What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat by Louise Richardson
NY: Random House, 2006
(xii) ...I am struck by how futile counterterrorist policies are likely to be when they are based on a view of terrorists as one-dimensional evildoers and psychopaths.
Another good book on understanding terroristic motives is Terror in the Name of God. Oddly enough, both are written by women who teach at Harvard and have been studying terrorism since before 9/11.
Too bad "real men" don't listen to women and laugh at Harvard intellectuals.
(xiii) My view of the world [having grown up in Ireland], in other words, is very different from that of my American children, who have learned to assume that the majority is right and that, as demonstrated by the War of Independence, the Civil War, and the world wars, the good guys win the wars.
(xix) I have emerged from my academic shell, therefore, to argue in this book that we cannot defeat terrorism by smashing every terrorist movement, an effort to do so will only generate more terrorists as has happened repeatedly in the past. We should never have declared a global war on terrorism, knowing that such a war can never be won. We should never have believed that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hyssein were working together against us. Our objective should not be the completely unattainable goal of obliterating terrorism; rather, we should pursue the more modest and attainable goal of containing terrorist recruitment and constraining resort to the tactic of terrorism.
(xxi) Al-Qaeda spokesman:
Al-Qa'ida can take over the enemy's means and use them against him, while the enemy cannot do the same. The mujahedeen can do this because they have come to understand the enemy's mentality and how his society functions; yet the enemy has no way of deterring the believer or influencing his mentality.
(xxii) When terrorists act, they are seeking three immediate objectives: they want to exact revenge, to acquire glory, and to force their adversary into a reaction. There are the three R's of revenge, renown, and reaction.
(6) The final and most important defining characteristic of terrorism is the deliberate targeting of civilians...
They insist that those who pay taxes to a government are responsible for their actions whether they are Russians or Americans...
Terrorists, by contrast, rarely have illusions about their ability to inflict military defeat on the enemy. Rather, they seek either to cause the enemy to overreact and thereby permit them to recruit large numbers of followers to that they can launch a guerrilla campaign, or to have such a psychological or economic impact on the enemy that it will withdraw of its own accord. Bin Laden called this the "bleed-until-bankruptcy plan."
NB: Sorta kinda like the "slow bleed" strategy the Republicans like to say the Democrats are for. Another example of great minds thinking alike?
(9) Unless and until we are willing to label a group whose ends we believe to just a terrorist group, if it deliberately targets civilians in order to achieve those ends, we are never going to be able to forge effective international cooperation against terrorism.
(16) The second common claim [of terrorists] is that no other strategy is available.
(24) As today's terrorists have learned, random violence has a much bigger impact than discriminate violence, because if nobody is selected then nobody is safe.
(25) The extraordinary brutality of the Sicarii/Zealots can be attributed in part to their religious conviction but also to the fact that there were several different groups of Zealots and Sicarii operating simultaneously in pursuit of the same ends. These groups competed with one another to demonstrate the superiority of their commitment and to claim leadership of the movement. This same dynamic of intraterrorist competition has continued to fuel terrorist violence and is particularly evident today among Palestinian groups.
(35) Far from being isolated from those around them, Lenin's cadre of revolutionaries exploited popular grievances as a means of consolidating their support. It did not matter to Lenin that the complaints might be from nationalists, aspiring landowners, or others unsympathetic to his cause. What did matter to the ultimate pragmatist was that animosity toward the authorities made them potentially sympathetic to subversives, whose political powerlessness left them free to make empty promises. Lenin's key contribution to terrorist strategy, therefore, was the importance of exploiting every fragment of local alienation for its own ends. It is very clear from reading bin Laden's public statements that he has taken this lesson to heart. He criticizes the United States for everything from support for Israel to the deployment of troops in Saudi Arabia to its refusal to sign on to the international criminal court to profiteering by the Halliburton Company.
(36-37) The point here is that the greater brutality of terrorists reflects a greater brutality in political life generally. The nineteenth-century terrorists were more restrained and more discriminating than their twentieth-century successors. Their abandonment of the combatant/noncombatant distinction, however, occurred after the distinction had been profoundly challenged by the conduct of states during the world wars.
(40) Rove told the New York Conservative Party, "Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said: we sill defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said: we must understand our enemies." The public's desire to understand - which does not mean to sympathize or empathize with - the causes of the terrible violence wreaked upon us constitutes one of the strongest elements in the American counterterrorist arsenal.
(44-45) The sociologist Mark Juergensmeyer asked Dr Abdul Aziz Rantisi, one of the founders of Hamas (assassinated by Israel in April 2004), in what way he thought Hamas was misunderstood. He said, "You think we are the aggressors. That is the number one misunderstanding. We are not: we are the victims." Bin Laden, characteristically, phrase it more dramatically: " The truth is the whole Muslim world is the victim of international terrorism, engineered by America and the United Nations."
(46) One Italian activist put it this way; "We shared the idea that the armed struggle, besides its historical necessity, was also an occasion to build human relations which had to be, I don't know how to say, absolute, based on the readiness to die, the opposite of everyday life, of the individualization of a capitalist society."
NB: living an authentic life
(56) What appears to drive some people to violence is not their absolute levels of poverty but rather their position relative to others...
Previously one compared oneself to others nearby, but the contrast between American wealth and Arab poverty is now being broadcast daily into people's tiny homes. The world's very poorest people, preoccupied with survival, do not even realize the extent of their relative deprivation.
(57) Part of the success of many Islamist groups, especially well-established groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, is due to their understanding of the recruitment potential of social services. These groups painstakingly built up their support by attending to the social needs of their potential recruits far more effectively than governments did. They established hospitals, schools, and orphanages.
(58) It is not enough to provide education if you do not provide the means to employ those you have educated.
- A great many terrorist groups have controlled their behavior and the extent of the casualties they have been prepared to inflict out of a desire not to alienate their core constituency... Religious groups are different. If one's audience is God, then one does not need to worry about alienating him.
(65) Yet he [Reagan] too withdrew in the face of attack. This exploded the myth for many in the Middle east that there was any essential difference between Democrats and Republicans in the United states. Both were paper tigers. To this day, Osama bin Laden repeatedly invokes the American withdrawal from Lebanon after the attack on the Marines as evidence of American cowardice and unwillingness to fight.
NB: Reagan killed us. He was the first US President to stick his tail between his legs and run away from terrorists. We should not let the Republicans forget it, as they have.
(76-80) Secondary Motives - exacting revenge, generating publicity, achieving specific concessions, causing disorder, provoking repression
Reinforcing organizational dynamics - making a show of strength
All of these secondary or more immediate motives can be subsumed under three motivations: Revenge, Renown, Reaction.
(85) Bin Laden, for all his carefully choreographed statements and all the colorful descriptions of the iniquities of the West, has completely failed to articulate a positive political alternative. Like other revolutionaries before him, therefore, he appears to be more enamored of the revolution itself than of the new world it would herald... A striking and quite surprising aspect of most terrorist movements is now little of their attention is devoted to describing the new world they intend to create... Terrorist leaders today also appear altogether more interested in the process by which the present system will be destroyed than in the functioning of the new system... But if one does not have a coherent vision of the future, then one's means are more likely to be determined not by the needs of the society one is trying to create but rather by the iniquities of the society one is trying to destroy.
(93) The larger the number of casualties, the more innovative the tactic, the greater the symbolic significance of the target, the more heinous the crime, the more publicity accrues to the perpetrators.
(98) Terrorists, no matter what their ultimate objectives, invariably are action-oriented people operating in an action-oriented in-group. It is through action that they communicate to the world. This phenomenon has been called "propaganda by deed." Action demonstrates their existence and their strength. In taking action, therefore, they want to elicit a reaction.
(100) So long as there is a reaction, therefore, the terrorist purpose is served... In an effort to try to ensure the safety of their citizens and to demonstrate their competence, governments invariably react strongly, and often forcibly. Moreover, if governments do not act, not only do they jeopardize their won political survival, but they run the risk that terrorists will feel compelled to commit ever-larger atrocities in order to elicit a reaction.
(101) Part of the genius of terrorism, therefore, is that it elicits a reaction that furthers the interests of the terrorists more often than their victims.
(105) From 1981 to 1999, suicide attacks took place in seven countries, Since 2000, they have taken place in about twenty.
(106) Suicide terrorism is unsettling to us because it does not quite fit the popular image of terrorists as self-serving evildoers. In willingly taking their own lives, terrorists are staking a claim to moral superiority that is quite incompatible with our notion of their moral depravity... Suicide terrorism has been growing in popularity precisely because it has proven to be an effective means of exacting revenge, attaining renown, and eliciting a reaction. As with terrorists generally, the necessary components for suicide operations are a disaffected individual, a supportive and enabling community, and a legitimizing ideology.
(106-107) ...in every known martyrdom operation, a group plays an essential role in planning the terrorist attack and in training, sustaining, and supervising the volunteer. The average martyrdom operation requires a support cast of about ten others. Societies the world over reserve their highest honors for those who have given their lives for their country. Public squares everywhere are filled with monuments to those who have been victorious in battle. Suicide terrorists seek honors like these, and their handlers make sure that they get them.
(107) The most frequently cited precursors to contemporary suicide terrorists are the Jewish Sicarii in the first century and the Islamic Assassins in medieval times. Both showed complete disregard for their own lives, and the Assassins in particular had a culture of martyrdom reminiscent of the culture one finds today in the Gaza Strip.
(113) The idea of suicide terrorism traveled from Iran to Lebanon, but from Lebanon it spread a long way. A number of Tamil insurgents received training in Lebanon in the early and mid-1980s and took the tactic back to Sri Lanka. Moreover, the Israeli decision to deport 415 Palestinian militants to Lebanon in 1992 had disastrous unintended consequences as the Palestinians learned the value of the tactic from Hezbollah. In this way the skill set was transferred from Shiite (Iran and Hezbollah) to Sunni (Hama and later al-Qaeda) Muslims, as well as to secular Palestinian and Tamil groups. The modern phenomenon of suicide terrorism, therefore, can be traced to teh Lebanese Civil war of 1973-1986.
(117) A PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] spokesman made the same point: "We do not take depressed people. If there were a on-in-a-thousand chance that a person was suicidal, we would not allow him to martyr himself. In order to be a martyr bomber you have to want to live."
NB: Choosing death makes a life authentic
(118) There have been more suicide attacks in Iraq alone in the years since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003 than in the rest of the world since the tactic was first adopted in 1981. In May and June 2005, there were more suicide attacks in Iraq than had been recorded by the Israleis since the tactic was first used in Israel in 1993.
(125) The most expensive suicide operation in history was the 9/11 attacks, and they cost an estimated $500,000 while inflicting tens of billions of dollars in damage, quite aside from the enormous human costs.
(126) "What the rank and file [of Hamas] seemed to live and die for, in the end, was neither hospitals nor politics nor ideology nor religion nor the Apocalypse, but rather an ecstatic camaraderie in the face of death on the path to Allah." _The Road to Martyr's Square- by Anne Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg
NB: Small group loyalty is always what keeps an army going. You fight for your buddies not the flag not your country.
(141) One of the most striking things that changed on that day [9/11], therefore, was that for the first time terrorists had succeeded in killing very large numbers of people, the kind of casualties that had previously occurred only in interstate or civil warfare. Historically, terrorists have not taken the opportunities available to them to murder on a grand scale. They have not needed to. They could further their objectives and inflict widespread terror without inflicting widespread casualties. The most frequently cited aphorism making this point was made by the RAND analyst Brian Jenkins in 1974: "Terrorists want lots of people watching, not lots of people dead."
(143) We are not very familiar with the writings of Frantz Fanon, who wrote of violence as liberating, as necessary to the perpetrator as a means of freeing himself from oppression. This is not the instrumental violence of the robber or Mafia member. This is expressive violence to cleanse the soul.
(163) Padilla has been held as an enemy combatant, the only American citizen arrested in this country to be so classified. two years after his arrest, the Justice Departmenjt revealed that in fact he had not been planning to deploy a dirty bomb but instead to blow up some apartment buildings. The plan had apparently been a modest one that involved Padilla and an accomplice renting two apartments. They then planned to turn on the natural gas and set off conventional explosive devices simultaneously in both buildings. As an enemy combatant, Padilla has not yet been brought to trial. In the minds of most Americans, however, he has been incarcerated for planning a dirty bomb attack on this country...
Bin Laden has long understood the essential role of terrorism as communication.
(167) It is not quite true, therefore, that, in the words of President Bush, "September 11 changed our world.' Rather it was our reaction to September 11 that changed the world. Americans suffered a terrorist attack unprecedented in its scale and destructiveness and in so doing lost their sense of security and their sense of perspective. The fear engendered by the attack was out of proportion to the threat we faced. We believed that we now faced a powerful enemy driven by irrational religious fanaticism and determined to use weapons of mass destruction against us. In fact, our enemy was much less powerful than we thought, demonstrated a persistent capacity for rational behavior, and had concrete political as well as religious motivations, and its interest in weapons of mass destruction was driven more by a desire to intimidate us and defend itself against us than by the desire to deploy them in the United States.
(170) When the history of the immediate post-9/11 years comes to be written, it will be seen as a period marked by two major mistakes and two major missed opportunities. The mistakes were a declaration of war against terrorism and the conflation of the threat from al-Qaeda with the threat from Saddam Hussein. The missed opportunities were the opportunities to educate the American public to the realities of terrorism and to the costs of our sole superpower status and the opportunity to mobilize the international community behind us in a transnational campaign against transnational terrorists.
(172) The phrase "war on terrorism" had also been fairly widely used much earlier by the press to describe the efforts by Russian, European, and eventually American governments to stop assassination attempts by international anarchists in the late nineteenth century.
(173) [response to 9/11] An undersecretary of defense later explained that the United States had been "so busy developing its war plans that it did not have time to focus on coordinating Europe's military role."
A year after the attack, NATO held a summit meeting in Prague. Lord George Robertson, the secretary-general of NATO and former British defense secretary, had very high hopes for the meeting. The plans for the summit envisioned the adoption of a comprehensive package of measures to combat terrorism and even the creation of a NATO Response Force, a technologically advanced, flexible, and interoperable force that would be available for immediate deployment following a decision by the NATO Council. Robertson hoped that NATO would become the focal point of the international fight against terrorism and demonstrate that NATO had changed to adapt to the new security environment.
(177) The ultimate goal of any war must be to deny the adversary what it is that he wants. Terrorists want to be considered at war with us, so to concede this to them is to grant them what they want, instead of doing our utmost to deny them what they want.
(184) The tactics of the Argentinean, Brazilian, and Chilean military governments, however, are simply not available to democratic governments. Those governments eradicated insurgent terrorism but in so doing replaced it with what was in effect state terrorism, the wanton abuse of force. No government could practice such tactics and remain a democracy, since the rule of law is replaced by the rule of force.
(185) On the basis of its extensive experience, the British military devised what were known as the Thompson Principles, six principles of counterinsurgency warfare. These are:
- The primacy of the political
- Coordination of government machinery
- Obtaining intelligence
- Separating the insurgent from his base of support
- Neutralizing the insurgent
- Postinsurgency planning
(197) By using the extreme language of conviction that bin Laden uses, by declaring war, even a crusade, against him in response to his war against us, we are mirroring his actions. We are playing into his hands, we are elevating his stature, we are permitting him to set the terms of our interactions. Given that he has a very weak hand and we have a very strong one, we should not be letting him set the parameters of the game.
(198) There is no greater affront to terrorists than to be ignored. They deliberately attempt spectacular attacks in an effort to gain attention. The risk of ignoring a terrorist action, of course, is the fear that it might incite the terrorists to carry out even more devastating attacks in order to get attention. So ignoring terrorist is not a feasible option, especially in a democracy, in which the public demands action in the face to atrocity. By pursuing terrorists like the criminals they are, however, outside the limelight and with painstaking and necessarily covert action, one can undermine their effectiveness without raising their profiles.
(203) Six Rules for Counteracting Terrorism
Rule 1: Have a defensible and achievable goal
(204) Due to the impact of our response to 9/11 on al-Qaeda, and in particular the fact that the movement now has many of the characteristics of a diffuse and inspirational ideology rather than a military organization, even if we were to capture the remainder of those responsible we would not have defeated terrorism.
As a result, our task today is in many ways more difficult than it was in fall 2001. Rather than having the objective of the defeat of terrorism, today our goal should be to contain the threat from terrorists.
(206) Rule 2: Live by your principles
(208) Rule 3: Know your enemy
Our post-9/11 counterterrorist campaign has actually been fairly successful in this regard.
NB: Despite the best efforts of the neocons to shout this idea down in the public square.
(213) The costs of wars are such that participants feel they need to continue fighting to justify the costs already borne. wars and terrorist campaigns tend to be prolonged by an unlikely alliance of hawks on both sides and generally require an alliance of doves on both sides in order to make peace.
(215) Rule 4: Separate the terrorists from their communities
(218) If al-Qaeda believes that its greatest strength is the popular support it enjoys among the Muslim populations, our energies should be focused on undermining that support. On the contrary, almost everything we have done has served to strengthen that support.
(223) By its humanitarian efforts to alleviate the suffering caused by the tsunami in Indonesia, the United States has undermined popular for terrorism against the United States.
(224) Rule 5: Engage others in countering terrorists with you
(227) Today we are in the curious position in which behind-the-scenes cooperation is actually better than anyone cares to admit publicly. The unpopularity of the U.S.-led war on terrorism is such that allied governments have no desire to publicize the degree to which they are helping us, preferring instead for the cooperation to take place quietly. Small groups of French and German special forces, for example, are in Afghanistan and Pakistan searching for the remnants of the al-Qaeda leadership but without announcing this fact for fear of domestic unpopularity. It cannot be in our interest for our allies to conceal the extent to which they are helping us.
(231) Rule 6: Have patience and keep your perspective
(232) The language of warfare connotes action and immediate results. We need to replace this language with the language of development and construction and the patience that goes along with it.
(235) The situation of opium production, however, is a good deal worse. Afghanistan had 82,000 hectares of land cultivating poppy in 2000, when the Taliban banned opium production. The ban was a near-complete success, and the amount of land under poppy cultivation dropped to 7,600 hectares in 2001. In 2004, there were 131,000 hectares of land under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. Eighty-seven percent of the world's opium production now takes place in Afghanistan, up from 12 percent at the time of the U.S. invasion.
(237) The most recent attacks in London, Madrid, and the Netherlands all suggest that the Muslim diaspora in Europe will produce the next wave of terrorist attacks.
Terrorism, Freedom and Security: Winning Without War by Philip Heymann
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003