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Psychology of Terrorism

Updated on May 1, 2013

The Mind of the Terrorist...

The purpose of this research paper will be to continue the exploration of the human mind as it relates to the paradox of what would motivate a human being and or group of human beings who would find justification for the slaughter of non-combatants and the sacrifice of ones own life for a cause and or ideology.

A historical view of terrorism:

Due to the emergence of the modern day media within the latter stages of the twentieth century on into the embryo phase of the twenty-first century and one could be led to believe that Islam inspired terrorism targeting the United States of America and Western Civilization is a wicked phenomenon that has been unleashed within the past forty to fifty years. International media covered horrific events such the 1979 four hundred and forty-four day American hostage crisis in Iran and the1972 massacre of members of the Israeli Olympic team at the games in Munich, Germany. The aforementioned actions informed modern Western society that we now have a formidable enemy on the rise; however no event confirmed the presence of our adversary more poignantly than the Tuesday, September 11, 2001 attack on our homeland.

That being stated; the historic facts dictate that the Islamic Extremist scourge reared its ugly head in opposition to the West in the early segment of the nineteenth century. The Barbary States consisted of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli who were master pirates and honed their vicious craft while terrorizing European and American sea vessels. ([1] history.state.gov)

Calculated terrorist's death:

The more perplexing conundrum in the assessing of terrorism is the suicide factor; within Judeo-Christian society the concept of killing oneself is looked upon as unthinkable. Therefore when pondering the calculated use of human beings sacrificing their lives as a combat strategy as opposed to preparing troops to go into battle with maximum chance for victory and survival.

However for the enemies of the United States and the West it has proven to be a dangerous asymmetrical threat that does not appear to dissipate at any time in the foreseeable future. From a Western perspective more may need to be done in the psychological warfare training realm. A training that should focus on finding a solution that could potentially strip terrorist organizations that utilize human bombers from the prestige and glory associated with martyrdom. Most in the West would agree that this is quite a daunting task and may not be possible. Nevertheless with the academic and military apparatus available within the West striving for such a lofty goal as to neutralize the effect of the suicide bomber may be considered prudent. ([2] Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders pg.227)

The pathological psychology of terrorist

Some would argue that the act of human sacrifice is a barbaric, degrading, and spiritually wicked concept. It could be assumed that any human being willing to knowingly prepare their self to end their own life would more than likely suffer from some sort of severe mental illness. Possibly victims of neglect, violence and or trauma in their youth; it may be these type of individuals that are lured into a terrorist faction to be manipulated and or coerced into joining the ranks of the human bombers. To reiterate, it now may be considered wise to explore more in depth the psychological boundaries and mental capacity of the suicide bomber. One could only hope that valuable research is being done to psychoanalyze suicide bombers whose mission was thwarted by Western counterterrorism elements and are now in custody and subject to Western psychological professional’s analysis. ([3] Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders pg.228)

The mental development of a terrorist

Some experts may view that the personality disorder associated with the mindset of a terrorist as the lone wolf syndrome, however when reflecting on the warmth that existed between the Hezbollah suicide bomber and his wife and young children in Ms. Jaber’s highly informative book and the issue becomes even more complex. It may be considered wise not to attempt to label terrorist and recognize the motivation that drives the individual that decides to join a terrorist organization as their cause and reasoning or diverse. From thrill seekers to those seeking acceptance in a group, to genuine religious zealots and the challenge to analyze the terrorist is formidable and complicated. ([4] Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 229)

The sociology of terrorist organizations

Moving forward to what may be looked upon as the two pillars of the terrorist agenda;politics and religion stand out as the key motivational factors in the terrorist battle cry. On the surface it appears to be a matter of “black and white;” however it all seems to be more nuanced a situation than good vs. evil. World history provides documented evidence that mankind has been waging war, conquering, destroying, and seeking to control other human beings since the dawn of creation. Religion vs. religion, cult vs. cult, tribe vs. tribe; from all this conflict and bloodshed leaves hatred, bitterness, and strife that has manifested itself in world wars, police actions, and today asymmetrical warfare to include terrorism. In regards to the issues of politics and religion and some may agree it is quite simply a matter of what side of the “fence” you choose to stand on. ([5] Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 229)

Cognitive complexity among terrorist leaders

The leaders of terrorist organizations are enigmatic types of human beings capable of controlling other human beings via otherworldly charismatic communication skills. They are able to convince their followers to commit reprehensible feats of violence, kidnappings and commit suicide for a cause that the individual may or may not have believe in completely.

One can only imagine that there would be narcissistic terrorist leaders, as well as sadistic maladjusted madmen, however even more unnerving would be the rational terrorist leader who believes in his cause down to the marrow of his bones. Again it would be the truly committed zealot that would pose the greater challenge to the Western military and intelligence community; as the message that they would convey to their minions would not fall on death ears. ([6] Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 229)

Discernible patterns within terrorist factions

With terrorism being a group affair, the study of the group dynamic involved would be vital. It could be the focus on the group’s social dynamics, internal philosophy, collective identity that may allow Western counterterrorism experts to select the appropriately trained operators to possibly infiltrate the group. Typically within a group setting there is usually if not always a weak link; proper psychoanalysis of a terrorist faction could possibly uncover such a opportunity for professionals who are charged with combating terrorism. ([7] Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg.229)

The ideological domains of terrorist organizations

From an American perspective it can be difficult at times not to make Islamic Extremism the focal point of an anti terrorist mindset and agenda, however with the harsh realities of home grown terrorism, Western Civilization bred terrorist organizations such as the NRA and the ideological domains in which terrorist factions operate within are vast and complex and exist well beyond the boundaries of the Middle East and Islam. ([8] Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 229)


Explore a developmental psychological model for study of the terrorist mindset

At this point in history a new strategy is imperative; there must be a model implemented that encompasses a method that will counteract a movement in which its members are willing to become human bombs.

The challenge of discovering the crux of the Jihadist movement and lookbeyond the bin-Laden era; there are new opposition that must be prepared for new leaders new methods, however the same agenda; the destruction of The United States of America, Israel, and Western Civilization as whole. ([9] Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg.230)

A predicative analysis assessment at terrorism

It could be look upon as over ambitious to attempt to develop a predicative analysis assessment of a entity as complicated as terrorism; however with the rise of China, a soon to be nuclear armed Iran, North Korea, and long time nemesis Russian and the West is opposed by forces that must be reckoned with. There are theories that point to the aforementioned nation-states being sponsors of non-state actor perpetrated terrorism; if there is there a remote thread of truth in such an accusation then proper analysis leading to a plan of action to defeat such a threat would be considered crucial. ([10] Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 235)

References:

1) Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State http://history.state.gov/milestones/1801-1829/BarbaryWars

2)Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders: Insights from Developmental and Ecological Psychology, ALICE LOCICERO Endicott College Social Sciences Division Beverly, Massachusetts, USA SAMUEL J. SINCLAIR,

Massachusetts General Hospital pg. 227

3) Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders pg.228

4) Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders pg.229

5) Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 229

6) Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 229

7) Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 229

8) Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 229

9) Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 230

10) Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 235

Bibliography:

Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State http://history.state.gov/milestones/1801-1829/BarbaryWars

Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders: Insights from Developmental and Ecological Psychology, ALICE LOCICERO Endicott College Social Sciences Division Beverly, Massachusetts, USA SAMUEL J. SINCLAIR, Massachusetts General Hospital

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    • someonewhoknows profile image

      someonewhoknows 4 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      Interesting comments about so called - "Home Grown Terrorists"

      As stated in this hub ----------------

      "The ideological domains of terrorist organizations"

      From an American perspective it can be difficult at times not to make Islamic Extremism the focal point of an anti terrorist mindset and agenda, however with the harsh realities of home grown terrorism, Western Civilization bred terrorist organizations such as the NRA and the ideological domains in which terrorist factions operate within are vast and complex and exist well beyond the boundaries of the Middle East and Islam. ([8] Terrorism and Terrorist Leaders, pg. 229)

      I would agree with this idea to the extent that certain individuals who are used as pawns by those in higher places are sacrificed for purposes of their own.

      Let me be blunt!

      Anyone who thinks that only the individuals who are directly involved in acts of terror or seem to be acting alone or even a part of a terrorist group is too nearsighted and have a blind eye to any possibility of any other entity or entities involvement in said terrorism foreign or domestic.

      Let me point you to only one such organization through the link to youtube.

      http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%22FEM...

    • Kevin Fenning profile image
      Author

      Kevin Fenning 4 years ago from Philadelphia PA

      Someonewhoknows,

      I concur,

      Kevin

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