Do Air Strikes Stop Terrorism?

Last month, a Pentagon official confirmed that ISIS’ Minister of Information was killed in an air strike. Earlier this year, other ISIS leaders were also killed in air strikes, including regional leader Hafid Saeez Khan and ISIS’ former number two in command, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. Although several alleged terrorists have been killed with air strikes, ISIS has still been functioning well and terrorism in the west has not shown any signs of slowing down. So are the air strikes really stopping terrorism?

The air strikes are hurting ISIS’ oil supply, but they may also be creating unintended problems, such as helping ISIS and other terrorist organizations in recruiting more members and increasing the amount of lone wolf terrorist attacks. There are several reasons these air strikes may be leading to these unintended consequences. One reason is that many terrorist organizations recruit people by claiming that the West hates Muslims. US air strikes on Muslims certainly does not refute this assumption and could actually promote this accusation. Additionally, being killed in an air strike could be perceived as martyrdom. This perception of martyrdom could send a distorted message to individuals that terrorists are actually activists fighting against western oppression and are dying for a great cause. In effect, motivating individuals to support ISIS and other extremist groups by either going to Syria or carrying out lone wolf terrorist attacks.

There’s also nearly no way air strikes could deter terrorist behavior. Similarly to there not being any evidence that a death penalty stops crime, creating deterrence by killing terrorists doesn’t even make sense, since many modern day terrorists are willing to commit suicide. If a terrorist is willing to commit suicide, then how would an air strike deter the individual from engaging in terrorist behavior. Additionally, some terrorists believe that they will be rewarded in the afterlife for carrying out terrorist attacks. If the individual truly believes that they will be rewarded for their terrorist behavior, then threatening to kill the person would not stop the person from committing terrorist acts.

So if air strikes don’t deter terrorism, lower morale, or stop ISIS’ ability to function, then what is the point of using the extra judicial tactic of air strikes? I don’t know. Maybe the US government believes that air strikes are a good tactic in the war against terrorism. But, I’m not sure if air strikes are really that effective, or even ethical.

Image Source: CNN


How Terrorists Use The West For Financing and Recruitment

Although ISIS is an enemy of western countries, the terrorist organization actually receives funding and recruits from these countries. In fact, one of ISIS’ largest sources of income comes from selling artifacts to Europeans and Americans. According to Newsweek, ISIS controls over 1/3 of Iraq’s archaeological sites. After the terrorist organization excavates these archaeological sites, they smuggle the artifacts through Iran, Turkey, and Syria and sell them on the black market.

ISIS also makes a significant amount of money from kidnapping foreigners. Many of these victims are from England, France, Spain, and the United States. When ISIS kidnaps these individuals they hold them until an incredibly high ransom is paid. In fact, France has paid $14 million in ransoms for kidnapped journalists. On the other hand, the United States and UK have continued to not pay for the release of hostages. This has led to American and UK hostages being beheaded while French hostages have been spared. American officials have issued a statement about this, saying that they are not paying for American hostages because it “makes it less likely that Americans will be taken hostage.”

A large amount of Americans have also been attempting to join extremist organizations. In fact, U.S. officials estimate that over 100 Americans have tried to join Syrian militant groups. CNN tells the story of how a nineteen-year-old American woman named Shannon Maureen Conley pled guilty to a terror charge at a federal court. She was arrested at Denver International Airport during April 2014. Conley was planning on traveling to an ISIS camp. When questioned by investigators, Conley said that she met ISIS member Yousur Mouelhi on the internet and planned to marry him. Mohammed Hamzah Khan, another prospective ISIS recruit, was arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Much like Conley, Khan was attempting to go to Turkey and was arrested at an American airport.

Terrorists may see the West as an enemy, but they ironically need the West to gain support and financing. While knowing this, US law enforcement agencies have been working with foreign law enforcement agencies to stop the funding of terrorism and the recruitment of westerners but this has not stopped the threat of terrorism. However, if law enforcement discovers new techniques of stopping terrorist recruitment and financing then the terrorist threat may greatly decrease.

Image Source: KUTV

Why Do People Become Terrorists?

Many people consider terrorists to be insane. But are they actually insane? There has not been any evidence that terrorists are mentally unstable individuals. In fact, terrorist organizations often do not recruit mentally unstable individuals for security reasons. So why do people join terrorist organizations? While research has not found any psychopathology or general theory of why people become terrorists, research has found that there are several reasons individuals may be drawn to terrorist careers, including feelings of frustration, a search for belonging, and a need for identity.


In Tore Bjørgo’s book, Root Causes of Terrorism: Myths, Reality and WaysBjørgo explains that frustration may arise from systemic disenfranchisement or the inability to successfully complete endeavors. Many individuals may become terrorists during the process of externalizing their sense of frustration on a certain political actor. More simply put, the individual will search for an external actor, such as the West or the U.S., on which to displace his/her frustration. This process will allow the individual to view the world in more of a black and white way that makes the world easier to understand and seem more predictable.

The Search for Belonging

Similar to cults, terrorist organizations can also provide individuals with a sense of belonging. Belonging is one of the most fundamental and important human needs. A lack of belonging could cause someone to experience cognitive dissonance. For example, if an individual believes all jihadist are freedom fighters but this individual lives in a society that says differently, the individual may experience cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the process of having conflicting attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs. These conflictions cause the individual to feel discomfort. In order to stop this discomfort and restore balance, the individual alters either their attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. An article from Psychology Today explains that as the individual tries to regain balance, the individual may seek admission into groups that reaffirm the individual’s beliefs. One of these groups that reaffirm the individual’s beliefs may be a terrorist organization.

The Need for Identity

The terrorist identity can provide individuals in search of identity with a function in society. For example, people that join terrorist organizations may believe that they are fighting for a great cause. Additionally, theperceived benefits of joining a terrorist organization – social status, possible access to wealth, and close interpersonal interactions – may outweigh the social sanctions against terrorism. Perceived benefits of joining terrorist organizations would most likely outweigh social sanctions when the individual either does not have strong social ties or the individual’s social environment condones or promotes terrorist behavior. This could explain why some people that commit terrorism are first seen as loners.


There is still much research to be done on the causes of terrorism. As of now, there is no overall explanation to explain terrorism. However, in regards to recruitment, terrorist organizations seem to be similar to cults. For both cults and terrorist organizations most members join in hopes of finding belonging and identity.

Image: Nathan Bachuss. Marsh Report Shows Continued Demand for Terrorism Coverage http://www.riskmanagementmonitor.com/marsh-report-shows-continued-demand-for-terrorism-coverage/

Financing Terrorism: Front Organizations

Terrorists can’t carry out operations without money and support. So where do they get money and support from? One of the ways terrorist organizations obtain funds and support is through the use of charity organizations and front companies.

Some front companies are unknown for the simple reason that these organizations are fronts, meaning they are fraudulent businesses that give the appearance of being legitimate. These front organizations can be very dangerous because they can direct a large amount of money and resources to terrorist organizations. There is evidence that many terrorist organizations, including Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS, have benefited from front companies and illegitimate charity organizations.

According to Martin Rudner, a political scientist at Carleton University, Hizbullah has received funds from Bonyad-e Shahid (the Martyrs Foundation), a charitable front organization. The US Treasury Department has also explained that the Global Relief Foundation, another charitable front organization, has provided support to al-Qaeda. ISIS has also received support from front organizations in Spain. In fact, Spanish journalist Itxu Díaz has explainedthat Spanish police have been investigating alleged front companies and their involvement in laundering money to ISIS after discovering that criminal gangs have been shipping weapons and Islamist uniforms from Spain to Syria.

More information about front organizations and terrorism can be found at the US Treasury Department’s website.

Image: Lachlan Donald Money Laundering https://www.flickr.com/photos/lox/1236590751