Lone wolf: The mindset of 45 terrorists

Lone wolf: The mindset of 45 terrorists, by Yonah Jeremy Bob.

IDC Herzliya International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) director and Lauder School dean Boaz Ganor summarizes his 35 years of dealing with terrorism.

“If a group has a motive, no matter what it is, and if they have an operational capability, there will be terror operations.” …

This explains why Ganor ran a unique project … in which a team he assembled interviewed 45 lone wolf terrorists serving time in Israeli jails. …

Ganor argues that Israel and the West have done a much better job fighting capability and a poorer job of discouraging motivation. He said this is why the lone wolf phenomenon has left all of us more vulnerable.

If traditionally, intelligence services could thwart terror attacks by tracking the movement of terror financing, weapons, communications and planning activities, all of this is irrelevant with lone wolves.  …

Ganor maintains that Israel and much of the West have been much weaker in countering terrorists’ motivations. …

The difference between freedom fighters and terrorists:

At this point, Ganor interjected that this terrorist and many others have been confused by the stock phrase that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

Ganor said that “this is a deceptive sentence,” because freedom is a goal and terror is a means.

In other words, terror uses violence against civilians as a means to achieve some kind of goal.

According to Ganor, this means that someone could claim to be a freedom fighter, but “if you deliberately attack civilians, you are definitely a terrorist.” …

Islam harnesses the mentally-ill as martyrs:

Two-thirds of the 45 lone wolves suffered from some form of mental disease or psychosis and had suicidal tendencies. A staggering 54% would have preferred to die during their attack, rather than live. …

If they see running at an Israeli soldier with a kitchen knife as a way to die and gain fame, many of them will be turned on to the idea.

In contrast, if potential lone wolves read again and again that single attackers are being arrested and spending their lives humiliated, miserable and bored in jail, they may think twice.

If their true desire is a death wish, they may even decide to quietly commit suicide alone at home as a “safer” bet, which means that they will not hurt others.

This would completely alter their incentive structure.

Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman persistently opposes capital punishment as a sentence for Palestinian terrorists.

hat-tip Scott of the Pacific