|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.
"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.
Holistic Approach 0 - 2 Military Approach