Human Security and Terrorism

October 2, 2008

“Alienation Nightmare” © 1996 by Sabu

A recent study by Max Abrahms ( “What Terrorists Really Want,” International Security, Spring 2008) argues that terrorist groups are largely made up of alienated and socially marginalized individuals who belong to these groups primarily for reasons of “social solidarity” rather than as a result of shared political commitments.

These findings indirectly validate a human security approach to understanding and combating the problem of global terrorism by focusing on the “psycho-social” dimensions of this security threat.  In general, human security argues that we need to expand our analytical lens from a state-centric, national security perspective to one that takes into account individual needs in order to better understand root causes and design more effective responses to our shared global security threats.

Abrahms’ findings imply that effective counter-terrorist programs need to move beyond traditional national security counter-terrorist strategies to include systematic efforts to reduce the “social benefits” gained by individuals who join these terrorist networks. Of course, this will require fundamentally rethinking the way counter-terrorism programs are designed and delivered since traditional defense and police bureaucracies are ill-equipped to handle this type of psycho-social programming.

Change is never easy, but the alternative is to ignore this growing body of evidence and continue with our business-as-usual politico-military response, which, as Abrahms and others have pointed out, have too often exacerbated the problem.


One Response to “Human Security and Terrorism”

  1. Gonzalo Says:

    Interesting insight. It’s worth looking at different avenues to combat terrorism

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