Terror Attack 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As the Arab Spring continues to play out in the Middle East and North Africa,
the next likely “domino” to fall will be the tyrannical regime in Damascus,
Although largely unanticipated, one plausible consequence of the
growing democracy in this area is an increase in terrorism.
it is the Islamist forces that will slowly rise to the surface and multiply with
a renewed dedication to theocratic power and religious purity. The literally
explosive results of this will be felt not only in the immediately affected
countries, but also in Israel, Europe and the United States.
In Gaza, for
example, Hamas, strengthened by newly-emergent, post-Mubarak elements of the
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – not to mention the repatriation of more than 1,000
terrorists from the latest lopsided prisoner exchange with Netanyahu – will
likely advance its plans for “war” against Israel.
At its conceptual
center, jihadist terrorism has little to do with national concerns such as war,
politics or resistance to oppression.
Rather, the essential motivation
for these recurrent excursions into barbarism are the utterly personal feelings
of fear, dissatisfaction, cowardice and loathing.
These include a
consuming, though unacknowledged, horror of death (always relieved for dutiful
“martyrs” by a compelling promise of life-everlasting); an unfulfilled wish for
ecstasy, or intense pleasure; the palpable joy drawn from the targeting of those
who “lack sacredness”; and, perhaps even more acutely after Mubarak and Gadaffi,
an abiding hatred of “apostates” and “infidels.”
In Egypt, Libya and
elsewhere in this volatile region, jihadist terror and “sacred” vengeance is already re-emerging, incrementally. Seeking to express Shahada, or “Death For Allah,”
this Islamist violence will systematically challenge secular military forces,
perhaps doing even more to undermine democracy than the original and
now-overthrown authoritarian regimes.
To understand the changing area, we
need to look beyond the passionate but ultimately futile regional cries for
We must first understand the true motivation for jihadist
terrorism. Islamist suicide-bombers prepare carefully for their cathartic
missions of pain and extinction because of the anticipated ecstasy. Drawn from a
presumed religious obligation, this ecstasy, which rewards doubly because it is
“cleansing,” represents an almost exact reciprocal of the suffering to be borne
by the unfortunate victims.
For jihadist suicide terrorists, both past
and future, the death that is meted out to enemies is only an abstraction. These
victims, by definition, lack sacredness. In the unchanging Koranic concept of
war, terrorizing the profane unbeliever who refuses to be a dhimmi (to accept
sharia domination) is unquestionably a source of deep satisfaction.
violent upheavals now spreading across the Middle East and North Africa contain
hidden meanings. Their principal legacy may have little to do with any sustained
popular revolution, democracy, or overthrow of earthly despotisms. Instead, they
may turn out to be the result of the long-latent and much more primal human hope
of achieving the indisputably greatest power of all, power over
The essence of any capable counter-terrorist policy must be an
awareness that jihadist violence is never truly rooted in political or
revolutionary ideology. Such violence stems instead from remorselessly vengeful
images of religious obligation, which in turn are the earthly expressions of a
more-or-less desperately longed-for immortality.
Jihadist terror is
always a grotesque form of religious sacrifice. Nothing in the Arab Spring has
in any way changed this axiomatic meaning.The writer is professor of
political science and international law at Purdue University and lectures and
publishes widely on international relations.