View Full Version : Eleven and a half years after 9/11, we still don’t know.

05-02-2013, 07:39 PM
An opinion piece by Marc Sageman 'The Stagnation of Research on Terrorism':
After the Boston Marathon bombings, it is time to reflect on what has been learned over the past 11 and a half years. The surprise is that, over all, the same stale arguments about “how can this happen?” are debated over and over again—with very little new insight....

Americans have an unshakable belief in technology, and the bulk of the original money went to “disruptive technologies” using advances in computer science to defeat an abstract enemy.....The hope was that those cutting-edge tools would anticipate the tactics of the enemy, but they failed to deliver on their promise....What the government did not support was the methodical accumulation of detailed and comprehensive data.

On the government's analysts:
Young analysts have access to a wealth of classified information but have no formal methodological background to be able to synthesize new insights. They are under constant pressure to produce timely short pieces and have little time to read widely or reflect. The system forces them to jump from topic to topic, quickly looking for confirming evidence, and generally neglecting refuting evidence.

He ends:
As it stands now, we are condemned to rehash the same old tiresome and irrelevant arguments that prevent us from asking key questions about the turn to political violence.

What makes a young man adopt extremist views?

How exactly does the Internet affect that transformation?

How large are pools of potential violent extremists in the West?

What triggers an extremist protester to turn violent?

What kind of signals does someone, who turns to violence, give off?

What specific signal distinguishes a violent from a non-violent extremist?

Eleven and a half years after 9/11, we still don’t know.


Steve Blair
05-02-2013, 11:10 PM
I expect that some of this is simply because the answers might contradict some cherished PC beliefs. I'm also not sure that we ever came to terms with this stuff during the '80s wave of terrorism (why did "good, middle-class kids" join the RAF or Red Brigades?).

05-08-2013, 10:19 PM
An academic riposte to Sageman's article:http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2013/05/08/terrorism-research-has-not-stagnated/