Avoiding Armageddon
From the Experts

Voices from - Silent Killers: Poisons and Plagues

Voices from - Nuclear Nightmares: Losing Control

Voices from - The New Face of Terror: Upping the Ante
Daniel Benjamin
Peter Bergen
Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj
Dr. Bruce Hoffman

Voices from - Confronting Terrorism: Turning the Tide

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Voices from "The New Face of Terror: Upping the Ante"

Dr. Bruce Hoffman

Dr. Bruce Hoffman is a terrorism specialist, and Vice President for External Affairs at the RAND Corporation, Washington, DC. He is also the author of "Inside Terrorism" and serves as editor-in-chief for "Studies in Conflict and Terrorism," the leading scholarly journal in the field.

"I think, strategically, terrorism has often not been terribly successful. Tactically, though, I think it has at least won victories that have been able to sustain it, and have been able - have often deluded the terrorists into believing that victory was right around the corner when in fact it wasn't. Or, if victory did come, it wasn't for the terrorists themselves, but often for some political entity that was more respectable, that didn't have its arms drenched in blood, and that, therefore, could assume power with a little bit more legitimacy."
"I think terrorists, like any political entity, have a constituency. It's almost the Maoist dictum of guerrilla warfare, of the fish swimming in a friendly sea. Once that sea becomes, if not friendly, but more equivocal or more ambivalent, it becomes very dangerous for the terrorists, because that means that the sea, or the environment, may turn hostile."
"I don't think there's any one single or universal causes of terrorism. It's really something that flourishes and erupts, often to an idiosyncratic combination of factors that you would see in one country, but in a country next to it you might not see the same constellation of factors that give rise - or you might see them, but it's really very much specific to - not only to various geographical locations, but to particular times, as well."
"Well, for religious terrorism, violence becomes a divine decree, or a sacramental act. It's something that's commanded by God, and that by not fulfilling God's wish, you're disobeying Him - or Her, as the case may be.

"The point is that it's often you see the involvement of clerical figures, or clerical authorities, so it's not just the leader of a group by dint of their charisma or organizational skills, but their leader as well, because they are claiming to speak for God. They are claiming to have the ear of God. And in this sense, they use scripture or liturgy to justify and explain the violence. And there's an enormous element of self-sacrifice. This is the martyrdom quality, which also is not exclusive to Islam, where people believe by surrendering their life, they are serving a higher calling, they are serving a higher deity."

"I think human and social solutions are enormously important, because after all, terrorism is, in most cases, an individual choice. A person decides on their own to become a terrorist, so anything we can do to lessen that proclivity to somehow convince people not to go down that path of violence is all to the good. But, in fact, identifying that combination of factors that prompts an individual to conclude that they can only realize their aims through the use of violence, I think transcends simple solutions, such as eradicating poverty, or countering alienation."

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