web analytics
September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



A Psychological Look Behind Jihadist Terror


Beres-Louis-Rene

Sculptor Alberto Giacometti’s “Man Pointing” gesticulates ominously. Emaciated, skeletal, and tormented, the iconic sculpture is an artistic expression of humankind’s stalwart march toward suffering and recurring annihilation. Resembling the Swiss creator’s gaunt and unnaturally elongated figure, each of us has now become both a potential observer and a prospective casualty.

Today, as I have pointed out before in The Jewish Press, each of us is more or less threatened by jihadist sacrificial murder, a distinctly homicidal ethos that reassuringly (for the perpetrators) masquerades conveniently as “martyrdom.”

Where is Giacometti’s man pointing? Does he gesture toward the masses of still likely victims, or, judgmentally, to the always unrepentant murderers? Does his extended finger indict an entire species, or, rather, does it cast focused responsibility only upon certain discrete individuals or groups? Understood in terms of terrorism, especially the chemical/biological/nuclear threat now hanging perilously over the United States and Israel, the long finger points knowingly in several directions.

In the final analysis, the problem of all jihadist terrorism, including WMD terrorism, is a matter of primal human behavior. Moreover, such behavior is always the result of compelling private needs, and of seemingly irresistible collective expectations.

More than almost anything else, sometimes even more than the normally overriding drive to avoid death, human beings need to belong. This ubiquitous requirement can be expressed more or less benignly, as in familiar sports hysteria, or tumultuous rock concerts. Or it can be expressed grotesquely – in genocide, war, and terrorism.

Oddly enough, the underlying dynamic is always the same. In all cases, the individual person feels utterly empty and insignificant apart from his/her membership in the “herd.”

Sometimes that herd is the State. Sometimes it is the Tribe. Sometimes it is the Faith. Sometimes it is the “Liberation” or “Revolutionary” movement. But whatever the particular herd of the moment, it is the persistent craving for membership that can bring the terrible downfall of individual responsibility, and the terrifying corollary triumph of the collective will.

Unless certain of our fellow humans soon learn how to temper their overwhelming desire to belong, the prevailing military and political schemes to prevent and control anti-American and anti-Israeli terrorism will fail. To succeed, therefore, we will likely benefit more from an understanding of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung than Carl von Clausewitz.

Today, the overwhelming desperation to belong is most evident in the Arab/Islamic world. How significant is this desperation to a real understanding of anti-American and anti-Israel terrorism? The philosopher Nietzsche can be helpful. Aware of the substantial harm that can be generated by the immense attractions of membership, Nietzsche declared with remarkable prescience: “To lure many away from the herd, for that I have come. The people and the herd shall be angry with me. Zarathustra wants to be called a robber by the shepherds.”

The most primary dangers of jihadist terrorism now stem from the combining of certain susceptible individuals into war-centered herds. Not every herd is terroristic, of course, but terrorism cannot take place in the absence of herds. When individuals crowd together and form a herd, the destructive dynamics of the mob may be released, lowering each person’s moral and intellectual level to a point where even mass killing may become altogether acceptable.

To understand what is happening behind the news, one must first recognize the manifest irony of terrorist objectives. Publicly, all Arab/Islamic terror is sacred violence, animated by the presumed will of Allah. In reality, however, the net effect of suicide bombings and mass slaughters is always to drown out any hint of godliness. By definition, there is simply no room in such “tactics” for human empathy, compassion, comity, or kindness.

In the presumed name of God, Arab/Islamic terror imposes upon the world neither salvation nor redemption, but rather the breathless rhythm of ritual murder and voluptuous killing. Although the killers would have us believe that God is their sole inspiration and their special witness, the inevitable end of all the delirium they create is despair. In the supreme irony of Arab/Islamic terror, the most conspicuous result of all this delirium is to prevent Man from remembering God.

To begin urgent investigations of already ongoing Arab/Islamic jihad against the United States, our scholars and policy makers should look closely at human meaning. To prevent expanding violence against the United States and Israel, Arab/Islamist terrorist groups must somehow be shorn of their capacity to bestow meaning. Even before this can happen, however, those individuals who turn to terrorist group membership must first discover more private sources of belonging. An underlying cause of terrorist crimes is always the continuing incapacity of individuals to draw authentic meaning from within themselves.

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “A Psychological Look Behind Jihadist Terror”

  1. One year after Bin Laden’s death and over 10 years since 9/11, American citizens are still blindly allowing their civil liberties to be taken away one piece of legislation at a time. How much freedom are we willing to sacrifice to feel safe? Under the guise of fighting terrorism, laws have been put in place as a means to spy on our own citizens and to detain and torture dissidents without trial or a right to council. You can read much more about living in this Orwellian society of fear and see my visual response to these measures on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/09/living-in-society-of-fear-ten-years.html.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel: three Israeli teens kidnapped and murdered on June 12, 2014 by Hamas terrorists in Gush Etzion. In their memory, Israel decided this week to designate a lot as state land, near the site where they were abducted.
Obama White House Condemns Designation of Gush Etzion Lot as ‘State Land’
Latest Indepth Stories
0.5-Shekel-hatasham-RJP

The War projects to lower Israel’s 2014 GDP 0.5% but will have little influence on foreign investors

The_United_Nations_Building

It is in the nature of the Nations of the World to be hostile towards the Jewish People.

champions

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are actually fighting to “liberate Jerusalem and all Palestine.”

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reviewing maps on the Golan Heights.

The bad news is that ISIS and Al Qaeda are on the Syrian Golan. The good news is that every terrorist in Syria is killing each other.

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.

One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres
Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Louis Rene Beres

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

An undifferentiated or across-the-board commitment to nuclear ambiguity could prove harmful to Israel’s’s overall security.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/a-psychological-look-behind-jihadist-terror/2012/06/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: