Another Holistic Approach To Counter-Terrorism: De-Radicalisation

Morning in the Riesengebirge - Caspar David Friedrich

We have recently questioned the effectiveness of Disengagement as Counter-Terrorism (CT) measure. This week we will discuss another Holistic Approach to CT: De-radicalisation.

De-radicalisation:
"Programmes that are generally directed against individuals who have become radical with the aim of re-integrating them into society or at least dissuading them from violence." (John Horgan)

Such programmes (according to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue) work under the assumption that people radicalise due to specific factors:

Divisions: Lack of integration, ghettoisation, polarisation, internal community divides, identity crisis, isolation, weak community leadership/infrastructure
Grievances: Under-employment, poor education, political/democratic disenfranchisement, discrimination, foreign policy and international conflicts/disputes
Narratives: Political movements, ideologies, faith
Means: Social/family/criminal networks, vulnerable/risky institutions and places,
vulnerable individuals, charismatic individuals

Of all the above factors, I'd say that Means is the most objective driver to terror, due to its universality - all the others are very subjective especially when they raise one crucial question:

  • What makes individuals of different ethnicities, exposed to the same drivers and living under the same conditions; display a different behaviour (i.e. why some have the proclivity to radicalise while others do not)?

Alan B. Krueger & Jitka Maleckova (in Education, Poverty, Political Violence and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?) have refuted the argument that there is a direct link between poverty, education and terrorism and involvement in politically motivated violence. They also quoted Maxwell Taylor, who said "Neither social background, educational opportunity or attainment seem to be particularly associated with terrorism." - therefore what motivates individuals to radicalise?
Psychology Professor Ariel Kruglanski says that the quest for personal significance is what motivates people to become terrorists.

If an institution proposes to de-radicalise individuals based on subjective factors (such as the individuals' grievances, divisions, narratives and means) instead of working based on the individuals' need for personal significance (i.e. a major human motivation to have respect), the de-radicalisation process will fail.
Focusing on social factors is limiting. I am not in any way saying that bearing them in mind is not useful; but I am daring to say that they are restrictive because many researchers have proved that they do not apply to all radicalised elements. However, when we think of psychological features (like the need to be somebody, to matter, to make a difference etc) we will realise that they are universal in all radicalised elements.

So, how is the de-radicalisation process to occur exactly? In Saudi Arabia, for instance, terrorists have been subjected to religious re-education, psychological advice and assistance in getting a job plus a wife. In Europe, what seems to be done is approximately the following:

  • Social and economic support for the individuals so they have a means of supporting themselves in the absence of their former radicalised network or group; 
  • Psychological support and counselling;
  • Mentoring and role models; 
  • Diversionary activities (e.g. sports); 
  • Counter-propaganda, deconstruction of messages; 
  • Religious or ideological counselling; 

A priori it all looks nice and relatively easy; however, in the Saudi case word is that 30-40% of those who underwent a de-radicalisation treatment went back to terrorism. In Europe, the picture doesn't look good either due to "lack of quality control, lack of direction or lack of results." (Alex Schmid)
In sum, there is no way of knowing how successful the measure is because all the researchers who delved into the matter have not found data or evidence that these programmes actually work as a counter-terrorism measure.

Current Standing: 
Holistic Approach 0 - 2 Military Approach


Comments

  1. The David vs Goliath situation which is what terrorism is all about has been going on since time immemorial. Gorilla war fare was and is just another version of it. When a weak side has to fight for what it thinks is injustice, it will use means that normal social behaviour will not accept and any efforts towards CT initiatives is bound to fail. Here is a situation where teeth for a tooth and cheeks for a cheek is the only language that the terrorist understands. That it becomes a reinforcing loop is a fact of life that we have to live with when we are on the side of the vested interests.

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    1. Hi Rummy :D!

      Sorry about the tardy reply but festivities got in the way...
      Guerrilla warfare differs from terrorism in one important thing: the target (although we could also add the respect for the rules of warfare). But you are right about how certain CT initiatives are bound to fail...
      Lovely comment.

      Rummy, thank you ever so much for your input :D. Loved it.

      Cheers

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  2. Here is Britain that has been experimenting with all kinds of holistic CT initiatives even going over board to be politically correct with this phenomenon. Do you think that they will ever be able to bring about change in this mind set? I don't. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/15/preachers-spiritual-cheerleaders-social-media-syria-london-university?CMP=ema_1537

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    1. Rummy, thank you for this link. I am not surprised at all and this sort of thing is exactly what makes me be sceptical of holistic approaches to CT....

      Delete
  3. None of the holistic approaches work, Max. Only a focused and concerted military option will help get those guys.
    These academic and politically correct approaches are just another way to appease the Arabs cause most of the west is intheir pockets now, but the irony is that the Saudis fail to recover terrorists and know it and then try to convince us, by giving us money, that they work! It's all bs.

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    1. Hi Anon :D!

      I am inclined to agree with you. Look at yesterday's air strike in Yemen: it obliterated +60 AQAP militants (less people to activate cells, less people to attack civilians).
      You have a point there.,,

      Anon, thank you ever so much for your input :D.

      Cheers

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  4. De-Radicalization: Explaining to a young man that his feelings of rage are the result of class warfare, racism, globalization, environmental destruction, ... rather than anything spiritual or eternal.

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    1. Hi Looney :D!

      Right? It makes no sense and because that fact it doesn't work. Plus, many who are under class warfare, who suffer racism etc do not turn into terrorists; therefore the whole theory is subjective.

      Looney, thank you so much for your great input :D. Loved it.

      Cheers

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  5. Can't agree with your more. Well to modify the usual pharase a little bit, Necessity is the mother of Terrorism. Indeed the foot soldiers of terrorism usually come from the very lower impoverished strata of the society who if otherwise with good standard of living wouldn't have ventured in the treacherous path. Its high time Governments all over the world rise over petty politics and start developing their countries with the bounty of resources that each has instead of developing only their bank accounts. This way people won't be alienated from the mainstream given they have a better life to live.

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    1. Hey Kalyan :D!

      I am not sure necessity is the mother of terrorism. Terror is a choice, like everything in life; terrorists choose to kill civilians instead of pursuing other avenues (which stand more chances of success). It is a calculated decision made by blood thirst individuals who manipulate others into their criminal cause.
      K, if poverty and lack of a "better life to live" were the problem then most Africans and Asians would be terrorists from the get go; yet, they are not - why? That's what we should be asking ourselves...

      Kalyan, thank you so so much for your input, my friend :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
    2. I agree with your view but to take the debate further, I believe you need a leader too, who will guide (misguide) those impoverished folks either through coercion or by luring them showing then unrealistic dreams and it is there where a poor folk would be more inclined to join than a rich folk. Yes the top masterminds may be rich blokes, but the fact is the foot soldiers or the actual implementors of terrorist activities baring exceptions would be more often than from that strata of the society.

      And now I will come to the leader part which is also an important element of it all. If I can give you a small example in Sri Lanka, the everyone knew the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, but once its top leader was eliminated things have completely changed now with the total collapse of the organisation, and there are numerous instances like this in other places too.

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    3. Kalyan,

      Are you saying a poor individual (perhaps due to lack of information) may be more cognitively opened to manipulation, to brainwash?
      You are correct: the foot soldiers usually are the ones with less education, the less inquisitive etc; although there have been exceptions in the case of suicide bombers (the Christmas Bomber, in 2009, was a very wealthy guy from Nigeria).

      Yes, the LTTE started to fall after the leadership decapitation because the charismatic leader was the true glue, not the cause per se. Such organisations (based on the charisma of the leader) tend to be obliterated once the command-in-chief is cut off. However, this doesn't hold true for every terrorist organisation and Al-Qaeda is one example of it.

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  6. Just came back from my Pesach holidays and I'm recharged hehehe. Of course deradicalization programs don't work, they never did and they never will for the various reasons presented here! If your spiritual leader is cheering jihadists up, if your family supports resorting to violence to solve problems, if your community resorts to victimization instead of actually get up and do something; any program is bound to fail. Military option any time!

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    1. Hey Adam :D!

      I hope you had a good rest. I hear you!

      Adam, let me not ruin your comment with further wording: thank you so much for it :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
  7. From what I read the success rate of de-radicalisation programs is not that high so this is one more leftist attempt to discredit the military option. This is my opinion.

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    1. Hi Celeste :D!

      Thank you so much for sharing your opinion, my darling :D.

      Cheers

      Delete

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