Reflections on a paper authored by Max Abrahams and Karolina Lula Why Terrorists Overestimate the Odds of Victory
Terrorism as a Puzzle:
What an apt addition of the adjective “Puzzle” with terrorism. It is certainly puzzling to see why terrorists kill civilians as if someone kills an enemy in video game for pleasure. If we do a fish bone analysis and see what was the cause, all roads will probably lead to non-adherence of real democratic ideals, where a citizen’s free will is encouraged and also to ensure some one’s free will does not affect others, and equal availability of opportunities to pursue one’s dream. Even in the so called England, the country which is touted as the inventor of democracy, the claim which can be disputed and will not stand for an intense scrutiny, we have had Guy Falkes a terrorist, should we assume that England was despotic? Yes. Why not? Those who create colonies out of hapless communities and exploit for the benefit of small group of people they must be called despotic. we can say that it wasn’t a puzzle because people’s displeasure towards government was evident and they targeted government and rulers to avenge themselves of the horrible acts of governments of those days.
Yes. Organized Terrorism (freedom fight) diverted on colonial masters to an extent made them (colonizers) shudder though they never agreed it publicly. Once the goal (ie., attaining political independence) was achieved they never had to resort to such violence for their legitimate political demands, there were or are other means. Hagganah, Indian National Army of Subash Chandra Bose could be few examples who were labelled as terrorists by the occupiers. In this context we can say that those who are with Palestinian resistance are terrorists? With one exception that they have directed or directing their violence towards civilians too, which is definitely becoming counterproductive according to Max’s research.
The new age Islamic Terrorism:
Thought Leftists and other pseudos would not want to precede the word “Islamic” with terrorism, but truth is indisputable, most of the countries are victims of Islamic Terrorism. To a question whether terrorists are irrational in their behavior because there is hardly any political yield out of their actions? In this light Binladen’s statement comes in handy,
“We do not distinguish between those dressed in
military uniform and civilians because Our enemy is every American male, whether he is directly fighting us or paying taxes”
This One statement is enough to weigh in the mental out look of Jihadi leadership, though Max argues that there was a change in his approach towards his last days. When man reaches towards his last days, he attains wisdom. But for a hardcore Islamic mind if it is not to create Dar al-Islam it is to eliminate Dar-ul-Harb, he shall employ any means he thinks appropriate and it is his pious duty. So killing innocent civilians is allowed?
Terrorists taking cues from History:
In this aspect the defeat of Soviet Union in Afghanistan certainly bolstered Jihadis and they have chosen American Heartland as their new battle ground and Americans their enemy. This thinking pattern is certainly oblivion of the fact that it was America’s fight against USSR’s hegemonic ambitions and was not a fight to save Islam for which Jihadi’s were used merely as instruments or means because US is aware of de-merits of a conventional war. But since then Frankenstein monster has turned against its master who had no interest to control or subdue it and suddenly he woke up to 9/11 and the rest is history. Without an organized human effort supported by military and technological supremacy heading for a showdown with a pre-eminent military power is impossible. So instead of running indefinite campaigns they (Jihadis) must organize and develop their followers for a bigger fight in future ? Not sure.Or the only intention could be to constantly irritate the super power thereby blocking it to gain further eminence?
Who won the “War on Terror”?
In this context few would argue that in the so called war on terror it was not America which won but Al-Qaida. With its domestic compulsions on economic growth and sustainability is it not becoming tough for America to manage the war on terror? It will be obviously foolish to claim that US is the victor because it could eliminate Bin laden physically, the only utility US has derived may be “vengeance is served” and nothing more than that.
When terrorists know that governments do not concede for violence against civilians, why then they engage in terrorism?
In this context Che’s advice to his foot soldier is relevant
“Avoid useless acts of terrorism. He stressed that the tactic is generally ineffective and indiscriminate in its results, since it often makes victims of innocent people and destroys a large number of lives that would be valuable to the revolution”
This is one remarkable difference between Islamic Terrorism and Non-Islamic Terrorism. So Jihadi Terrorists know that while they cannot convert the whole world in to a Dar al-Islam in any time soon but they do not want anyone to have the power that could threaten their superiority, if at all they are going to achieve that status. So all infidels are enemies of Islam?
Terrorists drawing incorrect lessons from Guerilla campaigns?
If they plan their strategy on the premise of successful guerilla campaigns then they are certainly irrational if it is not a bounded rationality, Herbert Simon taught us there is nothing called as Rationality but bounded rationality. In that sense yes, I agree that there must be further research conducted to find out on what basis terrorists take cues from guerilla campaigns.
Poverty or Ideology which drives terrorism?
Of course I agree with Max’s finding that it is not always poverty that drives terrorists. There must be something else? Indoctrination? The successful Indoctrination campaigns are run by LeT of Pakistan. The main challenge for democracies is to educate and prove their populace that terrorism is not the way to achieve their political demands and not to fall prey to terrorist’s propaganda, which often exalts Jihad, is a duty towards god. So affluent, educated, rational and psychologically balanced fall in to the same pit. Apparently elected governments fail in their part making it much worse when they play with divisions. India’s vote bank politics based on Muslim vote bank is a case in point.
Competitive quantifying and forecasting in political science ?
At least in US that is how it is. Going by the little knowledge I have, in US decisions and projections based out of gut feelings are considered as rubbish. But at the same time best way to part from this statistical jugglery is to go for Psychological explanations. Am I saying this because I am poor at statistics ? I could not judge right now.
“Over fifty years ago, Sidney Verba instructed social scientists to embrace psychological explanations when they outperform assumptions of perfect rationality. Contrary to the view of many political scientists, terrorists are not masterminds. Even their leaders make the same cognitive mistake as do other mortals—overestimating the political effectiveness of terrorist campaigns by drawing false analogies from recently successful guerrilla campaigns. To a surprising degree, this simple theory can account for the global diffusion of terrorism despite its political futility”
The verbatim from Max’s paper which I have reproduced above is convincing. That is Social Scientists must take Sidney Verba’s instructions seriously and must not be only data guys.