Horgan believes it is important to recognize that behind the big “social, political and religious reasons people give for becoming involved” — for example, occupation by a foreign nation, drone strikes that kill innocent wedding guests and limit day-to-day activities, the sense that their culture is being annihilated — “there are also hosts of littler reasons — personal fantasy, seeking adventure, camaraderie, purpose, identity” and these “lures can be very powerful, especially when you don’t necessarily have a lot else going on in your life. …”
In the second edition of his book “The Psychology of Terrorism,” Horgan cites a 2013 study by Dyer and Simcox based on interviews of 171 Al Qaeda members. They found five different categories of reasons why people got involved in terrorism.
Horgan contends, are far less useful to research than looking at the pathways and “routes” to terrorism — how individuals are recruited or join a group, how they are trained, how they tackle the logistical problems of finding a “safe house,” getting cash, weapons and supplies for bombs, how and where they learn to shoot automatic weapons, how they obtain vehicles and how they transition from peripheral roles into directly committing acts of violence. In short, he believes counterterrorism efforts can be better informed and devised if researchers study terrorism as something one does rather than what one is.
— to regularly test the hands of middle-aged Anglo-Saxon grandmothers for bomb residue, to ferret out shoe bombs, flammable liquids (I hope your girlfriend enjoyed my nearly new bottle of Chanel No. 5, Mr. TSA agent in Hartford, Connecticut), pistols, knives and boxcutters, along with embroidery scissors and crochet hooks.
It’s not easy for Western nations targeted by terrorists to know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Who can know whether an intervention to prevent the slaughter of innocent people will work or backfire? Our intervention in Syria, for example, likely ended up supplying ISIS with U.S. material.
There are countries outside the Middle East and North Africa that support Middle Eastern terrorists by supplying them with weapons and financial aid to gain oil and/or strategic advantage over the West.
Is it even possible to take the radical out of the terrorist (or the terrorist out of the radical) through “de-radicalization programs”?
Those related questions will be the subject of the next article: How to Tame the Terrorist Within.
Susan Wills is a senior writer for Aleteia’s English-language edition