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Abstract

Contemporary suicide terrorists from the Middle East are publicly deemed crazed cowards bent on senseless destruction who thrive in poverty and ignorance. Recent research indicates they have no appreciable psychopathology and are as educated and economically well-off as surrounding populations. A first line of defense is to get the communities from which suicide attackers stem to stop the attacks by learning how to minimize the receptivity of mostly ordinary people to recruiting organizations.

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REFERENCES AND NOTES

1
“Patterns of global terrorism” (U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, May 2002); available at www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/2001/. “The U.S. Governmenthas employed this definition of terrorism for statistical and analytical purposes since 1983.”
2
U.S. Code Congress. Admin. News, 98th Congress, 2nd Session, v. 2, par. 3077, 98 STAT. (19 October 1984).
3
Until 1983, official U.S. positions on “terror” followed the term's common meaning in use since the French Revolution, referring to state-sponsored terror. For example, under “sources relating to Operation Enduring Freedom and the struggle against terrorism,” the U.S. Navy's Web guide on terrorism regularly links to Department of Defense articles on Iraq (www.history.navy.mil/library/guides/terrorism.htm).
4
The recent Guatemalan truth commission report singled out the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), now at Fort Benning, Georgia, for counterinsurgency training that “had a significant bearing on human rights violations during the armed conflict.” A 1998 human rights report released by the Guatemala Archdiocese Human Rights Office also linked SOA graduates in Guatemala's military intelligence (D-2, G-2) to a civilian-targeted campaign of kidnappings, torture, and murder that left tens of thousands dead. References available online through Network Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), “U.S. Army School of the Americas cited in Guatemalan Truth Commission Report,” 17 July 2001; available at www.nisgua.org/articles/school_of_the_americas. htm.
5
B. Lewis, The Assassins (Basic, New York, 2002).
6
M. Robespierre, “Principes de morale politique,” speech delivered to French National Convention, 5 February 1794; available at .
7
A. Axell, Kamikaze (Longman, New York, 2002).
8
A precipitating event was the exiling of 418 Palestinians suspected of affiliation with Hamas (18 December 1992), the first mass expulsion of Arabs from Palestine since 1948.
9
Quran, chapt. 3, verses 140–146.
10
Compare this statement with that of Hamas leader Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Rantisi, Al-Hayat (London-Beirut), 25 April 2002.
11
U.S. Department of Justice, Al Qaeda Training Manual, online release 7 December 2001; available at www.usdoj.gov/ag/trainingmanual.htm.
12
“Suicide terrorism: A global threat,” Jane's BioSecurity (2002); available at www.janes.com/security/ international_security/news/usscole/jir001020_1_n. shtml.
13
B. Lewis, What Went Wrong (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2002). The notion of a distinct religious authority, or clergy, was traditionally alien to Islam. The de facto modern clergy recognized by Islamic suicide attackers includes mullahs of Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the 19th-century administrative office of ayatollah in Iran and the former Ottoman office of State Attorney, or mufti (e.g., in Palestine, Syria, and Arabia). Many in this “clergy” also oppose suicide bombing.
14
Malakoff D., Science 295, 254 (2002).
15
Chapin D., et al., Science 297, 1997 (2002).
16
D. Von Drehle, Washington Post, 7 October 2002, p. A1. Warner's example of “rational deterrence” was the Cold War doctrine MAD (mutually assured destruction). MAD's key premise was the apparently irrational threat of guaranteeing one's own destruction in order to destroy the enemy.
17
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, “Confronting anti-Arab or anti-Muslim sentiments,” 21 September 2002; available at www.uua.org/uuawo/issues/respond/confront.html.
18
S. Milgram, Obedience to Authority (Harper & Row, New York, 1974).
19
Ross L., Stillinger C., Negotiation J. 7, 389 (1991).
20
R. Clark, Crime in America (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1970).
21
White House news release, 22 March 2002; available at www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/03/20020322-1.html.
22
J. J. Jai, Christian Science Monitor, 10 December 2001, p. 7.
23
Becker G., Pol. Econ. 76, 169 (1968).
24
“They are youth at the peak of their blooming, who at a certain moment decide to turn their bodies into body parts… flowers.” Editorial, Al-Risala (Hamas weekly), 7 June 2001.
25
Sheikh Yussuf Al-Qaradhawi (a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood), Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Cairo), 3 February 2001.
26
A. Krueger, J. Maleckova, NBER Working Paper no. w9074, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, July 2002; available at .
27
T. Friedman, Longitudes and Attitudes (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, New York, 2002). Leaders of Al-Qaida's international cells are often middle-class, European-educated converts to radical Islam. Family histories indicate little religious fervor before emigration to a solitary existence in Europe and subsequent belonging to a local prayer group or mosque (available tapes preach a revolutionary end to daily, personal alienation through collective action to destroy perceived impediments to “restoring” Islam's values and dominance). As with other radical Islamic groups, ordinary cell operatives are often resident Middle East bachelors from middle-class families.
28
A. Merari, paper presented to Institute for Social Research seminar series, “The Psychology of Extremism,” Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 11 February 2002.
29
R. Ezekiel, The Racist Mind (Viking, New York, 1995).
30
N. Hassan, The New Yorker, 19 November 2001; available at www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?011119fa_FACT1.
31
B. Barber, Heart and Stones (Palgrave, New York, in press).
32
D. Brooks, The Atlantic Monthly 289 (6), 18 (June 2002); available at www.theatlanticmonthly.com/issues/2002/06/brooks.htm.
33
Unlike people willing to blow themselves up, for frontline soldiers in an apparently hopeless battle, there usually remains hope for survival [
Allport G., Gillespie J., Young J., J. Psychol. 25, 3 (1948);
]. The distance between no hope and some (however small) is infinite, which represents the ultimate measure of devotion that religions typically uphold as ideal. While commitment to die for nonkin cannot be rendered within standard theories of Expected Utility, there are moves theorists attempt, such as invoking “infinite utility.” Using “infinite utility” to patch theories of rationality creates holes elsewhere in the system. Thus, expected utilities are usually weighted averages, which has scant sense when one term is infinite. The deeper point is that notions of maximization of anticipated benefits cannot account for such behaviors, and ad hoc moves to maintain rational utility at all costs result in a concept of rationality or utility doing little explanatory work. In sum, reliance on rational-choice theories may not be the best way to understand and try to stop suicide terrorism.
34
D. Rhode, A. Chivers, New York Times, 17 March 2002, p. A1.
35
“White Paper—The Jemaah Islamiyah Arrests,” (Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore, 9 January 2003); available at www2.mha.gov.sg. Recruitment and indoctrination into Jemaah Islamiyah are similar in other radical Islamic groups: “The first stage … involved religious classes organised for a general mass… . The second stage … involved identifying those who were captivated enough to find out more about the plight of Muslims in other regions. [JI spiritual leader] Ibrahim Maidan identified potential members from those who were curious enough to remain after classes to enquire further. He engaged those students' interest and compassion and finally invited those he deemed suitable to join JI. This recruitment process would usually take about 18 months. The few who were selected as members were made to feel a strong sense of exclusivity and self esteem … a strong sense of in-group superiority.”
36
In much the same way, the pornography, fast food, or soft drink industries manipulate innate desires for naturally scarce commodities like sexual mates, fatty foods, and sugar to ends that reduce personal fitness but benefit the manipulating institution. [S. Atran, In Gods We Trust (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2002)].
37
E. Sciolino, New York Times, 27 January 2002, p. A8.
38
“What the world thinks in 2002: How global publics view: Their lives, their countries, the world, America” (Survey Rep., Pew Research Center, 4 December 2002); available at .
39
Reuters News Service, 11 June 2002; accessed at .
40
C. Lynch, Washington Post, 18 December 2002, p. A27.
41
Axelrod R., Hamilton W., Science 211, 1390 (1981).
42
M. Bazerman, M. Neale, Negotiating Rationally (Free Press, New York, 1991).
43
A. Eagly, S. Chaiken, The Psychology of Attitudes (Harcourt Brace, Fort Worth, TX, 1993).
44
One possibility is to offer and guarantee a clear resolution of “final status” acceptable to majorities of Israelis and Palestinians. Without clear resolution of final status before implementation of “confidence building” measures, with an understanding by all parties of what to expect in the end, it is likely that doubts about ultimate intentions will undermine any interim accord—as in every case since 1948. [
Atran S., Politics and Society 18, 481 (1990)].
45
N. Chomsky, 9-11 (Seven Stories Press, New York, 2001).
46
Thanks to D. Medin, N. Chomsky, R. Gonzalez, M. Bazerman, R. Nisbett, and reviewers.
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Science
Volume 299 | Issue 5612
7 March 2003

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Published in print: 7 March 2003

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Scott Atran
CNRS–Institut Jean Nicod, 1 bis Avenue Lowendal, 75007 Paris, France, and Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48106–1248, USA. E-mail: [email protected]

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