Cost/Benefit Analysis of Terrorism

Every potential terrorist needs to serious ask themselves, “Is killing a bunch of people an effective way to motivate a government and/or culture to conform to a new ideology?” You can find the answer to this question by studying the history of terrorist attacks. Terrorist attacks have had some success in motivating encroaching imperial forces from leaving an area they’re not welcome in such as in Ireland and Beirut, but you’ll notice the British are still in Ireland, and the Americans are still in the Middle East.

Other than those small “victories” for terrorism, a quick scan of the history books show that terrorism is an overwhelming failure. It has never succeeded at producing total long term political or social reform… and why would it? Before you go kill any innocent people, do a case study on the government you’re hoping to influence. The United States, Russia and China (to name a few) lock up their own civilians in prisons for nonviolent, victimless crimes where they’re raped and beaten only to be thrown out in the streets with felony convictions that ruin the rest of their lives. These countries sell tobacco, alcohol and toxic food to their civilians and create laws that prevent the poor from being able to afford the medicine that will save their lives after they get sick from those poisons.  These countries set the legal minimum wage below the poverty level. They’ve even been accused of state sponsored terrorism themselves. Even without that last accusation, it would take an army to kill as many civilians as those countries let die every year. It would be illogical to expect terrorism to hold any leverage over countries that make a full time job out of terrorizing and slaughtering their own population.

Attacking a world super power is tantamount to personal and ideological suicide. When you attack a super power it will attack back. Period. There’s no question about that. If a terrorist kills him/herself in their attack, the super power will still need to attack somebody in retaliation. So they’re going to attack the terrorist’s family, colleagues and like-minded individuals. And since the largest, most powerful militaries in the world are riddled with bureaucracy, inefficiency and un-accountability they’re probably going to end up imprisoning and bombing more of your innocent neighbors than your actual associates. If/when/before that happens, you really have to take a step back and ask yourself what terrorism really accomplishes. It just sets in motion a domino effect of murder and mayhem until there’s nobody left to be angry at. The only people who really win are the bullet and bomb merchants.

If you truly have an ideology worth spreading, the worst thing you could possibly do is kill a bunch of innocent civilians. All that’s going to accomplish is getting you and a significant number of like-minded individuals killed, and your ideas are going to die with you. You’re not going to die as a glorious martyr either. You’re going to be demonized, and your ideology is going to be demonized right along with you. Even if your ideology isn’t demonic, you’ll have made it demonic in the public eye.

Some terrorists kill themselves and other people because they believe they’ve been pushed up against the wall. Terrorists say they were forced to use violence as a last resort against overwhelming odds. That’s the line we hear anyway, but when have the police ever raided a terrorist’s bomb-shack and found a door-length list hanging on the wall of every other method the terrorists had tried before finally resorting to violence? Never. Terrorism isn’t the last resort of courageous men. It’s the first idea of uncreative fools. Here are a few ideas that have worked for other people that you and your organization should consider trying before resorting to violence to propagate your ideology:

1. Bribery. Maybe you have a righteous ideology that you want your government to adopt. Killing innocent people will obligate politicians to reject your ideology. However, history shows that nothing motivates politicians better than money. Instead of funding terrorist training camps, just fund a politician’s political campaign. Even if your ideology doesn’t make any sense and is blatantly in the disinterest of the common citizen, you can still get a politician to sign legislation that will force your ideology onto others.

2. Outreach. The Catholic church tried to spread Christianity by the sword. Now the Crusades are remembered by believers and non-believers alike as a prime historical example of FAIL. However, Christianity still spread all the way around the globe because the Christians changed their tactics. They sent missionaries to foreign lands to set up schools, hospitals, orphanages and poor houses. The locals didn’t (usually) fight off the missionaries. The locals came to them. Then, once the locals were lured inside the church the Christians pulled a bait-and-switch and pushed their manifesto on them. Hundreds of years later Hawaiians, Maoris, Alaskans, Native Americans and countless other ethnic groups are still worshiping the God who stole their land and erased their culture.

3. Propaganda. You don’t have to kill your enemy to defeat them. Ultimately, what’s your enemy? Your enemy is the ideas in people’s minds. Defeat the ideas and you convert your enemies into your allies. Then you win twice.

If your ideology isn’t sound enough to convince people to adopt without violence then you need to seriously consider whether your ideology is worth spreading at all. If your ideology can convert people without violence then why use violence?

If you have an ideology worth killing/dying for then you must have a giant manifesto detailing your cause, right? If you don’t then you have to ask yourself what you’re killing/dying for. How do you spread an idea? You put it into a book and then circulate copies of that book. Terrorist money would be better spent on ink than bullets. You don’t even have to be subtle about the fact that you’re spreading propaganda with a bait-and-switch agenda. Just make it cute and funny. If you want to get into people’s minds then DO get into their books and television; DON’T kill them.

4. Regroup/Rebuild. Joseph Smith had an ideology he wanted to spread. He was killed for his beliefs, and his followers were brutally persecuted by Christians. Afterwards, his followers didn’t start burning churches and attacking government buildings. They moved out into the country and built a new nation based on their ideals. Unfortunately for them the United States forced them to accept annexation as a state instead of being able to start their own country, but even after that happened they still didn’t start burning churches and blowing up government buildings. They set up schools in places Christians had already done the groundwork of wiping out the local culture. They sent missionaries door to door all over the world to spread their manifesto and convert people’s minds by talking to them, and they’ve had far more success that way than violence could have ever achieved. They haven’t taken over the world yet, but that’s no reason to start killing people. Point in fact, at the time of writing this a Mormon is running for president of the country that wouldn’t let Utah be its own country. Regardless of whether Utah is a state or a country, it’s still a stronghold of the Latter-day Saints, and it became that way through hard work, not violence.

However you felt about this post, you’ll probably feel the same way about these:

Police and the Law

Occupy Wall Street


One response to “Cost/Benefit Analysis of Terrorism

Feel free to leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: