Currently, it appears as though terrorism is almost everywhere in the world in some form or another, and while Islamic/Jihadist terrorists seem to be the most visible and active, they’re certainly not the only ones.

What tends to get overlooked both in dealing with terrorists and terrorism is the long-term result of such activities. The immediate result is, of course, hundreds and thousands of deaths and injuries annually, and a great deal of anger and fear. For all of the so-called idealism or religious fervor of the Islamic terrorists, the goal of their terrorism isn’t to inspire the creation of some great Islamic state. It’s to disorganize and destroy civil society, to create chaos and unrest, and to demonstrate that civil society cannot cope with terrorism. Once such chaos exists, the only way to restore order is through absolute force – and in the Middle East in particular the only unified forces that exist are largely based on some version of Islam.

But what gets overlooked in all of this is that terrorist acts and murders don’t in themselves destroy civil society. Popular reaction to those acts does. Moreover, the popular reaction is almost always the strongest in countries and societies that already have the most authoritarian and repressive societies. It doesn’t matter that the Taliban might be even worse than the Afghan warlords; the warlords are so oppressive and corrupt that there’s already little love of the civil society, especially in a land that still remains tribally fragmented. It also doesn’t matter that ISIS is even worse than the Syrian government… and so it goes.

This kind of scenario is scarcely new. In a way, the Russian revolution followed a similar path, as did China, and much of southeast Asia… and the groups that had already gathered and mustered a monopoly on force were the ones who ended up governing.

A strong civil society is the greatest bulwark against the long-term effects of terrorism, but for a civil society to remain strong requires that the great majority of people support it. In turn, the greater the degree of oppression, perceived inequality and discrimination, and the greater the perception that there is no hope of advancement and improvement for most people, the more likely terrorism will be effective in fragmenting a society… which is the first step to revolution or social chaos and break-down.

Does that sound at all familiar?

5 thoughts on “Terrorism”

  1. Joe says:

    I agree that there are parallels between what is happening in the West and what is happening in the Middle East.

    However it is simplistic to state that the goal of the discontent is to destroy civil society. Their goal is to reform it, to change the way in which it behaves. Simply listening to those who promote these changes is usually sufficient to understand their motivation.

    In the US, the current form of civil society prevents many people from achieving their dreams due to racism, poverty and dispossession, scarce opportunities to make enough money, misaligned expectations (advertising, movies, news) and most fundamentally the need for constant growth due to our financial system based on debt and usury.

    The Middle East suffers from borders imposed by the old colonial powers to divide and conquer their peoples. They hear the West’s lip service to democracy and human rights, but see that their autocratic governments are held in place by the Western powers. They notice that the West has caused many wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Iran and so on, and unconditionally supports Israel even when it commits war-crimes. The people in the Middle East want to discard the current system of civil society in the Middle East. Hence, for instance, the Arab Spring. It is not for nothing that ISIS’ first video was about discarding the Sykes-Picot line.

    Robert Fisk gave a good lecture on this subject.


    The founders of ISIS wrote a book describing their strategy of using terror as a weapon: to cause fear by behaving inhumanely so that their enemies would flee. I fear this is a reaction to our the West’s hypocrisy about human rights and dignity. It is the poor man’s “Shock and Awe.”

    That is not to say Muslims bear no blame, and some of them do recognize this:


  2. Tom says:

    Reminds me of your suggestion that revolution can happen in the USA (supported by the media references to the military possibly not obeying the CinC and also now being told to keep out of politics in the USA).

    But your strength in administration of society has allowed you to suggest that demonstration of power must be used to maintain control of society by its leader(s). Several of your books refer to this lack of demonstration of power, as the root cause of loss of control of states. In ‘Madness in Solidor’, after toying with ADHD and OCD, you went back to this theme but never discussed root causes and thus practical solutions solutions for the leader(s) of the society. I wish you would write about this aspect of administration, because my reading has not been helpful for me.

    Perhaps for ‘Terrorism’ this document might be of use to our leaders … http://trumanproject.org/framework/

    1. invah says:

      Would you mind expanding on the ADHD/OCD component in “Madness in Solidar”?

  3. Andreas says:

    I believe most democracies in the world are constantly on the verge of losing the support of the majority of their people. One should probably bring a distinction between a strong civil society and strong civil groups within a society.
    I just wonder if a democratic state truly has the power to be civil, if I look at my own country (South Africa) of the voting age population only about 77% register to vote and of those registered to vote only 60% actually show up to vote, which I think shows a lack of trust in either the system or those who govern…

  4. darcherd says:

    In the famous quote mis-attributed to Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Which is certainly true, but what Burke actually did say is perhaps even more pertinent here:
    “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
    Only by uniting as a society in common purpose, driven by popular willingness of all to suppress their own petty desires and political factions, can terrorism be defeated. This cannot be imposed from above, or else it simply becomes just another form of tyranny which is the terrorist ultimate objective, as LEM astutely noted, above.

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