Montag, 6. Oktober 2014

Terrorists as rational actors. Essay by Uwe Voigt, Universtiy Leiden, Den Haag 6th of October 2014

Suicide terrorists as rational actors      

by Uwe Voigt


The mind of a suicide terrorist beholds a different mindset to the one of
common people and even seems to be against the human nature. After decades of research Dr. Hofmann (Boston University) comes to the conclusion that suicide terrorism and the suicide terrorists follow rational paths of acting. He is not alone in the claim that terrorists in general are not irrational. Dr. Bakker (Leiden University) proved this assumption as well.If we take historical works e.g. "Der Märtyrer als Waffe" by Jesoeph Croitoru or works like "Die weltweite Gefahr" by Hans Frand and Kai Hirschmann or Professor Mark A.Gabriel (Al Azhar University, Kairo),the opinion of Marcus Tandecki, a retired German military intelligence Colonel,who also supported this point of view during an interview or even my own personal experience and discussions with extremists at the mosque at Al-Azhar University we get a clearer picture that indeed terrorist are rational actors.
Col. Tandecki

It is important to test this assumption,because if terrorist were rational,we could understand the rationality their mindset might need to become a suicide terrorist and the understatement of the choosing of targets might help to secure future potential targets. Testing this assumption may also give practical hints to hinder radicalization, recruitment and training. This will help to provide higher security standarts, which is a clear and strong claim of societies around the globe and  may give new points of view for the field social sciences, psychology, philosophy and theology, as well as a clearer picture of the mindset of a suicide terrorist.


To understand the rationality or suicide terrorism, which will not always fit to the rationality of our mindset we have to go back in history and get a picture how those acts were legitimated in the past and which rules these followed.

In medieval times the "old man in the mountains" Hassan is-Sabbah founded the order of al-Hashishiyya. This "was agroup of strict religious shia muslims believing Islam bounds to kill its enemies and become a martyr....The warriors of this group used Hashish to exhilarate themselve before commiting their suicide assassinations."( Garbriel 2002,p134) These complex missions were planned carefully and the Assassins, were indoctrinated since childhood and were chosen carefully. One could say that they were drugged and therefore not rational but in the end the mission planning, training, targeting and the threat itself were the outcome of rationality. The useage of drugs served only to calm the perpretrators. All in all one has to say that the roots of suicide  terrorism are based in rationality.

Lod 1968 - First modern suicide terrorism threat.
The modern threat of suicide attacks starts 1968 in Lod,Israel."In Lod the tactic of suicide attack...until now only used in war times and in military context and terrorism became a dangerous combination."( Croitoru 2005, p.77) Later Okamoto, the only surviving attacker, claims that the death of innocence people "served a higher cause - the World Revolution - and legitimated sacrificing numerous lifes"( ebd.).
Here on the first case of modern suicide attacks we learned that the assassins followed a very own path of rationality.
Prof.Dr. Edwin Bakker
Prof.Bakker claimed in his video lecture:" The main difference between mass murderers and .... terrorists.. is the former are not politically motivated and terrorists are."( Bakker 2014 3:50). Furthermore he delivers another quotation in that very same lecture:" Terrorism is a rational behavior making terrorists rational actors....".
Prof.Hoffman (Georgetown University), director of security studies: "Terrorism is seen as a form of surrogate warfare"(Hoffman 2014 1:21) and later "They want us to act irrational". The meaning of this quotation is fundamental to this essay: Wars are complex and always rational on the technical base ( without concerning morality here) and so for this underlines Prof. Bakkers statement mentioned earlier.

Marcus Tandecki, a retired German military intelligence Colonel and chairman ASEE council, Hamburg points out at a personal interview that:"suicide attacks differ from rampages. In most cases motives were not only personal but follow an inner rational structure - not always understood by the rationality of common sense."( personal interview 05.10.2014).


As a conclusion these arguments by scholars,experts and journalists underline that suicide terrorists are rational.The process of radicalization, the carefully choice of the perpretrators,targeting and mindsetting is too complex to be irrational or happening "by accident". This complexity difference terrorism from a simple rampage,where individuals act in most cases on the basis of mental disorders or stress.
One can claim that the death of innocent victims for a so called higher cause is not legitimated by the common sense or morality, but behind the threats there are standing methodes, mechanisms and objectives; therefore a form of rationality which differs from the rationality of the common human mindset.This may be the reason why these threats trigger terror in ourselves. Because of the above stated reasons I label the assumption "suicide terrorists are rational actors" true.