Say, Who Will Become A Terrorist? Research Has Little Clue

While an overall good article by the NY Times’ Matt Apuzzo, which highlights that Government is often barking up the wrong tree, it does miss the point

Who Will Become a Terrorist? Research Yields Few Clues

The brothers who carried out suicide bombings in Brussels last week had long, violent criminal records and had been regarded internationally as potential terrorists. But in San Bernardino, Calif., last year, one of the attackers was a county health inspector who lived a life of apparent suburban normality.

And then there are the dozens of other young American men and women who have been arrested over the past year for trying to help the Islamic State. Their backgrounds are so diverse that they defy a single profile.

What turns people toward violence — and whether they can be steered away from it — are questions that have bedeviled governments around the world for generations. Those questions have taken on fresh urgency with the rise of the Islamic State and the string of attacks in Europe and the United States. Despite millions of dollars of government-sponsored research, and a much-publicized White House pledge to find answers, there is still nothing close to a consensus on why someone becomes a terrorist.

“After all this funding and this flurry of publications, with each new terrorist incident we realize that we are no closer to answering our original question about what leads people to turn to political violence,” Marc Sageman, a psychologist and a longtime government consultant, wrote in the journal Terrorism and Political Violence in 2014. “The same worn-out questions are raised over and over again, and we still have no compelling answers.”

Mr. Apuzzo goes on to note research that shows it’s not really poverty and money problems that create terrorists, but that the government still acts as if that is the problem. Other factors have been checked, but none seems to be the answer, and some are worried that this could all be intrusive on communities, meaning Muslims, and cast suspicion.

Researching terrorism is admittedly difficult. It involves tough questions about who qualifies as a terrorist, or as a rebel or a soldier. Nelson Mandela? Palestinian suicide bombers? The Taliban of today? The Afghan mujahedeen when the C.I.A. supported them?

Researchers seldom have access to terrorists, and scientific methods, such as control groups, are rare. In 2005, Jeff Victoroff, a University of Southern California psychologist, concluded that the leading terrorism research was mostly just political theory and anecdotes. “A lack of systematic scholarly investigation has left policy makers to design counterterrorism strategies without the benefit of facts,” he wrote in The Journal of Conflict Resolution.

All in all, it’s a fascinating article, an actual bit of journalism rather than advocacy, and worth the read. And, it does beg the question, “how is a terrorist created?” Of course, the answer is dependent on what kind of terrorist. With Islam, the answer is simple: Islam. If, as studies have stated, 10-15% of Muslims are radical jihadis, why not look to see how they are created? Many of them learn this ideology at home, others at Islamic schools, and others at their mosques. They are being taught in one or more about the hardcore version of Islam. It spreads. Their friends and compatriots become more and more radical, as do the individuals. They chat with people on-line, who slowly indoctrinate them into the radical viewpoint. Anger and “righteousness” is instilled in them, and some will move into being a jihadi, willing to perpetrate violent action.

Some studies show that anywhere from 25-40% of Muslims worldwide hold radical Islam views. How do those move into being a fighter? There’s another question. Islam has a problem, and they practitioners need to stamp it out. When the Catholic Church had a big problem with pedophile priests, the entire religion was blamed, and Catholics worked to stamp the pedophilia out. It’s time for Islam to either embrace the Islamist viewpoint, the hardcore, regressive viewpoint, or to stamp it out.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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