Essay about What Motivates Terrorists?

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What Motivates Terrorists?


This paper will seek to understand what really motivates terrorists to commit the acts that make them so infamous. We are assuming that the chief motivating factor behind the decisions of terrorist organizations is the political outcome of their acts balanced against the risk and collateral damage inflicted to achieve this end. We will also weigh in the appeal of terrorism on potential recruits in weak states and determine how the motivations of the group become the motivation of the individual and how this benefits the decentralized organization of terrorist organizations like al Qaeda.

What Motivates Terrorists?

“Demoralize the enemy from within by surprise,

terror, sabotage,
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The quote at the beginning of the paper illustrates Hitler’s understanding of the nature of terrorism and what part it plays in the new war without a definable front.

The terror attacks still help the group in its political cause. Publicity is gained from the attack and also the name of the organization is again broadcast. I would venture to guess that prior to the bombing of the USS Cole and the attacks on 9/11 very few members of the general public knew the name al Qaeda. Now, the name itself instills fear and uncertainty. That is one of the main goals of an organization of this type. Al Qaeda has become so infamous in its actions that the name is known in each household in the West. So, we can assume that the attacks on innocent civilians, while not always attaining immediate political goals, have made the point in the long run.

So, we also can see from the psychological effectiveness of attacking civilians that radical organizations may not choose terrorism as a last resort, but instead of a tried and true strategical tactic. Terrorist groups do not lack other options to pursue. The growing trend has been to ignore the less offensive methods of the past and replace them with full out assaults on the public. Donatella Della Porta and Sidney Tarrow studied Italian terrorist organizations in the mid-1960 thru early 1970’s and found that terrorism was “part of the protest repertoire from the very