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Copyright 2005-2014 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. An Introduction to Terrorism Part I: Terrorist objectives, methods, and their psychological impact Michael.

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Presentation on theme: "Copyright 2005-2014 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. An Introduction to Terrorism Part I: Terrorist objectives, methods, and their psychological impact Michael."— Presentation transcript:

1 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. An Introduction to Terrorism Part I: Terrorist objectives, methods, and their psychological impact Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Department of Psychology University at Buffalo

2 Defining “Terrorism” l There is not a one-size-fits-all definition that adequately describes all cases that might be considered terrorism l There are, however, some common features for most cases that can be readily identified by considering the “terrorist’s” motivation and its relationship to pathological behavior Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.

3 Terrorist’s Objective l To affect political, social, economic, or religious change through the use of fear and intimidation unable to accomplish objectives through democratic or other legitimate process unable to directly confront their opposition militarily

4 An Alternative View of the Terrorist l In contradistinction to the often held stereotypic view of terrorists as evil people desiring to inflict pain and suffering on others the terrorist might be considered by some to be a victim of circumstances this “reactionary model” of terrorism suggests that the terrorist turns to terrorist activity because it is the only means available to achieve their objective involving a justifiable and positive societal change from their perspective l Terrorists in some cases may seem to have surprisingly “altruistic” motives Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.

5 Difference Between Terror & Terrorism l Terror involves inflicting fear and anxiety on the victim(s) l Terror can be goal oriented or gratuitous produce “positive” political, social, economic, or religious change extortion for financial gain pathological desire to inflict suffering

6 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Three Primary Motivational Dimensions to Consider financial gain TERROR inflict suffering “positive” societal change Criminal Terror Pathological Terror Terrorism Psychological Displacement Behavior Conditioning factors

7 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terrorism & Criminal Terror l Terrorism is directed towards “positive” change for a larger group seldom ‘self-serving’ often ‘sacrificing’ l Criminal terror benefits the individual extortion for financial or social gain often involves frank or borderline psychopathology

8 Self-Perception of Individuals using Terror l Terrorist usually view themselves as the “good guys” and their opponents as the “bad guys” l Individuals employing criminal terror often (not but always) realize they are the “bad guys” l Individuals displaying pathological terror probably don’t care (i.e., distinguish “good” from “evil”) Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.

9 Terrorism & Pathological Terror l Terrorists seek change through the use of fear and intimidation but this seldom involves mentally disturbed individuals l Some people use terror gratuitously this usually involves mentally disturbed individuals

10 Pathological Terror as a Terrorist Tool l Some degree of pathological terror can be useful to terrorist organizations, but l Those motivated primarily by pathological terror are mentally unstable and not constrained by the terrorists’ agenda l Therefore they are usually a threat to the organization and excluded or only marginally involved (e.g., suicide bomber) Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.

11 Other Potentially Important Variables l Aggressive behavior can also be produced or amplified by other psychological processes Frustration-aggression behavior Classic displacement behavior Conditioning hate and fear l Motivational variables give directionality to behavior Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.

12 Types of Terror Type Motivational Attributes

13 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terror & Psychopathology

14 Relationship among Terrorism, Criminal Terror, & Psychopathology Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terrorism Psychopathology Criminal Terror

15 Usual Criteria for Formal Definitions of “Terrorism” Several other terms are commonly found in government definitions of terrorism Unlawful act Violence or threat of violence Acts against Noncombatants But are these qualifiers useful or too restrictive? Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.

16 Terrorism as an “unlawful act” Of course it’s unlawful from the perspective of the government ‘victims’ who make the laws Silly legal jargon to insure criminal prosecution of terrorists? Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.

17 Terrorism as a “violent act” Does it really have to threaten physical violence? What about forms of cyber- terrorism not involving physical harm (e.g., financial ruin)? What about rape (cf. psychological vs. physical harm)? Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.

18 l Terrorism as an act against “noncombatants” Perhaps it is important to exclude military personnel from definitions of terrorist attacks, but what about law enforcement officers? What about military personnel not performing combat duties? Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.

19 l Academic definitions should be transcultural and should contain criteria even the terrorist would agree with “Yes, I’m a terrorist, but my cause is just.” l This type of definition defines the ‘territory’ in an impartial fashion Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.

20 Terrorist’s ‘Weapons’ l Kidnapping & hostage taking l Assassination l Improvised Explosive Device (IED) l CBRN (cf. NBC) chemical (e.g., sarin gas) biological (e.g., anthrax) radiological dispersal (e.g., dirty bomb) nuclear (i.e., mass destruction) l New millennium—new methods cyber-terrorism other ‘non-violent’ threats?

21 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terrorist’s Method to Accomplish Goals l To instill “terror” in target audience to force capitulation often by using the most terrifying means available (see note below), including kidnapping, assassination, IEDs, CBRNs by affecting many more people than directly affected by physical actions media and government-response play a critical role in the impact of terrorism

22 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terrorists’ Targets: Hard and Soft l Hard targets high-ranking government officials military bases fortified police stations (e.g., Northern Ireland) l Soft targets individual civilians shopping areas schools cultural, sporting, & religious venues

23 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Widening the “Target” to ‘Hit the Mark’ Level 1: Government Leaders Level 2: Police & Military Level 3: Government Workers Level 4: Civilian Supporters Level 5: All Civilians Terrorists increase their range of targets to achieve their goal. Most terrorist organizations include civilian targets, often preferred over hard targets.

24 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Target Impact-Value l Most people probably believe that hard targets have a higher impact value than soft targets l This is generally true for conventional military campaigns, but this is not true for terrorist campaigns against democracies

25 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Freedom’s Paradox: You can surrender it to terror! Terrorist tactics probably work best against democracies, where targeting civilian populations has the greatest impact (i.e., civilians elect the government which sets the policy the terrorists wish to change)

26 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terror Value of Soft Targets In addition to being easier to attack, soft targets actually have a higher terror value for the average citizen than do most hard targets (e.g., killing people “like me” makes the threat more personal and increases the individual terror value)

27 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Tokyo Subway Attack (Sarin gas attack by Aum Shinri-kyo cult, 20 March 1995) 12 Killed 5,700 physically injured 9,000+ psychologically ‘injured’ 10,000’s terrorized Photo from Photo from

28 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Beltway Snipers (Washington DC region, October 2002) 10 Killed 3 physically injured 100’s psychologically ‘injured’ 100,000’s terrorized Photo from Gwww.azette.net Photo from

29 Sequence of Beltway Sniper Attacks Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. The Beltway snipers were particularly effective in spreading terror and disrupting normal life because they killed at random and covered a wide area. Originally though to be Muslim extremists, in the final analysis it was simply criminal terror masquerading as al-Qaeda type terrorists.

30 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. 911 Attack on America (World Trade Center & Pentagon, 11 September 2001) 3,025 Killed 1,000’s physically injured 10,000+ psychologically ‘injured’ A nation terrorized

31 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. l When does attacking hard targets have a higher impact than attacking soft targets? conventional military campaigns totalitarian regimes

32 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. A Tyrant’s Hard Targets Are Most Vulnerable l “Soft targets” have little influence on totalitarian government leadership l “Hard targets” can erode totalitarian control (through attrition) or even instigate a coup de tat

33 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Psychological Impact of Terrorism l Strong motivation to terminate terror l Evokes classic ego defense mechanisms and displacement l Often produces frustration-aggression reaction general increase in mental illness Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

34 Response to terror can aid the terrorist organization Magnitude of reaction seen as an indicator of the perceived threat over-reacting can make the threat seem more serious than it actually is over-reacting can strengthen the terrorists’ support base by alienating neutral parties and by encouraging supporters & independent attacks Displacement aggression seems to confirm the terrorists’ charge of an oppressor who is “not-like-us” and “not human” causes victims of displaced aggression to identify with the terrorists seemingly fighting for them Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.

35 Responses to Similar Events Vary Dramatically l Response to terrorism is determined by social cognition and other dynamics Madrid train bombing (11 March 2004) elect new government withdraw troops from Iraq 9/11 attack on America solidify government support Bush doctrine: hunt & kill/preemptive war

36 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. End of Part I (Regular academic instruction ends here in this module.) Focus Question Set #2 l What are the methods of terrorists? (e.g., targeting civilian populations) l Why do terrorists use the tactics of terrorism?

37 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. An Introduction to Terrorism Part II: Considerations for developing effective counter-terrorist strategies

38 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Understanding the Terrorist l “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter” organized terrorism is seldom rooted in mental illness there is often some legitimate goal for the terrorist organization there is usually a broad support base but very few terrorists are open to compromise

39 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Understanding the Terrorist, continued l Most terrorist organizations have traditionally sought national or regional change l Some terrorists seek global change most have specific, tangible objectives (even if irrational) a few have apocalyptic motives

40 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terrorists Are Seldom Open to Compromise l Their demands usually involve radical change in the status quo uniting Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland in the south formation of the state of Palestine overthrow of the secular Egyptian government (in progress as of 2013?) establishment of an Islamic state in Iraq & removal of Western influence

41 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. The Terrorists’ Resolve l The more one ‘invests’ in a cause, the stronger that cause is psychologically defended l The transition from activist to terrorist (and the willingness to use violent methods) involves psychological changes that tend to dichotomize the ‘world’

42 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. The Terrorists’ View l Terrorist tend to view things as right and wrong (black & white without shades of gray) them and “us” l Terrorists tend to view their opponents as evil, inhumane (dehumanized) not like “us”

43 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Responding to Terrorist Demands (prioritized list) l Diplomacy when possible, but unlikely to work in most situations reinforces terrorist tactics l Undermine terrorist support l Direct physical confrontation hunt and kill neutralize “breeding grounds” l Temper media coverage

44 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Diplomacy and Negotiated Settlement l There are many cases in the 20th Century where terrorist tactics were effectively used to force change or to right an injustice Republic of Ireland (although the Northern counties remain in dispute) State of Israel (although national boundaries remain in dispute) De-colonization & sovereignty of African nations s & 1960s

45 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Colonial Africa c From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia at

46 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Diplomacy & Terrorism in the 21st Century l Conditions have changed radically national sovereignty is no longer the primary force behind many terrorist organizations some terrorist organizations seek global changes extending well beyond their social, political, economic, or religious spheres of influence (e.g., a “New World Order”)

47 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Responding to Terrorist Demands (prioritized list) l Diplomacy when possible, but unlikely to work in most situations reinforces terrorist tactics l Undermine terrorist support

48 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Undermining Terrorist Support l Minimize social-political conditions that spawn terrorism l Isolate the terrorists l Divide political factions l Rally allies against terrorism l Harsh and severe retaliatory action l Temper media aiding ‘recruitment’

49 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Minimize Social-Political Conditions for Terrorism l Diminish social-economic conditions that present legitimate grievances food and economic aid combat social, religious, economic, and political suppression l Provide alternative, rational plan for resolving the conflict

50 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Isolate the Terrorists l Neutralize support base foreign governments popular/civilian sympathizers other terrorist organizations

51 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Divide Political Factions in the Terrorist Movement l Exploit differences and conflicts among individual factions of the terrorist movement l Consider supporting factions willing to adopt a non-terrorist approach to achieving objectives (Historically this has usually ‘backfired,’ but it still seems to be a rational approach. At a minimum, it diminishes the number of terrorist groups that must be ultimately ‘dealt with’ and better focuses the ‘target.’)

52 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Rally Allies Against Terrorism l Show the terrorists to be irrational fanatics who threaten global peace and stability l Develop allies who have a common interest in neutralizing the terrorist threat l Develop a clear multinational plan for combating terrorism

53 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Responding to Terrorist Demands (prioritized list) l Diplomacy when possible, but unlikely to work in most situations reinforces terrorist tactics l Undermine terrorist support l Direct physical confrontation hunt and kill destroy or neutralize “breeding grounds”

54 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Harsh and Severe Retaliatory Action l When you know your target, “take it out” — “hunt & kill” collateral damage is less important when imbedded in tacit supporters act with an understanding of the psychological principles of punishment and contingency management

55 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Neutralize Terrorist “Breeding Grounds” l Minimize social-political conditions that spawn terrorism (first priority from list of responses) l Covert operations when feasible l Direct military action when appropriate (e.g., Bush doctrine)

56 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Responding to Terrorist Demands (prioritized list) l Diplomacy when possible, but unlikely to work in most situations reinforces terrorist tactics l Undermine terrorist support l Direct physical confrontation hunt and kill neutralize “breeding grounds” l Temper media coverage

57 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Temper Media Coverage l The media are (mostly unwilling) allies of the terrorists l The media need to self-censor coverage and not just push the most sensationalistic story confirm story & factual information present clear & balanced perspective consider impact of coverage

58 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terrorism in the New Millennium l Terrorism is a global problem that is not going away without direct action terrorism affects many people far removed from the terrorist activity terrorists seldom compromise l An effective response to terrorism requires decisive and often harsh action, uncharacteristic of the traditional American Psyche

59 Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Focus Question Set #3 l What terrorist groups were active in previous generations? Did they achieve their goals? l What are some of the major terrorist groups active today? Which are the most serious concern for the United States? Most serious threat worldwide?

60 Copyright & Fair Use All material used in this presentation is copyright 2014 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. unless otherwise referenced in the text. It may be used in part or in its entirety for noncommercial purposes as long as proper citation to the original source is provided. l For online presentations, reference to the original webpage URL or to the main website is appreciated.www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com l For printed presentations, reference to: M.A. Bozarth (2014), An Introduction to Terrorism, lecture presentation. Written permission for reproduction of material contained herein for commercial purposes should be first obtained from the author ( Copyright Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.


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