter what "everybody," particularly the enemy, "thinks" about the justice system in this country. The important thing is what reasonable people looking at the circumstances think. Last time I checked, people from all over the world want to come to United States. They have, apparently, taken everything into account and believe this Country is better at what it does than most others. I'm happy with that.

josephdietrichJuly 8, 2007 1:06 PM

@antimedia: I wasn't clear enough in the "other reasons" part of my comment, because I didn't intend for it to be limited.

It's clear there are a people out there that hate "the West" for a myriad of other reasons than policy or even no reasons at all. But it used to be that they were mostly limited to cheering bad things that they see on TV. Thus the "British Jihadi Network's" lackluster performance in actually committing terror attacks. They simply could not recruit a lot of people to their cause when their cause was setting up "a revolutionary worldwide Islamic state that would dispense Islamic justice," because that is not an item high on most Muslims' agendas.

However, in light of Western policy re: the Islamic world the stated goals of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda *can* recruit people, because the policies appears to give these goals some legitimacy in the eyes of the target population. You have U.S. troops shooting up houses in Iraq, or the Europeans not really doing much while the Serbians round up and shoot the Bosnian Muslims, and this list of objectives becomes something that Muslim on the street can get behind. Then the next thing you know the wackos and religious fanatics are getting funding and support and followers who will actually carry out their actions.

This is not to say that Western (American) policy is wrong or that it should change; perhaps what we get out of the deal is worth the price of Islamic terrorism. But the fact remains that as long as we keep doing the things we are doing we are not going to win the hearts and minds of the population al Qaeda and like-minded groups and individuals count on to survive and function effectively.

BillOGoodsJuly 10, 2007 9:55 PM

It seems to me, antim, that what's really at work is a "template," of sorts for Jihad. The Jihadies have found the cha-ching in marketing to the recruits.

Those pushing Global Jihad kept changing the focus until they found something that worked. Palestinian "homeland," quotes from the Koran about this or that in support of death for Islam, or, ta daaaa: the Great Satan!!!

The PR machine could be effective when they villainize "the West." Starting with the Shah of Iran, who turned into a symbol of the West, all the way to the US Military in Lebanon or, now, in Iraq.

First a few martyrs detonating a truck bomb, or the odd car bombers to a steady flow---and the families get ching and a little recognition.

Like you say, what's the US or "the West" to do? We have to protect our interests and will do so. Yet, whenever the West does, it fits right into Al Jazeera "template" for the West as villain.

Iran can gin up it's hate machine about the Great Satan, but, all this proves is that wars must be fought until they are won, regardless of the price. Anything but clear victory over global Islamic terror---whatever the alleged motives---will continue to allow this hate to roil and smolder.

bsJuly 13, 2007 10:44 AM

I say let them throw anything they have at us after all we can not control it,

The world must go on, its sad to say that over the next 50+ years or so 1000's of inocent people will die, will the terrorist succeed? proberly not they may retrive a nuclear device and set it off but its not going to change anything, it will cause mass panic but after the clean up we will carry on as normal.

what will be said? The politicians will say we will defeat terrorism.

Am i true.

Unbiased BillJuly 16, 2007 5:11 PM

The point being missed is that terrorism does work very effectively. Its aim is to attract the sympathy of Left-Wing "thinkers" and to increase their political activity against Right, or Conservative government of the day.

It is completely misinformed of anyone to say that terrorists' actions do not succeed because of the negative effect that their acts have on would-be supporters of their cause.

Terrorists know that there is a Left and a Right of Western thinking, and that they can achieve their goals to varying degrees of by increasing the intensiveness of left-wing political activity.

Whatever the cause of any terrorist, it is guaranteed that "Left thinkers" will think that the terrorism is at least partly justified, because of the sufferings those terrorists have endured at the hands of the Right.

The more terror that is unleashed, the more urgently will the Left lobby for the implementation of their policies, or installment in government of their representatives.

Generally, to name a few that come to mind, the organiser of terrorist activities would inclulde in his/her political objectives, the following: 1. reduction in Western militance against the (nations who support) terrorists, 2. withdrawal from strategic military positions 3. withdrawal of support for Israel, 4. greater openness to Islamic immigration, and, soon, 5. Introduction of elements of Islamic law in Western countries. Ultimately, they will demand 6. Prohibition of non Islamic or anti-Islamic practises anywhere.

While the Leftish thinkers do not rationally and cognisantly seek to fulfil the terrorists's aims, the spectre of confrontation with the terrorists provokes them to prop up a screen of denial.

They disallow the possibility that a terrorist could have anything against them, personally, and vice versa. Therefore they need to blame someone else. That will always be their natural enemy, the Right.

This is why Terrorism truly does work. It works because Left Wing thinkers exist and vote. The terrorists (or those who send them) know full well that conservative thinkers, the military, the police, and intelligent people in general, etc., will never be influenced by terrorists killing the innocent.

But they also know with absolute certainty that not so much a single, solitary individual among the Left, - not a Leftish soul in the whole world -- will stand against them and confront them for what they are. If they did so, they wouldn't really be Left Wingers any longer, would they?

MarsNovember 23, 2007 10:55 AM

Since, as you told us, terrorism doesn't "work", why
do they continue to do it? Do they not know it doesn't work? I doubt
that. Islamic terrorists have been blowing people up for decades.
They must have noticed that the US is still stationing troops in the
middle East and that Israel is still on the map. So they are either
stupid or there must be another answer. I vote for the latter. I
think terrorism as a struggle against The Man takes on a social
meaning independent of political objectives. Just like American
teenagers wear saggy jeans, turn their hats sideways, and say "Yo" a
lot as they walk around their rich, white suburbs, never having seen
an actual ghetto gangster other than on TV, Islamic wannabees grow
up thinking it is their cultural destiny to blow up the Infidels. A
secondary, contributing factor might be that terrorist tactics are
the only type of military operations available to the distributed
Islamic radicals. Sometimes you just do whatever you CAN do whether
it works or not. Whatever you think of my ideas, I think it
worthwhile to answer the original question: if it doesn't work, why
do they do it? I loved your analysis. We aren't often getting new
information about this whole war on terror mess. Thank You. Dave

CRyanFebruary 8, 2008 9:52 AM

I totally disagree with mars on how he compares the American teenager with the terrprist iraqi soldiers in America. The teenagers are gooing through a fad which will soon pass over, yet the Muslim faith in the Qur'an is part of their cultural beliefs. If they were just doing this because the rest of the Muslim culture was based on the Qur'an, then our God would also be considered something that would pass over just like a fad as well. They do what they are doing because they believe they will end up in heave recieving their fourty virgins and praising Allah for their efforts. Thank you.

CRyanFebruary 8, 2008 9:52 AM

I totally disagree with mars on how he compares the American teenager with the terrprist iraqi soldiers in America. The teenagers are gooing through a fad which will soon pass over, yet the Muslim faith in the Qur'an is part of their cultural beliefs. If they were just doing this because the rest of the Muslim culture was based on the Qur'an, then our God would also be considered something that would pass over just like a fad as well. They do what they are doing because they believe they will end up in heave recieving their fourty virgins and praising Allah for their efforts. Thank you.

CRyanFebruary 8, 2008 9:53 AM

I totally disagree with mars on how he compares the American teenager with the terrprist iraqi soldiers in America. The teenagers are gooing through a fad which will soon pass over, yet the Muslim faith in the Qur'an is part of their cultural beliefs. If they were just doing this because the rest of the Muslim culture was based on the Qur'an, then our God would also be considered something that would pass over just like a fad as well. They do what they are doing because they believe they will end up in heave recieving their fourty virgins and praising Allah for their efforts. Thank you.

CRyanFebruary 8, 2008 9:53 AM

I totally disagree with mars on how he compares the American teenager with the terrprist iraqi soldiers in America. The teenagers are gooing through a fad which will soon pass over, yet the Muslim faith in the Qur'an is part of their cultural beliefs. If they were just doing this because the rest of the Muslim culture was based on the Qur'an, then our God would also be considered something that would pass over just like a fad as well. They do what they are doing because they believe they will end up in heave recieving their fourty virgins and praising Allah for their efforts. Thank you.

CRyanFebruary 8, 2008 9:53 AM

I totally disagree with mars on how he compares the American teenager with the terrprist iraqi soldiers in America. The teenagers are gooing through a fad which will soon pass over, yet the Muslim faith in the Qur'an is part of their cultural beliefs. If they were just doing this because the rest of the Muslim culture was based on the Qur'an, then our God would also be considered something that would pass over just like a fad as well. They do what they are doing because they believe they will end up in heave recieving their fourty virgins and praising Allah for their efforts. Thank you.

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