Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Treating Terror

The latest attacks have not produced many new ideas (I am guilty of this as well) on tackling terror (virtually none at all in the Indian media as far as I can tell) with most commentators repeating existing alternatives albeit occasionally in a new light. Regardless of what yesterday’s arrests mean, it is unlikely that they will affect the phenomenon itself very much (see this report). I am posting here links to the few relatively new approaches that I have come across (some of you might have already read them but I think it is still worthwhile to post them here).

It is worth noting that the jihadi phenomenon shares features of other social maladies such as drug abuse and alcoholism. Like them, recruitment happens commonly through social networks. A recent book argues that the religious learning often comes afterwards and many of the recruits initially have little more knowledge of religion than the average secular person (you can read a review here). Actual practice provides the ‘high’ which is also reinforced by interaction within the network as well as the retribution where it materializes. Will a similar approach of behavioral therapy therefore work? Yes claim the Saudis who are using a counseling and rehab model to address the problem (see this article).

There are of course inherent problems in this approach (particularly but not uniquely in the Indo-Pak context) not the least being access to the recruits and desire for reform. One point Sageman makes in this regard is that since online fora are an important place for motivation and recruitment, introducing moderate viewpoints in such places may have a beneficial effect. This may again not be very useful for organizations such as the LeT which reportedly use more traditional recruiting methods.

For another, it may be argued that if religion is not the primary motivating force behind joining the ranks of the jihad, then religion-based therapy may not be of much help. Also, a graded approach like the one adopted for drug addicts is difficult to do here. But behavioral therapy has been reported to have been used with some degree of success in domestic violence and if found to be efficacious, may potentially have a role to play here as well.

The other has been Kagan’s proposal. Here is a critique that explains why it will not fly.

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