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An exposition into the causes & motivations for political violence
The Roots of Terrorism
M. Bilal Mahmood Directed Reading: Professor Sapolsky Stanford University May 10, 2009
It has been seven years since the World Trade Center attacks, and still there is only a vague understanding of the terrorist identity. Though terrorism can be broadly defined under the banner of group organized political violence,1 critics remain divided on the explicit motivations for committing such acts . Politicians and pundits have argued that terrorism is the work of crazed fanatics who follow no reason or rationale .2 On the other hand, academics have claimed that terrorists are merely criminals driven by comprehensible, but violent, political motivations . Scrutiny of both arguments indicates that the debate largely centers on the issue of a terrorist’s pathology: namely, whether terrorism is a byproduct of some psychological abnormality, or merely the consequence of a violent politically motivated behavior. A historical and psychological analysis of terrorism is thus warranted to comprehend its enigmatic nature and to, in turn, understand its root causes. A Brief History of Terror The history of terrorism provides a unique glimpse into the phenomena’s violent political beginnings, and its ever‐evolving usage across human history. In its earliest instances, terrorism was limited in scope and predominantly directed at occupying imperial authorities. Of notable significance were the assassinations conducted by the Jewish Sicarii in Roman‐occupied Jerusalem and Ismaili Hashshashin during the Crusades [4, 5]. Such assassination campaigns remained the primary mode of terrorism well until the 20th century, whereupon terrorism began to spread to a more international scope. By in large due to the dissolution of traditional imperial modes of governance, heightened levels of politically motivated violence began to erupt all over the world. Multitudes of displaced ethno‐religious communities began to conflict amidst the development of ill‐defined nation‐states,3 and representative groups such as the Irish Republican Army and Zionist Irgun began to resort to asymmetric warfare in the pursuit of self‐determination [4, 6].
1 Though there have been over 100 definitions of terrorism documented to date , for the purposes of this paper
terrorism will be defined as group‐organized political violence. The benefit of this definition is that it encompasses the many different forms and creeds of terrorism. Another benefit of declaring terrorism as “political” violence is its differentiation from criminal activities that have no over‐arching political objective. By defining terrorism as a group phenomenon, however, violent solitary actors are not considered terrorists, given the difficulty in discerning between a murderer‐criminal and a politically motivated terrorist outside of a group dynamic. Consequently, murderers such as the Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski will not be the subjects of this exposition. 2 Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has described Osama bin Laden as “paranoid and psychotic” . 3 In a 2007 study conducted by Lim et al, historical data was used to develop a model for global pattern formations of ethnic and cultural violence. The resulting analysis found that moderate separation of cultures and races by 10‐100km, and with illdefined borders, was a strong predictor of political‐ethnic violence .
Combined with developments in 20th century technology, such groups eventually began to employ the more sophisticated terrorist tactics of today. Guerilla style terrorist campaigns became ever‐present, in part due to the growth of the weapons industry and illegal arms trade . Additional advancements in mass communication afforded groups greater spheres of influence, epitomized by the highly publicized 1968 El‐Al hijacking and 1972 Munich Massacre. Overall, the influence of such socio‐political factors as imperialism and weapons proliferation is rather telling in explaining terrorism’s role as a politically, rather than psychologically, rooted medium of violence. The Psychology of Terror Understanding the evolving historical usage of terrorism, a majority of psychological literature has actually shied away from a pathological explanation for terrorism . Scholars argue that if terrorism were indeed a psychological case it would necessitate some sort of individual‐ based pathology. Terrorism’s ever‐evolving use across history by various races and creeds hence defies such a clear‐cut pathological profile. Even studies on Palestinian suicide bombers have found no pattern of mood disorders, instances of substance abuse, or suicide‐related risk factors in the bombers’ pasts . Though some terrorist behavior may indeed be due to mental defect or abuse,4 it is more likely that any pathology is an acquired condition— similar to combat‐prone soldiers who acquire ASPD like symptoms .5 Still, the dearth of documented pathology in terrorism is quite logical, as psychological instability would be a detriment to a terrorist operation that requires dedication, perseverance, and selflessness.6 Hence in understanding the political and psychological dimensions of terrorism, it would seem that terrorism actually operates in a goaldirected capacity, rather than a pathological one .7 According to noted sociologists, terrorism is a quite comprehensible, though certainly unconventional, behavior that follows an autonomous logic of clear objectives . The objective could be immediate and localized, as with the Umkhonto we Sizwe that fought apartheid in South Africa, or more far‐reaching, as with Al‐Qaeda and its purported goal of driving out Western
4 In earlier psychological accounts of terrorism, it was common to label terrorist behavior as a byproduct child abuse.
Though this theory has largely fallen out of favor, abuse during adulthood, such as lengthy incarceration periods, is noted to be a mild predictor for terrorist activity . 5 It is fairly common for terrorists to be portrayed as suffering from antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), given the stereotypes that they are socially alienated, aggressive, and action‐oriented. Though some terrorists may actually have ASPD, the overwhelming majority of academics have shown that this is not the norm . 6 Notable exceptions do exist. The Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Mad Bomber George Metesky are purported to have been clinically insane. Still, scrutiny of these individual actors is outside of the scope of this paper, as this paper focuses on terrorists who operate in a group dynamic. 7 Terrorism by definition is the pursuit of a political goal through violent mechanisms. If a terrorist group were not pursuing a clearly defined and politically motivated goal, it would be nothing more than a criminal organization.
presence in the entire Muslim world. Nevertheless, the goal‐directed nature of terrorism necessitates that its participants act in a rational, rather than a pathological, manner when committing to political violence . And considering the adverse socio‐political conditions historically identified as contributing to terrorist activity, it is quite understandable as to why a politically motivated group would choose to employ terrorist activities under asymmetric conditions. Finding A Model For The Terrorist Identity This recognition of terrorism as a politically motivated, rather than a psychotic, form of violence finally sets the foundation to unearthing its root causes. Based on historical precedent, a true understanding of the terrorist identity must be enlightened by the varying socio‐political conditions, technological advances, and group dynamics that have influenced terrorism for thousands of years. Any strategic analysis must also take into consideration the economic and tactical nature of the behavior. Such analyses will in turn provide a model of predictive factors that can both explain terrorist behavior, and even inform possible solutions to the phenomenon. The following paper will attempt to construct such a solution by analyzing a dynamic, rather than a strictly deterministic, model for terrorism based on a set of three main contributing factors: relative deprivation, education, and ideology.
Relative Deprivation: Forging The Roots Of Terrorism
In creating a dynamic model to explain terrorism, the academic literature has consistently established socio‐political deprivation as the starting point of a terrorist identity . By virtue of its definition as a politically motivated act of protest, terrorism would be nothing more than a random act of murder were it not for a socio‐political cause driving the perpetrators actions . And by virtue of being a goal‐directed act, politically motivated terrorist groups require some sort of deprivation, real or perceived, to perpetuate their espoused socio‐political mission. Historical analysis further expounds upon this fact, illuminating the complex role socio‐economic grievances have played in creating the conditions most conducive to terrorist activity. Understanding Relative Deprivation The correlation between terrorist activity and socio‐political deprivation has been thoroughly documented over the past decades. During the 1990s, significant instances of terrorist activity erupted around the world following increasing levels of political and economic deprivation . In Algeria, political discord followed the Army’s sudden cancellation of a historic 1992 multi‐
party elections. In Palestine, the Second Intifada is attributed to have started due to the breakdown of the Camp David negotiations, following a relative peace afforded by the Oslo Accords. Even in Chechnya, the prospects of economic and political freedom in a post‐Soviet nation were squandered by an impending Russian intervention— resulting in continued economic stagnation and in turn militant uprisings. These historical examples point to a trend whereby increasing levels of socio‐ political inequity have consistently preceded the rise of terrorist campaigns. Yet, these historical incidences also offer a discerning interpretation of how deprivation actually affects the rise of terrorism. In all the aforementioned cases, it wasn’t merely the absolute deprivation of socio‐economic rights, but a relative and worsening deprivation that fueled terrorist activity. It was only after the prospect of political and economic betterment was abruptly thwarted, as with the Camp David negotiations in Palestine and the 1992 elections in Algeria, that terrorist campaigns took foot. In turn, socio‐political deprivation in the form of “rising aspirations followed by dwindling expectations” is what truly influences the rise of terrorism . It is not the absolute deprivation of socio‐economic rights, but the diminishment of such rights relative to rising aspirations that promotes violent reactions [10, 11].8 Also understanding that terrorists can be either victims or simply witnesses to relative deprivation (a point later addressed in the Education section), it should be recognized that it is the perception of worsening socio‐economic deprivation, not merely the experience of it, that creates the necessary conditions conducive to terrorist activity .9 Understanding the role that relative deprivation plays in providing a framework for political violence, the question turns to what types of socio‐political grievances have influenced terrorist campaigns in the past. Such analysis is necessary to interpret terrorism as a whole, as different types of grievances facilitate very different terrorist objectives (see Ideology section). And while there are many terrorist ideologies, the forms of relative deprivation most commonly addressed are: socio‐economic, foreign intervention, and corruption .
8 Note that this theory is not analogous to the Frustration‐Aggression Theory. The Frustration Aggression theory implies
that absolute deprivation fuels frustration, which is in turn sufficient to fuel aggression . This theory has been largely discredited, and as such is not utilized here . Instead, this paper proposes a Relative Deprivation theory that explains violence in the context of relative and worsening deprivation, not absolute deprivation. Additionally, the latter theory doesn’t claim that relative deprivation is a sufficient factor for aggression or violence; other factors, such as education and ideology must also be taken into account (see respective sections below). 9 Understanding that it is the perceived injustice, and not just experienced injustice, that fuels injustice is an important point, considering the number of terrorist attacks conducted by unaffected actors. For instance, none of the 9/11, Madrid, or London bombers were actually victims of socio, economic, or political repression, though they all acted under a sense of perceived injustice against their Muslim people. This phenomenon will be explained in detail in the Education section.
Relative Deprivation #1: SocioEconomic Deprivation Of the three main types of relative deprivation, socio‐economic deprivation is one of the most common causes redressed by Western terrorist groups. Groups including the Black Liberation Army in the United States, the Shining Path in Peru, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) have all sought socio‐economic justice in the form of basic civil rights and/or economic equity . On a statistical level, such groups actually followed one of the highest terrorist trends of the 20th century— wherein addressing socio‐economic deprivation followed an extremely high correlate to violent political activities . A study by political scientist Indra de Soysa corroborates this fact, as lowering the per‐capita income level of a country by one standard deviation was found to increase the average predicted probability of terrorist activity by 73% .10 Naturally this makes sense, as socio‐political inequity decreases the promise of economic opportunity and the promise of future wealth. Lack of opportunity is conducive to social frustration, which in turn exacerbates tensions within already socially marginalized groups .11 The high prevalence of European‐born Muslim terrorists over American born ones is a primary example of this phenomenon, given the higher income inequality and segregation Muslims face in European societies . And though frustration and social marginalization are by no means sufficient in producing terrorist behavior, increased aggravation under conditions of relative deprivation does facilitate a sense of social vacuum in the disenfranchised— a vacuum that can be easily filled by the social belonging and increased social mobility a terrorist group offers [15, 16]. Hence in general, the lack of political and economic freedom in a country can be seen as quite contributive to its people’s support for terrorist campaigns.12 Relative Deprivation #2: Foreign Intervention Deprivation in the form of foreign intervention is equally suspect in fueling terrorism. In the Muslim world, Western encroachment in political affairs, foreign invasions and occupations are some of the more commonly redressed causes by violent militant groups . By even Osama bin
10 This result was found on an ordered probit model analysis of 131 countries, in which the predictive probability of a
specific country’s relative income level to terrorist activity was ‐0.499, at a 1% significance level. Terrorist activity was assessed using political scientist Mark Gibney’s Political Terror Scale (PTS), which in turn measured a country’s prevalence of politically motivated murders on a 5‐point scale.  11 Again, this statement is not meant to imply that frustration due to socio‐economic deprivation is sufficient to produce violent behavior. Economic inequity merely provides the platform from which violent behavior may emerge. 12 Even though socio‐economic disparity is a predictor of terrorist activity, that does not necessarily mean that terrorists themselves are poor or oppressed. The data provided merely shows that socio‐economic inequity fuels the indignation required for a terrorist’s ideological development. As will be seen in the Education section, most terrorists are actually upper‐middle class citizens who happen to act in countries of high socio‐economic depravity.
Laden’s account, groups such as Al‐Qaeda are more interested in driving out Western military presence from Muslim lands, than engaging in a purely ideological or cultural battle [17, 18].13 In practice, terrorist recruitment has been seen to consistently rise following foreign intervention in the Middle East. Just five months after major US military operations “ended” in Iraq in 2003, enormous spikes in suicide attacks were reported throughout the country . And more recently after the December 2008 Israeli invasion of Gaza, the demand for suicide bombers in Iran went up as well . Even more harrowing, however, is the statistical correlation between foreign intervention and political terror. De Soysa’s 2006 study found that the conditions of anarchy and civil war commonly caused by foreign interventions increased the predictive probability of political terror by 413% .14 Such figures, though seemingly drastic, are quite telling. The anarchy and political suppression afforded by foreign interventions most often result in high civilian casualties and, consequently, increased levels of domestic instability. No matter how “noble” the intentions of the occupier, foreign occupations will undeniably enforce political and economic volatility upon the local populace. The resulting instability will naturally be blamed on the occupying force, and lead to vengeful support for anyone willing to defend the country’s national sovereignty . Afghanistan is a prime example of this phenomenon, whereby a tribal society has lent its support to extreme Taliban‐like elements due to persistent invasions by British, Soviet, and American forces in the past . With these examples in tow, the extremely high correlation between foreign intervention and violent political opposition is more readily comprehensible. Relative Deprivation #3: Corruption Corruption stands as the last of the three main forms of relative deprivation relevant to terrorism. However unlike the previous grievances addressed, corruption can support terrorist activities through both indirect and direct modalities. Indirectly, corruption in the form of political repression and embezzlement has often forced affected peoples to align themselves with violent parties promising swift retribution. In Afghanistan for instance, more and more of the under‐ privileged class have grown impatient with Northern Alliance leaders illegally amassment of exorbitant amounts of wealth— and have in response thrown their support behind Taliban forces promising Shariah law . On a more direct level though, corruption in the form of cronyism and dishonest political dealings have also played a role in propping up violent political groups. For
13 Interesting note: 45.4% of Osama bin Laden’s speeches have listed policy grievances as his motivation for action. Only
9.9% of his tirades have actually been based in religious justifications.  was 1.073, at a 1% significance level. 
14 Under an ordered probit model analysis, the predictive probability of civil war to a country’s level of political terror
example during both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif’s tenures as Prime Ministers of Pakistan, divide‐and‐rule policies that directly courted extremist elements of Sunni and Shiite factions were used to ensure political legitimacy . Such dealings eventually led to disastrous outcomes, wherein the metropolitan city of Karachi was brought to the brink of civil war on more than one occasion. Statistics provide an even more disturbing account of the effects of such deprivation, as corruption in the form political repression has carried a 0.82 correlation to a country’s level of political terror .15 Countries with such high instances of political repression, including Columbia, Congo, Egypt and Pakistan, have had higher levels of political imprisonment, torture, and oppression. Understandably, such societies carry less infrastructure for peaceful modalities of protest, and are in turn more opportune to violent terrorist activity . And given such corrupt countries are also habitually in a state of economic deprivation, the combination of worsening economic standards with political stagnation often produces just the right mix of helplessness and frustration conducive to adopting terrorist ideologies [10, 24].16 In this light, it should be no surprise that the perpetrators of the 9/11, Madrid, and Mumbai attacks all emerged from oppressive and corrupt regimes in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan. A Platform for Terror For terrorism to arise anywhere, it is now understandable as to how relative deprivation in the form of “rising aspirations followed by dwindling expectations” can fuel support for terrorist campaigns. Such deprivation can come in the form of socio‐economic inequality and foreign interventions that create conditions of political instability, or in the form of political corruption that limits peaceful modalities of protest. All three forms of relative deprivation are comprehensibly conducive to the support for violent forms of political protest in afflicted countries. Yet even though socio‐political deprivation may be at the root of terrorism, it is still not sufficient in producing terrorist activity. Given millions of people around the world suffer from socio‐political grievances, yet remain peaceful, relative deprivation must be understood as merely a
15 De Soysa measured the level a country’s level of political repression using the Physical Integrity Rights Index (PIR)
provided by the Cingranelli‐Richards (CIRI) Human Rights Data Project. The PIR scale was measured an 8‐point scale, looking at the level of political imprisonment, torture, and general lack of civil rights in a country. To establish the political repression/terrorism link, De Soysa assessed the correlation between the PIR index to the Political Terror Scale (see footnote 11) in 131 countries.  16 In an Op‐ed to the New York Times, former President Bush wrote: “Poverty does not transform poor people into terrorists and murderers… yet poverty, corruption, and repression are a toxic combination in many societies, leading to weak governments that are unable to enforce order or patrol their borders and are vulnerable to terrorist networks.” 
footstone for terrorist campaigns. The different forms of deprivation do not force its victims to become martyrs, but instead create situations of economic and political instability more conducive to violent political opposition. Opposition can be directed at grievances that are either real or perceived, as violent political actors may be actual victims of socio‐political deprivation or just informed citizens who empathize with those affected (see Education section below). Overall, relative deprivation simply serves as a platform from which terrorism can emerge.
Education: Translating Deprivation Into Injustice
As aforementioned, relative deprivation can affect terrorist behavior through both direct and indirect platforms. Militant fighters, such as Hezbollah, have often emerged as the direct products of civil and ethnic strife .17 On the other hand, international terrorists of Al‐Qaeda’s mold have rarely come from backgrounds of socio‐economic hardship . These conflicting scenarios dictate the existence of an additional element that can establish terrorist motivations from varied levels in relative deprivation. And as it will soon become clear, such an element can be found in education, the second major contributing factor of a terrorist identity. The Statistics Of The Education Anomaly At first, it may seem counter‐intuitive for education to play a contributing role in terrorist behavior. Before the World Trade Center Attacks, it was popularly assumed that terrorists were simply poor and uneducated youth brainwashed into extremist ideologies. Governmental policies even claimed that the best medium through which to defeat terrorism was poverty alleviation and literacy improvement .18 However after it became clear that the 9/11 hijackers were both educated and monetarily well off, this formerly simplistic understanding of the terrorist profile warranted new review . Academic reviews have since readily accounted for this education anomaly. One of the first relevant studies was a 2002 report by Pakistani psychologist Sohail Abbas, which found that a majority of Pakistani militants caught in Afghanistan were relatively literate, and even educated in
government sanctioned schools rather than in religious madrassahs .19 Retrospective studies of older terrorist groups arrived to similar conclusions, finding that over 47% of Hezbollah militants
17 Hezbollah emerged as a militant entity in 1982 following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon . 18 The head of the United Nations World Food Programme once claimed that one of the most effective ways to fight
terrorism is to reduce poverty and hunger. 
19 The 2002 study by Sohail Abbas was conducted with 517 Pakistani men who had been jailed for fighting US troops in
Afghanistan. Quite perplexingly, one of the men interviewed even said he was interested in fighting in Afghanistan for “tourism and adventure.” 
killed between the 1980s‐1990s had completed secondary school, as compared to a 38% average completion rate in Lebanon at the time . Particularly telling, however, was a 2006 Gallup World Poll in which 9000 households in nine Muslim countries were interviewed to ascertain the roots of terrorist sympathy .20 The results were respectably significant, finding that 44% of those adhering to radical beliefs had completed a secondary or university level education, while only 38% of moderates were educated to comparable levels.21 In recognizing these statistics, it is apparent that education stands as more of a direct, rather than inverse, affecter of terrorist motivations. Moreover, it is clear that education must somehow play a significant role in compounding the terrorist identity. And though it would be specious to assert that education is a sufficient factor in establishing a terrorist identity, analyzing the necessary effects of education can still provide a better understanding of those who do end up becoming terrorists.22 The Effects Of Education The psychological implications of education in actually affecting terrorist behavior are best understood through terrorism’s political foundations. As acts of terror are largely conducted in response to socio‐political deprivations, an educated sense of injustice is required to direct such targeted political outcomes . Acts of terror also require a level of mental aptitude to follow through on such feelings of indignation [8, 9]. The effects of education can hence explain both of these phenomena, particularly in offering individuals the motivation, the mental capacity, and the means to act upon perceived grievances. In affecting the motivations for terrorist behavior, education firstly offers individuals a more sustainable framework through which to assess their socio‐political grievances. This is possible as education’s provision of greater financial mobility allows for significant freedom from day‐to‐day socio‐economic responsibilities. Consequently, individuals are able to assess political issues beyond basic economic subsistence, and may even begin to scrutinize their specific grievances with moral sentiments of injustice [9, 30]. Such developments of perceived injustice are typical in terrorist profiles, as with the 9/11 hijackers who largely self‐radicalized while in college despite coming from formerly secular households . In turn, a primary effect of education can be
20 The Gallup Poll study was run in Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, and Saudi
Arabia. Approximately 1000 household interviews were conducted in each country over the course of 2005‐2006. 
21 “Radical” respondents in the Gallup Poll were ones who rated the 9/11 attacks as being justified at 4 or 5 level on a 5‐
point scale. “Moderate” respondents were those who felt the attacks represented a 1 or 2 on the same scale, and hence unjustified.  22 Duly, it is certainly not implied that all educated individuals end up becoming terrorists. This discussion on the effects of education is merely meant to explain as to how education affects those who do end up becoming terrorists.
understood as offering individuals the financial stability to both assess their socio‐political grievances, and to concoct a sense of perceived injustice that can fuel terrorist motivations. In light of this, a second effect of education can be understood as offering individuals the mental capacity for objective‐driven terrorist behavior. As terrorism requires individuals to forgo today’s satisfactions for tomorrow’s potential rewards of equality and freedom, a mental capacity for delayed gratification is often required to follow through on terrorist motivations . And given a pursuit of higher education is also characterized by short‐term sacrifices for the sake of future wealth, higher levels of education can be seen as quite predictive of ones aptitude for terrorist outcomes . Groups such as Islamic Jihad use this very logic in their recruitment cycles, scrutinizing the motives and educational standing of potential suicide bombers to ensure that they have the will to complete a mission . Education’s indication of an individual’s capacity for delayed gratification can thus be seen as an effective predictor of terrorist outcomes. Lastly, education can be understood as offering individuals the means to also join and carry out their terrorist operations. As volunteering for terrorist positions has been documented as vastly outweighing recruitment, with groups such as Al‐Qaeda offering 10‐20% acceptance rates, becoming a terrorist often necessitates having the resources to be able to find a group of interest .23 This was of course the case with the 9/11 hijackers, who had to actively find and pursue terrorist groups in Chechnya, Kosovo, and Afghanistan before they were accepted by Al‐Qaeda . Appropriately, the terrorists’ ability to utilize advanced tools and Internet technologies through higher education increased their means of finding a terrorist organization . The easier access to advanced technology may even be seen to increase the efficiency by which such terrorists can conduct their operations. Take the recent Mumbai Attacks for instance, wherein the militants were found to have used Google Earth, GPS systems, and advanced laptops to plan their operation . The ability to utilize and exploit technological resources for advanced terrorist operations hence stands to establish education as an even stronger affecter of terrorist behavior. The Education / Relative Deprivation Link In summary, the effects of education towards terrorist behavior can be seen as threefold. For one, education affords individuals the economic stability to develop a perceived sense of injustice, which can in turn fuel the necessary motivations for terrorist actions. Education also
23 Contrary to popular belief, individuals are rarely recruited into terrorist organizations, and are more likely to
volunteer. Even more, the supply of martyrs is more than often greater than the demand. Al‐Qaeda was once said to have an acceptance rate of 10‐20%. 
offers the psychological framework through which an individual’s capacity for objective‐driven behavior can be explained. And thirdly, the ability to execute targeted terrorist actions using advanced technology can also be seen as indicative of a higher level of educational attainment. Education can hence provide both the motivations and the mental capacity for terrorists to act upon their relative deprivations. With this in mind, the combinatorial effects of relative deprivation and education are now more comprehensible. As a majority of victims to socio‐political grievances are too apathetic to care about their predicaments, education can now explain the motivational link between their relative deprivation and the drive for retribution . Additionally, conditions of economic deprivation can now be seen as both directly and indirectly providing the context for educated people to be incited to action. As some terrorist groups such as Hamas are often the victims of relative deprivation, while other groups such as Al‐Qaeda have never even experienced economic hardship, education explains the framework for a perceived sense of injustice to exist in both direct and perceived victims of relative deprivation . And in the case that the relative deprivation is strong enough, the role of education in predicting terrorist outcomes may actually be even more nuanced— as with the slew of less educated teenage female suicide bombers who have operated in Iraq in retribution for family members killed by US or Iraqi forces . Overall though, education can be recognized as providing the motivational interface through which antagonistic outcomes against relative deprivations may emerge.
Ideology: Converting Indignation Into Action
As illustrated, the combination of relative deprivation and education help explain the motivation and mental capacity for terrorist behavior, but is unable to account for the actual emergence of antagonistic violent outcomes. Objective‐driven forms of political protest, such as terrorism, require additional factors to direct individuals to act upon their indignation. There must be additional elements to build up the educated sentiments of perceived injustice into targeted aggressive solutions. Accordingly, the source of such targeted behavior can be best understood through the implications of a third contributing factor to the terrorist identity— ideology. Ideology And The Banality of Evil The academic understanding of ideology, or codified sets of beliefs, and its effects on
terrorist behavior have been elaborately documented . Experimental literature has detailed intricate propositions that explain the role of ideology in producing violent outcomes. Under
cognitive theories of aggression, it is described how ideology may shape people’s perceptions of the world into a subjective interpretation of reality . As people co‐opt to a specific ideology, perceptions of others’ actions become filtered through the beliefs and attitudes of one’s own ideology. And though a doctrine need not explicitly endorse violent behavior, this strict codification of ideology carries the possibility to create both an ideological identity and sentiments of pseudo‐ kinship that can directly fuel aggressive behavior . The development of an ideological identity is of primary importance in establishing aggressive behavior. For one, the molding of ideology and identity causes an individual to hold their beliefs as tantamount to their sense of self. Ideological individuals may consequently develop a hypersensitivity to interpersonal cues from others, and my even resort to aggressive action if their perceived sense of self is violated . This is also symptomatic of the pseudo‐speciation phenomenon, wherein ideological differences fuel the de‐humanization of others to the point that violent reparations for perceived grievances are morally justified . Hence in combination with feelings of relative deprivation, sentiments of pseudo‐speciation induced by an ideological identity can easily provide the framework for individuals to pursue targeted terrorist actions against those they designate as guilty of a perceived grievance . Moreover, this ideological notion of identity also fosters the development of aggressive outcomes rooted in pseudo‐kinship and group psychology. Given a strong commitment to ideology can provide both a sense of purpose and direction, a completely fused ideological identity can create significant positive reinforcement to those in conditions of relative deprivation. Perceived victims may even begin to develop a shared identity with those of similar ideology, and in turn compensate for their lack of social belonging . Unfortunately this sense of pseudo‐kinship is likely to feed into sentiments of pseudo‐speciation. Members of the ideological group may begin to succumb to symptoms of de‐individuation, and as a result forego individual culpability for their actions [7‐8]. This phenomenon, coined the “Banality of Evil,” provides just the right psychological frame of mind to make “end justifies means” terrorist actions seem morally acceptable within the context of a shared group ideology [3, 10]. Accordingly, strong notions of ideology can be appropriately understood as fueling terrorist behavior through the effects of both pseudo‐ speciation and de‐individuation. Even so, it must be noted that the effects of ideology in producing such terrorist outcomes are not deterministic. Majorities of ideological people do not exhibit antagonistically violent
behaviors against other creeds .24 Moreover, no one particular ideology has ever been shown to be more suspect than another in causing aggressive outcomes [13, 34]. Ideology’s role in affecting terrorist behavior is merely in establishing an ideological identity that can possibly result in sentiments of pseudo‐speciation and de‐individuation. Ideology functions only in providing a target for perceived injustices, and establishing the antagonistic mindset required for targeted aggressive outcomes. As such, combined with the factors of relative deprivation and education, it is possible for any type of ideology to fuel terrorist behavior, in so far as it provides a set of beliefs that are clear, objective‐driven, and absolute . There are three clear sets of ideologies that satisfy this framework, and are in turn susceptible to exploitation by terrorist groups— nationalist‐ separatism, social revolutionary, and religious extremism .25 Ideology #1: NationalistSeparatism The nationalist‐separatist classification represents one of the most common forms of
terrorist ideologies. Rooted in sentiments of ethnicity and national identity, nationalist‐separatism concerns those ideologies that promote patriotism and nationalism . And as such notions are relatively ubiquitous, nationalist separatists have in fact run many terrorist campaigns past and present. Famous campaigns have included those by the Jewish Sicarii and Black September groups in the past, while more current movements have been those operated by the Pashtun/Taliban tribes and Tamil Tigers [5, 36, 37, 38].26 Beyond just their ideology, common to all nationalist‐separatist groups are their inherent motivations for action. By virtue of their promotion for independence and freedom, nationalist‐ separatist ideologies are almost always adopted by individuals in the face of foreign intervention and occupation . Those attacked by nationalist‐separatists are consequently those who belong to groups that may have violently occupied or invaded the terrorist’s land. Indeed whether it is with the IRA during the 1970s, or with militants during the current Iraqi crisis, reports have found that nationalist‐separatists are quite often the byproduct of some early exposure to violence within
24 A study by political scientist Indra De Soya found that in increasing the percentage of Muslims in a majority‐Muslim
country, the predictive probability of political terror in that country began to fall. Similar results were seen with regards to Protestants and Catholics in their respective countries. Hence it could be understood that a gross number of people subscribing to a single ideology actually do not succumb to terrorist motivations.  25 The respective classifications of national‐secessionist, social‐revolutionary, and religious extremist ideologies come from an outline established by Psychology Professor Jerrold M. Post. However, the explanations Post provides for the distinct classifications are rooted in pathological arguments, and hence will not be covered (as pathological explanations for terrorism have been heavily discounted). The classifications, hence, will be used in name only, as they at least divide the respective ideologies into categories most appropriate for analysis.  26 It should be noted that Al‐Qaeda and the Taliban are not one and the same. Al‐Qaeda is a primarily a religiously driven organization whose purpose has always been to operate terrorist activities. On the contrary, the Taliban are merely an ethnic Pashtun movement, which has only recently resorted to terrorist tactics in Afghanistan and Pakistan due to US and Pakistani invasion. 
a civil conflict [7, 33].27 These strong forces of deprivation compounded with an ethnically fixated ideology thus provide a powerful formula for pseudo‐speciation, and as a result, antagonistic justifications for violence that may even exist with less influence of from an educational factor . Accordingly, nationalist‐separatism offers a clear set of ideologies capable of fueling targeted actions in the defense of freedom and self‐determination. Ideology #2: SocialRevolutionary The social‐revolutionary classification was actually one of the most common sets of
terrorist ideologies during the mid 20th century. Largely seen as a byproduct of the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement, social‐revolutionaries espoused any number of ideologies including socialism, ethnic empowerment, and environmentalism . Notable campaigns included those led by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), the Black Liberation Army (BLA), and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) [39, 40, 41]. And though such groups have seen a reduction in terrorist related incidents in the past two decades, several of the movements have remained active to this very day. This continued existence is understandable given social‐revolutionaries’ rather grandiose ambitions. Radically fixated on completely eliminating socio‐economic deprivations, social‐ revolutionaries have often taken on the insurmountable task of overhauling whole social infrastructures. This could include the SLA’s ambitions of trying to eliminate income inequality as a whole, or even ELF’s attempts to preserve the Earth from whole human interference [39, 41]. And by consequence of pursuing such ambitious goals, social revolutionaries rarely need be personally affected by their deprivation of interest . Without any personal grievance to drive their actions, factors of education and ideology take considerably more effect in influencing the psychological motivations of social revolutionaries than the relative deprivation itself— allowing for a set of terrorist campaigns that can exist beyond the context of their perceived relevancy. Ideology #3: Religious Extremism The last class of terrorist ideologies includes those following “extremist” interpretations of
religious dogma . Of considerable importance to the post‐9/11 world, religious extremism has actually existed in many different forms in the past and present. Notable campaigns have been led by Christian fundamentalist groups, violent Israeli settlers, and of course Al‐Qaeda. And despite the fact that all groups have espoused different creeds, the psychological basis behind each is the same.
27 An eight‐year study of the IRA was conducted by psychologist Rona Fields during the 1970s. The results found a
considerable correlation between childhood exposure to terrorism and eventual terrorist adoption during adulthood.
Specifically, religious extremist ideologies can be explained under what is termed as
“Takfirism” . Constituting the violent rejection of other religions, sects, and creeds, Takfirism is a form of religious extremism in which pseudo‐speciation has essentially been codified into belief. It is what differentiates Wahabbi Muslims from Al‐Qaeda terrorists— where the former follow a strict interpretation of Islam and blind obedience to the State, while the latter preach a violent rejection of other Islamist interpretations . Takfiri examples can even be found within Christianity and Judaism, as with the KKK groups founded on Christian fundamentalist beliefs, or violent Israeli settlers motivated by extremist Jewish ideologies [26, 43]. Hence, religious extremism of any creed can be understood as serving as the host upon which violent Takfirism rides. But by consequence of any religion being able to fuel violent Takfirism, it is also apparent that it is not the tenants of religion that serve as the motivations for terrorist behavior [13, 34].28 The impetus for action is actually provided by a Takfiri’s strong sense of religious identity, and consequent indignation against any group perceivably attacking their religion or its followers. Though they need not be actual victims of relative deprivation, Takfiris’ strong sense of pseudo‐ speciation ignites them to action against foreign interventions and occupations against those of shared religious identity . Also considering that 39% of Radical Muslims in the aforementioned Gallup World Poll felt victimized by perceived Western ideological encroachment, even mere insult to one’s religious identity can be seen as cause for violent reparations . Consequently, religious extremist ideologies carry the dangerous possibility for operating on a scope greater than that of national‐secessionists and social‐revolutionaries, simply by virtue of their motivations being rooted in perceived injustices against a belief or its followers. Criminal Terrorists? In summary, the respective ideologies can all be seen as providing a set of goals that can fuel
objective‐driven terrorist behavior. National‐secessionist ideologies promote for the right to freedom and self‐determination in the context of extreme civil and ethnic strife. Social‐ revolutionaries promote more grandiose goals of complete communist, social, and environmental liberation. And religious groups, operating under extreme Takfiri motivations, act to defend their religion and its adherents from any and all perceived injustices. All three doctrines provide an ideological identity that can fuel sentiments of pseudo‐speciation and de‐individuation while addressing specific socio‐political deprivations.
28 The aforementioned Gallup World Poll found that both radical and moderate Muslims believed religion was an
important part of their life, and attended religious services to comparably statistically significant levels. 
Yet even with these ideologies considered, what is one to make of the many terrorist acts that seem not to act on any perceived deprivation? Moreover, what role can ideology play with terrorists, such as the Mumbai and SLA attackers, who personally acted upon criminal ambitions of fame and wealth rather than actual motivations of martyrdom [42, 44]?29 The answer lies in returning to the definition of terrorism. As acts of terror are defined as group‐organized political acts of violence, the motivations of individual actors are not necessarily what defines them as terrorists. Indeed, terrorists are differentiated from normal murderers by the ambitions and ideologies of the group they operate in. Hence, only through ideology can the context and direction of violent actions be properly understood as politically motivated acts of terror.
Finally, the respective factors of relative deprivation, education, and ideology can be collectively integrated into a cohesive outline for the emergence of terrorist behavior. As the first
factor, relative and worsening socio‐political deprivation establishes the starting point of a terrorist identity, exacerbating existing conditions of socio‐political marginalization into sentiments of social frustration. Education, in turn, allows individuals to assess their respective deprivations, develop a perceived sense of injustice, and consequently emerge with the means and the motivation to act upon their perceived grievances. And finally, ideology offers the opportunity for morally outraged individuals to develop both a target for their perceived grievances, and the antagonistic mindset to follow through on their terrorist motivations. Overall, the three contributing factors offer a discernable explanation for many of the terrorist profiles and groups addressed in this paper. Even so, it must be reiterated that this explanation for a terrorist identity is by no means an absolute paradigm. This model is not meant to be a deterministic formula in which all contributing factors put together always produce terrorist outcomes. Indeed, this paper has outlined numerous exceptions to the rule, detailing instances were certain contributing factors were insufficient in producing aggravated violent behavior. The analysis is merely meant to offer a dynamic and heuristic model, one that can explain the utility of certain factors known to be statistically significant to the terrorist identity. With this in mind, the respective contributing factors of relative deprivation, education, and ideology offer distinct elements that can be addressed in resolving the terrorist problem. And given these elements have varying levels of scope, their attributed solutions must be divided into the
29 When asked what Jihad was after the Mumbai attacks, one of the Lashkar‐e‐Taiba terrorists told his interrogators “it
was about killing and getting killed and becoming famous.” 
immediate and long‐term for an appropriate result to emerge. The following exposition will analyze the solutions to terrorist campaigns from both of these perspectives. ShortTerm Solutions To Terrorism Short‐term solutions to terrorist organizations concern those immediate actions that must be taken to stop imminent threats. Of particular significance to such efforts are the threats posed by Sunni militias in Iraq, Taliban militants in Afghanistan, and Al‐Qaeda terrorists in their respective hotspots around the globe. Such groups obiviously need to be dealt with by force, but the question remains as to what kind and how much force. An appropriate solution can actually be found in a recent academic study published by the RAND Corporation. In assessing the histories of 648 terrorist groups over the 1968‐2006 period, the study found that 40% of terrorist campaigns were defeated through policing and intelligence efforts, and 43% of organizations actually ended up integrating into peaceful political processes . It was also found that only 7% of terrorist groups were defeated through military means, while 10% of groups actually ended up achieving their goals . These results in turn offer a discerning interpretation of how to deal with the terrorist threat, especially given the contributing factors already esablished in the aforementioned sections. As military options undoubtedly have little way of differentiating between terrorists and civilians in an urban setting, their efficiency in dealing with terrorists is understandably weak. The drone attacks and bombing runs consistently used in military campaigns undeniably result in civilian casualties, which can only further exacerbate sentiments of perceived injustice and galvanize neighboring populations to the terrorist’s cause . On the other hand, policing and intelligence efforts offer a more effective platform through which to deal with the terrorist groups. Though certainly more difficult and intricate than military campaigns, policing efforts actually use a reporducable methodology to target specific individuals, and in turn avoid collateral damage. They appropriately isolate terrorist groups from their local populations, disallowing them from galvanizing the support for a larger‐style insurgerncy. Additionally as policing/intelligence efforts have seen an upwards of a 73% success rate with even religious terrorists, it should come as no surprise that collaborative efforts between the CIA, FBI, and Pakistani intelligence agencies led to the capture of high‐profile Al‐Qaeda operatives such as Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and Abu Zubayda . Hence, in addressing the immediate threats posed by social‐revolutionary and religious extremist groups, policing and intelligence efforts are more than likely to be the effective modality of action. However with more current nationalist‐secessionist campaigns, such as with the Taliban
and Iraqi militias, such options seem less and less optimal. As both the Taliban and Iraqi situations may have proceeded into the realm of counter‐insurgencies that have a 25% success rate in winning, data has indicated that political negotiations and military options have a more likely chance of defeating such a threat . Yet, considering that the negatives to military campaigns are still in effect, and as such only have a 19% chance against insurgencies, political tactics and negotiations may be the better route of action with a considerable 50% success rate against past terrorist campaigns . LongTerm Solutions To Terrorism Aside from the immediate options to dealing with the terrorist threat, policies must be
instituted to inhibit the rise of future terrorist groups as well. Such policies must address the respective contributing factors outlined in this paper. Only then, through the alleviation of respective relative deprivations, educational anomalies, and ideological grievances can the use of terrorism be truly limited. In addressing relative deprivation, of considerable importance would be to reduce the foreign intervention, corruption, and lack of economic opportunity in the developing world. As military operations in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan have undoubtedly established conditions of socio‐political instability, alleviating the occupation of such lands can reduce the perceived culpability of US actions in their instability. Additionally, support for corrupt regimes in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan should also warrant review. As such regimes have systematically stifled political opposition and the means for non‐violent protest, they have created the opportune environment for educated and disenfranchised individuals to pursue terrorist outcomes . Reducing support for such regimes and promoting the fulfillment of democratic processes and efficient justice systems can allow for greater political freedom, as well as the possibility of greater economic and vocational opportunities. Specifically, through more efficient systems of justice and economic opportunities, the perceived injustices fueling support for nationalist‐secessionist groups such as the Taliban may falter [21, 46]. And through greater vocational opportunities, the sentiments of religious extremists who may not be directly affected by a deprivation of interest can also be appeased . Lastly, addressing the issue of ideology should be seen as an equally important goal in solving the terrorist problem. As the Gallup World Poll found that over 39% of Radical Muslims felt threatened by the West’s encroachment upon their beliefs and religion, more dialogue and understanding between faiths and countries should be pursued . Perceived sentiments of injustice around religion and ideology should be assuaged and appeased, so as to limit the rise in
terrorist motivations in the future. Indeed, even the current Obama administration has recognized this issue and attempted to engage in dialogue with respective Muslim countries. The recent decision to stop calling the current campaign against terrorism a “War on Terror” is also of considerable note, given the capacity for a “War” to be perceived as a conflict between ideologies and religions, rather than between individuals . As such, though positive steps seem to be being taken in the fight against terrorism, the issues of relative deprivation, corruption, and economic opportunity still need to be resolved if sustainable results are to be seen.
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