How To Fight ISIL

not afraid-big

HOW TO handle terrorism: Not afraid!

Social Problems 101. How not to respond to terrorists:

  • Obsessive media reporting on terrorism
  • Obsessively watching media reporting on terrorism
  • Warnings: Terrorists seek to destroy our way of life!!!!!!!!

The thing is, terrorists have NO real power. Unless we think they do. 

And all of the above make people think they do.

Evidence that ISIL doesn’t have a whole lot of power

The New York Times’ Oliver Roy points out:

  • ISIL has probably reached it’s limit in terms of being able to capture territory.
  • The so-called Islamic State is not a state. It has no specific territory or boundaries. “It is more like a caliphate, forever in conquest mode.”
  • ISIL’s success lies only in grabbing headlines in newspapers and social media.

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman adds:

France’s economy is around 20 times the size of Syria’s. France is not going to be conquered by ISIS, now or ever. Destroy Western civilization? Not a chance…

Killing random people in restaurants and at concerts is a strategy that reflects its perpetrators’ fundamental weakness.

Terrorism almost never works

Actually, terrorism almost never works to attain the goals that terrorists seek.

Mr. Krugman says that the danger of terrorism doesn’t come from the killing or the fear. It comes from wrong-headed responses, like these:

  1. Appeasement
  2. Ending our reluctance to kill innocents
  3. Trying to gain perfect security by eliminating ALL threats
Not afraid!

Not afraid!

#1: Appeasement just encourages them. Luckily, we’re nowhere close to that.

#2: If we end our reluctance to kill innocent civilians — and we probably won’t — we risk creating more terrorists. So it backfires.

#3: You can’t eliminate ALL threats. We can eliminate key threats. But the world is too complicated to eliminate ALL of them. This tactic risks:

  1. Taking away our own liberties
  2. Creating more terrorists as decent, law-abiding (in this case, Muslim) citizens are vilified

What to do about terrorists

Here’s a summary of what experts who study terrorism recommend:

  • Don’t do what terrorists want
  • Don’t give them a lot of attention
  • Don’t make them seem like they are a bigger deal than they are
  • Follow the money: get them where it hurts, in the pocketbook
  • Offer large rewards for their capture
  • Targeted police and military attacks
  • International community bonds together to fight terrorists

What to do beyond Social Problems 101? See these reports from the New York Times for starters:

Quoting Mr. Krugman again:

The goal of terrorists is to inspire terror, because that’s all they’re capable of.

And the most important thing our societies can do in response is to refuse to give in to fear.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 20, 2015, in politics/class inequality, psychology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Another sad day. Rip all those who have died today in Brussels.

  2. I agree, terrorists have no real power. They attain power from fear and ignorance. They use hate to attempt to drive a wedge between the westernized world and the east. And this extremist form of Islam is what they use as a platform in order to create a sense of “this is the dominant and most powerful sect of Islam”, but in no way is this true. Islam is a faith guided and fueled by love and tolerance. Although I don’t know specific excerpts of the Quran or the number of times these themes were mentioned, I am educated enough to understand that ISIL does not in anyway represent the Muslim population. ISIL thrives on trying to ignite fear and hate in order to gain power over people “And the most important thing our societies can do in response is to refuse to give in to fear.” Compassion and empathy to learn about different religions and cultures will also convey how very very far ISIL is to being Islam.

  3. Completely agree that we need to stop giving ISIL recognition and media coverage, but most importantly fear. They live and grow off of us constantly talking about them on the news and if anything, we are giving them free press and popularity. The same reason many sociopath school shooters go on rampages, because they know even after they are dead they will be talked about for years and years, and they live (and die) for that attention. I think that the exact thing they want is for us as Americans, to fear Islam and to create a wall between us and our fellow Muslim Americans so they can create an idea of US vs THEM.

  4. While it is true that terrorist only hold as much power as is given from others, it is very hard to convince others that they should not fear something such as terrorism because that will only perpetuate the attacks. I completely agree that if we were change many of the tactics that we are using at the moment we would be able to diminish the issues we face with terrorism, especially in regards to the amount of casualties in the middle east which reaches numbers far beyond the amount of civilians killed in terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, many people don’t see retreating back as a way to succeed in ending the attacks. Many are afraid and the only way they see easing that fear is to continue into the war and “fight back”. What I always ask, is what good would it be to continue to send our soldiers, to use our money and resources to fight with those who are not afraid to die and will continue to breed soldiers to fight back. It is important for us to recognize that the fear we feel cannot always be solved with extreme violence, and that if anything we are continuing this never ending cycle of killing for territory and power.

    • I think we should fight back. But you need to do it any a way that, in this case, doesn’t brand all Muslims the enemy. And best to do targeted attacks. But all the attention just encourages them.

  5. I definitely think that we give them more power when we report on them so much. There was so much media coverage of the Paris attacks, I couldn’t help but imagine ISIS sitting back and watching everything play out exactly the way they wanted it to. Not that we shouldn’t report on big events like what happened in Paris, but I think its the fear mongering that comes after that is more harmful than anything else. I read a statistic somewhere that domestic terrorism such as the attack on Planned parenthood a few days ago is more common than islamic terrorism, at least here in America. Both are horrible, and yet one gets more spotlighted than the other.

  6. Hi Georgia…Thanks for sharing this ‘True’ post with us…As Frank Herbert wrote—“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Chant-speak—I know…Beyond Isis fear—‘We’ always be—‘We’ always remain. Thanks again…Phil

  7. Like big bullies, best not to feed them what they want then because their power lives in people being afraid of them.

  8. I think resorting to terrorism is proof that your cause is not just in the first place. It’s such a juvenile way of handling things, because their thuoghts and beliefs are juvenile. And like all naughty children (not to trivialize the lives lost), you can’t give in to them.

    Thank you , as always, for your measured thoughts.

  9. To raise the fear, they keep on releasing dreadful videos. But, it’s not’s sheer anger and hatred that most of the people around the world feel about terrorists and terrorism!

  10. What ISIS Really Wants

    The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.

    • You completely missed the point.

      The only thing that makes them powerful is fearing them, AND THEN doing what they want because of the fear. But no one has to do anything they want.

      And if you fear them it just encourages them. It helps them to create the illusion that they are powerful.

      To the extent that people are drawn to join them, the interest comes from the feeling that everyone is afraid of them. So all of the fear and attention just encourages people to join them and do more terror.

      They are a tiny group and can’t take over anything that they haven’t already taken over. And even then, they could only take over small parts of extremely troubled countries AND only because those small areas were in complete chaos. They have already run up against the limits of their expansion.

      So now they don’t have any real power.

      Terrorism almost never works to achieve the goals of the terrorists.

      All of this doesn’t mean that you can’t target and destroy them. And I linked to a few articles that talk about how to do that.

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