If terrorism doesn’t work because we mistake the motives, should we change our stance?

If terrorism doesn’t work because we mistake the motives, should we change our stance?


Bruce Schneier pointed to this article in his latest post.  I am in the process of reading the article, so there may something I am missing here, but I have to ask this question: Bruce, can you clearly state your ultimate point?

Here’s the basics.  The article is saying that most terrorist groups rarely achieve their goals because people falsely believe that terrorists are attacking them to destroy them, when in reality the terrorists are killing people to achieve their political objectives.  So Bruce says:

This certainly explains a great deal about the U.S.’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Many people — along with our politicians and press — believe that al Qaeda terrorism is different, and they’re just out to kill us all. (In fact, I’m sure I’ll get blog comments along those lines.) The paper examines this belief: where it came from, how it manifested itself, and why it is wrong.

This is why I am asking Bruce to explain his ultimate point.  How exactly should we attack terrorism?  Sleestack made this comment on Bruce’s blog:

So how should civilized societies respond to terrorist attacks where innocent civilians are killed, throw buckets of fairy dust at the perpetrators? Rarified, introspective academic discussions are fine and the understanding that can come of it may be useful. But idiots with car bombs are hardly swayed by elegant arguments.

This is what Bruce does not answer.  Should we just give into these groups?  Should we let Bin Laden have his Islamic state in which women will be essentially owned and there is little to no freedom for anyone except those in power?  If how we view the motivations of these groups is wrong (which I don’t believe it is) but is keeping them from achieving their goals, do we change how we react to them by just rolling over and showing our belly in the hopes that they will stop trying to blow us up?

My comment on Bruce’s post says:

Bin Laden can say anything he wants about his motivations, but I tend to distrust someone who kills people to reach their goals. Anyone who gets into power by whatever means tends to want to keep that power. Having people running out with bombs attached to themselves at your command tends to go to your head, and that is what has happened to any of these terrorist leaders. They are essentially worshipped, and they know it, and they don’t want it to stop.

Come one Bruce.  If you want us to give in, at least don’t beat around the bush.  Just come out and say it.


About the author:

My name is Michael Farnum. I am a Practice Principal at HP Fortify on Demand. I live in Tomball, Texas. I have been in the IT and InfoSec field since 1994. I am the founder and chairperson of HouSecCon, THE Houston Information Security Conference. These are MY words, not my employer's or anyone else's.

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