Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What Motivates Terrorists?

Two recent articles in the National Review by Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute address the 7/7 bombings in London. Ledeen is a traditional conservative. His liberal critics have argued that Ledeen “is apparently capable of viewing diplomacy only through the barrel of a gun.”

In a piece that uses some dark humor as a device he explores the evidence surrounding the bombings in some detail to draw the conclusion that they were not suicide bombings. Rather, he says that the evidence suggests that the four men were duped by their handlers. They thought they were merely planting bombs, not that they would share the fate of their victims. Ledeen presents a compelling case.

In another piece, Ledeen works to explode the myths that people engage in terrorism due to poverty, ignorance, and/or oppression. He notes that many enlightened and educated people and their institutions like to ignore the facts that the most evil fascist societies of recent times proliferated in highly civilized countries, and that the cherished virtues of communism in practice have created extremely oppressive and evil societies.

Ledeen asks why we are all surprised that the 7/7 bombers were raised in a civilized country, attended good schools, had good family backgrounds, had decent jobs, and were well enough off financially. He then provides a host of other similar examples as support. He says that the idea that “that people raised in cultured, democratic, societies — whatever their ethnic background and whatever their political or religious beliefs — are immune to the emotional poisons that transform normal people into terrorists” amounts to “intellectual conceit.”

Ledeen argues that evil lurks in the hearts of men, and that those that engage in terrorism choose to do so because “They are people who find it fulfilling to kill us and destroy our society.” He also provides advice for dealing with the problem, saying, “The primary role of statesmen and other leaders is to contain the dark forces of human nature.”

He concludes with this ominous warning. “Evil cannot be "fixed" by some social program or suitably energetic public-affairs strategy, or by "reaching out" to our misguided comrades. It must be dominated. Otherwise it will dominate us.”

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