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, assassination. This is the war

of the future.”

- Adolf Hitler

We know that terrorism is violence. The actual aim of that violence is the use of terror and fear. The difference between violence and fear in terrorism and regular crime is that terrorist organizations use the two concepts as tools to a wider end rather than just for their sake or the selfish needs of the criminal. In specific, there is often the further aim of coercion or, often more specifically, some political objective.

Psychopaths murder innocent civilians because of disassociate mental problems or some skewed reasoning that appears more than valid to their minds. Terrorists not only provide their own valid reasoning, but also often back their actions with religious texts and teachings to pacify their conscience, presumably, and add false morality to their deeds. Since the organization of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups is more decentralized than groups in the past, the goals of those groups require a collective rationality (Crenshaw, 1998). This helps to reinforce the collective morality that adds to the motivating factors of terrorists and strengthens their political goals.

Terrorism can be...
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