Orchestrated objectives within well-organized terrorist groups suggest that principles of organizational psychology apply to terrorist organizations, under the cultural influence of each one (Borum, 2004).
There is much cause for optimism in understanding terrorist organizations, for as Alder and Gunderson (2008) write, “Luckily, we have learned that global complexity is neither unpredictable nor random” (p. v).
The call for research has never been more pressing. Introduction “Terrorism is an elusive subject, evading precise political, jurisprudential, and cultural definition” (Oliveri, 2008, p. 49).
It depends upon the definition of ‘terrorism’. “With over 100 definitions, this is not an easy task; there is no common understanding of what constitutes ‘terrorism’; no clear and universally acknowledged definition actually exists” (Franks, 2007, p. 2).
The definition Munger (2006) proposes that is used for this paper is, “Culture is defined as the set of ‘inherited’ beliefs, attitudes, and moral strictures that a people use to distinguish outsiders, to understand themselves and to communicate with each other” (p. 131).
The distinguishing characteristic of ‘them’ and ‘us’ is perhaps the fundamental belief generated within cultures that makes terrorism towards others possible. Whether viewed in terms of extremist Muslim culture or right-wing American culture, cultural identity supports the conflict of ideologies. Ward (2008) says, “Terrorism has taken the academic world by storm” (p. 248).
... preparation, music, and what each culture considers good manners. There are really cultural and philosophy disparities and it is ... also affected. Slight differences between any two or more cultural groups can be observed, which therefore requires sensitivity to ... by this shared structure. Workers also are influenced by cultural antecedents on how they recognize and understand quality performance, ...
The Psychology of Terrorism only became a legitimate academic study in 1982; “terrorism is far from a new phenomenon, traceable to the French Revolution and the Nihilists of 19th Century Russia” (Franks, 2007, p. ).
Undoubtedly, it goes much further into the annals of history than the 19th Century, “the concept of terrorism had no meaning in history until the modern era” (Bratkowski, 2005, p. 764).
Prior to modernity, terrorism was so much a part of daily culture it was normal behavior, without a specific word for it. In fact, for most of Christendom, “humankind has always provided a justification for killing and instilling terror in fellow humans” (p. 764).
It is only recently that most cultures have placed a label of immorality on selective murder to achieve political or cultural ends.
Our species has a protracted history and prehistory of terrorism. One might wonder why terrorism has “taken the academic world by storm”. Insights from Psychology “Terrorist violence most often is deliberate (not impulsive), strategic, and instrumental; it is linked to and justified by ideological (e. g. , political, religious) objectives and usually involves a group or multiple actors/supporters (Borum, 2004, p. 17).
Since terrorist objectives originate within multinational organizations, principles of organizational psychology apply to all terrorist organizations, under the cultural milieu of the organization in question.
What is now certain is that terrorism is not a psychopathological aberration, as was originally thought in psychoanalytical circles (Crenshaw, 1992).
Terrorist organizations are composed of clear-headed individuals, often with advanced university degrees. Merari (1991) collected empirical data on suicide bombers, and found that psychopathology is almost never a factor in a terrorist’s profile. In fact, “prevalence of mental illness among samples of incarcerated terrorists is as low as or lower than in the general population” (Borum, 2004, p. 34).
This is a clear indicator that we are dealing with psychologies of organization, and not groups of crazed sociopaths. Survival of the organization, a tenet of organizational psychology, has clear implications for the terrorist mindset (Post, 1989), even though “research on the psychology of terrorism largely lacks substance and rigor. While cultural factors are important, much study remains. “Future research should be operationally-informed; maintain a behavior based focus; and derive interpretations from analyses of incident-related behaviors” (Borum, 2004, p. 3).
... solution to the war on terrorism is to start with educating the citizens of America about the terrorist organizations within United States borders ... solution to the war on terrorism is to start with educating the citizens of America about the terrorist organizations within United States borders ...
The main problem with such a venture might be that terrorists are not giving interviews or taking surveys. Borum points out that “there is a broad spectrum of terrorist groups and organizations, each of which has a different psychology, motivation and decision making structure” (p. 5).
This further underscores the need to be on guard against the ‘stereotypical terrorist organization’: there is none. In a terrorist organization, “two key narcissistic dynamics are a grandiose sense of self and ‘idealized parental imago’. If one can’t be perfect, at least one can be in a relationship with something perfect” (Borum, 2004, p. 9).
Association with a world figure such as Bin Laden satisfies this need; this can lead us back to US culture: promulgation and amplifying worldwide terrorism, via the news media. Bin Laden often makes the evening news, and every time he does, his ‘world stature’ is elevated, especially in the minds of his followers. It the name Bin Laden was unknown, how much less effective would al-Qaeda become? Media has some degree of culpability, if not complicity in promulgating terrorism worldwide by providing free publicity to organizations and their cause.
According to Paul Marsden (CPM, 2001, p. 1), “the amount of media coverage devoted to these events, by television networks and newspapers, correlates positively with the rise in subsequent `copycat’ events. This is darkly consistent with the substantial body of evidence for suicide contagion – the idea that suicides beget suicide. ” If distraught teenagers copy Columbine style shootings, how much more are suicide attacks from terrorist cells encouraged by watching the evening news?
Unintentionally but effectively eulogizing angry teens and terrorists alike hold moral implications for the major news media, which need addressing by society. Organizational Psychology provides some insight: if a culture perceives it is losing its ability to contribute its share to the world stage, conflict will result (Rahim, 1986; Katz & Kahn, 1978).
Considering that entire cultures may feel they are losing their ability to contribute because of intervention of external cultures upon their own culture is likely one requisite to the creation of worldwide terror organization formation.
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Cultural factors of extremist Muslim society While many in the West view extremist Muslim terrorism as irrational behavior by deranged individuals, “it is perfectly possible to understand terrorism as a rational decision problem, if we accept the premise that culture matters” (Munger, 2006, p. 132).
“Islamic societies, not exclusively, but perhaps to a greater extent than most other nations, are committed to an idea of the perfectibility of humans in societies, through moral education and imposition and enforcement of moral law (Sharia) based on the Quran” (p. 142).
This religious adherence adds a great deal of resistance to compromise from outside cultures, and bolsters the extremist elements within Islamic society. Much of the cultural foundation of extremist Muslim culture is their unique interpretation of the Quran: “The contemporary terrorist mentality and culture, which are rooted in absolutist, either-or, good-and-evil world views, resist efforts to negotiate. Accommodation, bargaining, and mutually acceptable compromise are not envisioned as possibilities within many terrorists’ mental framework” (Smelser & Mitchell, 2002, p. 1).
It appears that once a terrorist organization is established, the only ways to eliminate it is either when they accomplish their objectives, to destroy them, or to take away their reason to exist, which will allow Skinnerian extinction to follow over time. The ‘destroy’ method is problematic and costly: how does one destroy an ideology? Islamic terrorists are well-connected using technology; their geographic locality is literally everywhere and nowhere. Culturally-attuned uses of information technology” are a major source of cross-cultural influences in the creation and sustaining of terrorist organizations (Bailey & Grimaila, 2006, p. 534).
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Terrorist organizations are expert in spreading and sustaining their ideology around the world. Once indoctrinated into a group, people will generally follow orders, no matter how extreme or violent, as long as the individual perceives that the order was issued from the appropriate authority (Milgram, 1965).
Cultural influences caused normal students at Stanford to transform into ‘merciless prison guards’; once given the role and the authority, al-Qaeda recruits mold easily to orders from Bin Laden. Not only do they have a physical authority, which relieves their individual conscience from objecting, but also they further believe that Allah Himself sanctions Bin Laden and themselves in their efforts to establish Sharia law throughout the world (Bailey & Grimaila, 2006).
There is substantial agreement that the psychology of terrorism cannot be considered apart from political, historical, familial, group dynamic, organic, and even purely accidental, coincidental factors” (Borum, 2004, p. 22).
Borum also states, “Significant differences [exist] both in, 1) the nature and level of aggression in different cultures, and 2) aggression can be environmentally manipulated; both findings that argue against a universal human instinct [of violence]” (p. 12).
Diamond (2004) argues that environmental influences are paramount in understanding why cultures are the way they are.
The Fertile Crescent, once the cornerstone of agriculture, became radically altered once all the forests were clear-cut, leaving mostly a barren desert environment. It is interesting to note that the foundation cultures which harbored the seeds of al-Qaeda all come from this former environmental paradise. Therefore, while culture probably has the most influence on the creation of terrorist organizations in the short term today, environment certainly has a large degree of impact over the long term, and might have a large impact in the short term via militaristic or political manipulation. For many critics, global or ‘hyper’ terrorism has become an ultimate expression of acutely depressed geopolitical chaos” (Ward, 2008, p. 252).
Geopolitical chaos produces environments ripe with opportunity for recruiters toward the cause of terrorism. Without addressing and rectifying the chaotic areas of the world, it is highly doubtful, that global terrorism will end. Cultures that feel oppressed or depraved on the world stage may rise in rebellion against the oppressing culture(s), with or without religious dictate.
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Muslim culture is producing the lion’s share of high-visibility terrorists in the world today (Borum, 2004).
One way to understand Muslim culture as it relates to the creation of terrorism is to look at Hofstede’s dimensions. Generally, Islamic countries have large inequalities of status, forming a small ruling group, and a large ruled group with limited power. Hofstede (2001) shows, those Arab cultures have large Power Distance (PDI) (80) and Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) (68).
When these two Dimensions are combined, it creates a situation where leaders have virtually ultimate power and authority. It is not unusual for new leadership to arise from armed insurrection – the ultimate power, rather than from diplomatic or democratic change” (Borum, 2004, p. 44).
Virtually the only method available for the downtrodden in Arab society to express their need for change is by armed insurrection. This is a valuable insight into the cultural creation of Arab-based terrorism, possibly the most important one.
Naturally, from the ‘terrorists’ point of view they are not terrorists at all but “freedom fighters”, fighting with their only available means to enact positive change. Does this mean efforts at establishing democracy in Muslim states are likely to fail? Cultural roots run deep, and are resistant to change by outside cultures (Weiten, 2004), so the question of democracy introduced and established by Westerners is a highly speculative venture. Finally, take the case of a female suicide bomber.
It was originally assumed that the young woman who committed this act was “innocent, ignorant, and of questionable morality” (Brunner, 2007, p. 961).
It is difficult for Westerners to imagine otherwise. Subsequent interviews revealed that she was educated, showed no signs of emotional disturbance, and was “as highly intelligent and more independent than other girls in her society, but still fully within the range of normal” (p. 961).
The key point is that she was “fully within the range of normal”, according to the culture that she grew up within.
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By not understanding her culture, Western culture had labeled her “innocent, ignorant, and immoral”, overlooking key factors with which to fully understand why a mentally stable young woman would commit such an act, and more importantly, to be able to deal realistically with the rise of extremist terrorism through a lack of cultural understanding. Cultural factors of the United States There is a cultural precedence of powerful nations to label other nations as ‘evil’: a threat to ‘civilization’ (Ivie, 2005).
In the U. S. , “this is a very old cultural theme, deeply ingrained into the political psyche” (p. 56).
This cross-cultural mindset of powerful nations is one part in the creation of terrorists in weaker cultures, a type of self-fulfilling prophecy: the call to destroy the ‘barbarians that threaten democracy’ is an ancient one; Greece and Rome had similar ongoing open-ended campaigns against terrorists, as does the U. S. today (p. 55).
The main trouble with an open-ended campaign is that it never ends… another cultural perception that needs adjustment on the world stage in order to arrive at peace in the world. Looking at the cultural history of the US, the ‘savage’ has always been the object of distain and genocide, in order to ‘make way for civilization’ (Ivie, 2005).
The genocide of indigenous peoples of the North American continent is well documented, even using biological terrorist tactics of germ warfare; giving ‘gifts’ of small-pox laden blankets to Indians without acquired immunity against devastating disease (Diamond, 1997).
Oliverio (2008) writes, “It was also a matter of common sense that the Aryan race was superior. This taken-for-granted reality of Aryan superiority led to the extermination of millions of American Indians, millions of African slaves bound for America, and countless indigenous cultures throughout the world” (p. 21).
Powerful cultures that label weaker cultures as savages are a powerful impetus to the creation of terrorism. It is a recent habit of the American Right to wage war against abstractions (Comaroff, 2007, p. 381).
The line between metaphorical and real war, blurred beyond recognition, gives rise to such cultural terms as ‘the war against drugs’, ‘the war against poverty’, ‘the war against illegal immigration’ (Sherry, 1995), and has become the standard of cultural mind-set in America today. Again, the US has a “militarized world-view extended to declaring metaphorical wars on disease, crime, engaging in ‘trade wars’ with foreign competitors, and fighting ‘culture wars’ with one another” (p. 58).
“Culture wars” is the main point in question: how can peace ever prevail if acts of war against culture prevail?
Even the Olympic Games that followed 9/11 became a forum for the core Bush Doctrine (Falcous & Silk, 2005).
How does the reduction of civil liberties fare with the response to terrorism? “Not allowing college professors to speak out against governmental policies associated with the war on terror” (Crowson & DeBacker, 2008, p. 296) is one form of right-wing authoritarianism that many Americans think needs implementation. A disturbing trend of loss of personal freedoms that some associate with fascism. Taken as a whole, US domestic and foreign policy regarding oil consumption, and support for oppressive regimes, is set aside in deference to critical scrutiny of individual behavior and the forms of ‘moral lassitude’ associated with a culture of dependency” (Hay & Andrejevic, 2006, p. 344).
So at least part of the U. S. cultural mindset is about securing its own economic interests at the expense of decency and fairness on the world stage. Many people think that the U. S. would never have bothered with Iraq if they had no strategic oil supplies, especially in the Middle East and Europe. This belief can only inflame world tensions further.
Understanding cross-cultural inter-dependencies A surprising interdependency, regards the Bush Administration itself. According to Kellner (2004), not only Jihadists are responsible for ‘spectacular acts of terror’, but also both Bush administrations. They deployed “Manichean discourses of good and evil which themselves fit into dominant media codes of popular culture; that both deploy fundamentalist and absolutist discourses” (p. 41).
This is extremely similar to the “contemporary terrorist mentality and culture, which are rooted in absolutist, either-or, good-and-evil world views, resist efforts to negotiate” (Smelser & Mitchell, 2002, p. 1).
The Bush administration openly declares its refusal to communicate with terrorist organizations or states, which is absolutist. We know that incentives flourish within such organizations (Munger, 2006).
Incentives usually take two forms: 1) recruit members that are prone to obey and please within a cultural setting (e. g. collectivist rather than individualist cultures), and 2) “Create a set of incentives that reward loyalty, by giving access to excludable near-public (“club”) goods” (p. 131).
Mohammed Atta reportedly was “at a strip club spending a lot of money, shouting anti-American slogans, and left a copy of the Quran before he left” (USA TODAY, 2001, p. 1).
This incident seems to have fallen under ‘club goods’ instead of operational funds, because it was the night before the hijackings, and such excessive cash was no longer needed. This says nothing of the influence U. S. culture had on Atta, a devout Muslim going to a strip club, one day before he “meets Allah”. There is no such thing as a ‘terrorist state’, in the absolute sense. Triandis,
Bontempo, Villareal, Asai, and Lucca (1988) have shown that national cultures never equate to individual or subgroup cultures, so while a totalitarian governing body may indeed be a terrorist organization, the general populace can in no way be held accountable for the actions of a few. It is a stereotypical mistake to label an entire country as terrorist. It is important to realize that “both differences and similarities in behavior occur across and within cultures; psychological processes are characterized by both cultural variance and invariance” (Weiten, 2006, p24).
Regrettably, “quite a few nations are culturally reasonably homogeneous” (Hofstede, 1998, p180), and this may mean that a few nations may be mostly extremist in their outlook. Discourses from the Bush administrations paralleled closely to speeches given by Hitler, Pope Urban II, and others: “an appeal to a legitimate power source external to the speaker; an appeal to the importance of the national culture under attack; the construction of an evil enemy; and an appeal for unification” (Graham, Keenan, & Dowd, 2004, p. 213).
Kellner (2004) feels that “the disparity between the vast amount of information freely available to all through multimedia sources, and the narrow vision presented on the major news media via television is a travesty”, and a major cultural factor responsible for the deployments of the Bush administrations’ controlled mass media (p. 61).
While arguments that ‘freely available news sources from uncontrolled sources’ might suggest this no longer to be a cultural factor, culture by nature takes time to change, and most Americans probably place more credence in the evening news than the newer Internet sources (Kellner, 2003).
Another example of how cross-cultural misunderstandings regularly occur between nations: “when one cultural message sender transmits information to another culture, chances of accurate transmission are reduced” (Alder & Gunderson, 2008, p. 72), and when nations or organizations refuse to send information between cultures as both the Bush administration and the al-Qaeda organization currently do, virtually no chance of accurate transmission occurs. Stalemate results and wars go on, indefinitely; clear contributors to terrorism.
Perhaps nowhere is the question of terrorism more complex than in the European Union: “European counterterrorism culture is a difficult concept due to the fact that the regional level of analysis encapsulates a range of different national cultures. Europe has always been a rich mixture of various cultures, and ‘terrorism’ is a culturally charged term” (Rees, 2007, p. 220), hence the difficulty in consensus. Conversely, in China, we could expect to find a unified definition of terrorism under the centralized government (Diamond, 1997).
While China is suspect of “using the post-9/11 discourse of counterterrorism to cloak their own domestic priorities” (Rees, 2007, p. 224), most of their counterterrorism efforts are likely to gain support with the Chinese public as being in the accord of the countries best interest: China being a collectivistic nation. “Terrorists focus their recruitment where sentiments about perceived deprivation are deepest and most pervasive” (Borum, 2004).
This helps us to understand why American involvement in Iraq actually helps create recruitment opportunities for al-Qaeda.
Destroyed economies, infrastructure, and family support (via killed family members), create extreme deprivation, desperation to right cultural wrongs, and enrage cultural dictates for retribution (Borum, 2004).
It even gives insight into where al-Qaeda might be concentrating recruitment efforts in America. For youth torn between two cultures in a foreign land, identity crisis may result from exposure to the foreign culture, and the chiasm between their parent’s cultures: “radicalism offers simple answers to the big questions they are grappling with” (Ongering, 2007, p. ).
The human tendency to stereotype will easily adapt to simple answers rather than grapple with difficult questions (Weiten, 2004).
Extrapolated, it may be easier to recruit a terrorist, than to prevent a person from taking up the cause in the first place. Does cultural pressure on a subgroup help to create violent extremists? Muslim communities in America, “Not only had their religion being presented incorrectly, but its adherents were being equated with terrorists” (Baker, 2006, p. 302).
Considering the degree that Muslim communities in the Western world are subject to intensified scrutiny, and even unwarranted acts of violence against them by US citizenry (Ward, 2008), a good assumption is that many young Muslims will adapt an extremist ideology in response to cultural threat (Sirin & Fine, 2007), and some of those extremists will turn terrorist. It seems to be a never-ending spiral escalation of one cultural assault upon the other: the ‘Crusades’ continue… It is a real ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg? ’ question. Which side began this milieu of cultural attack and counterattack?
Perceptions run the gamut: “The terrorist presents a story of heroism and necessary sacrifice. The counter-terrorist presents a counter-narrative of defiance and vengeance, replacing the image of the martyr with that of inhumanity, even bestiality” (Ward, 2008, p. 254).
We reminded again of weaker cultures as ‘savage’, and as we have come to see, cross-culturally, nothing could be further from the truth from both extreme perspectives. Another cultural misunderstanding that may have helped to escalate tensions is the perception that the Muslim community in America did not stand up in unison and denounce the acts of 9/11 as atrocious.
This initial silent response interpreted by many Americans as tantamount to condoning such acts of terrorism (Munro, 2006).
Paradoxically, this lack of public outcry may have been the result of Muslim culture itself, with the majority of Muslims feeling that it was obvious that they had nothing to do with the attacks, and therefore no reason to take a public stand (Munro, 2006).
A form of ‘vigilante counter-terrorism’ develops in American culture, which gives rise to anti-Muslim sentiment and acts of violence (Johnson, 2003).
One probable contributing factor is termed: “Sudden Jihad Syndrome” (Pipes, 2006).
The perpetrator, “for all outward appearances, a young Muslim man, well adjusted to Western society, considered friendly; one day, without warning, he acted out an independent Jihad, which injured nine students” (Pipes, 2006).
Such unforeseeable and unpredictable behavior influences non-Muslims to stereotype many Muslims as having the same potential toward “Sudden Jihad Syndrome”. This of course creates an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust between cultures: how can you tell who the enemy is just by looking at them?
Discussion There is no cultural ‘quick fix’ to this pervasive problem confronting the modern world. “The general policy approach has to be adaptive, opportunistic, and multisided. The conventional problem-solving logic so attractive in American culture—find a problem and then fix it—is of limited utility, and a longer term, more contextualized approach is necessary” (Smelser et al. , 2002, p. 4).
For instance, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) as espoused by the Bush Doctrine includes toppling ‘rogue nations’ as part of the effort to thwart terrorism (Borum, 2004).
Focusing on ‘nation rebuilding’ of states, that are otherwise subject to deterrent, rather than on organizations that transcend geographic localities and are not subject to deterrent, is a lack of proper cultural understanding of the issues, and will lead to further cultural misunderstandings. It makes sense that if powerful cultures do not make accusations against weaker cultures not understood, or interfere in the sovereign rights of weaker nations, that a large amount of terrorism will fail to manifest by lack of unwanted cultural impetus from foreign powers.
One of the biggest troubles seems to be, that powerful countries can arouse their masses which are “easily pressed into service to rally the nation, quell dissent and effectively inoculate the public against any alternative perspective” (Ivie, 2005, p. 56), the main point being to limit any alternative cultural perspectives as being legitimate relative to one’s own ‘superior’ cultural perspective. This is error. “An increasingly militarized culture of fear” (p. 9), such as is dominant in the US today, and which has been developing over many decades, cannot reduce the threat of terrorism in the world. Indeed, Muslim culture dictates that retribution be demanded when a family member is taken. Each errant US bomb inevitably creates more ‘terrorists’ (Borum, 2004), cultural ‘deviants’ are created that never would have existed otherwise. Rumors and hundreds of websites have sprung up claiming that FEMA has erected hundreds of internment camps on American soil is a disturbing part of the changing culture in America today.
A Google search of ‘American internment camps’ will pull up hundreds of unsubstantiated claims of such camps, including specific locations; further highlighting the cultural atmosphere of increasing paranoia. Finally, what can help prevent Muslim youth in the U. S. from taking a violent path? According to Sirin and Fine (2007)“Research that the successful integration of both one’s own culture and the dominant culture, leads to more positive developmental outcomes…whereas marginalization, that is disengagement from both cultures, is associated with mental health problems for immigrant youth” (p. 52).
Society certainly would do well to address issues of marginalization, in order to help prevent future “Sudden Jihad Syndrome” (Pipes, 2006).
Conclusion While this paper has focused mainly on US and Muslim extremist involvement, state and non-state respectively, it is important to remember that many other states and organizations exist which perpetrate terror. Terror is a two way street, with few exceptions. Perhaps the ultimate defense against terrorism is to understand the cultural and cross-cultural causes of it, and with proper knowledge, address the issues at hand.
We must avoid stereotypes at all costs, because “Nearly all terrorists are extremists, but most extremists are not terrorists” (Borum, 2004).
“Long-term orientation versus short-term orientation” (Franke, Hofstede, & Bond, 1991) may provide insights into which culture holds greater strength in the GWOT. U. S. culture demands immediate results, and has little tolerance for long term strategies, while extremist Islamic culture is bond by the vision of Mohammed, and is prepared to sacrifice for centuries if need be (Borum, 2004).
Fortunately, unnecessary warring between cultures may diminish substantially as one of the biggest single benefits of cross-cultural understanding and application of organizational psychological research (Brislan, 1983).
“It is argued that we now live in an age of ‘hyperterrorism,’ where the nature and scale of terrorism has reached a new level, and that the question of ‘How to deal with international terrorism is quickly becoming the defining issue of our age’” (Ward, 2008, p. 248).
It is imperative that we make every effort to understand the cross-cultural determinants of terrorism, regardless of cost.
Additionally, “terrorism is a discourse that affects all our lives, and the collateral argument that terrorism somehow validates the occasional abrogation of so many of our most cherished legal principles, is something that should concern all of us” (p. 249).
Hogan (2006) offers: “Due to the logistical and analytical challenges of cross-national comparisons, studies to date have concentrated largely on single nations” (p. 64).
While much work remains, understanding the vast scope of cultural interdependencies that help create terrorism is an extremely complex task yet must be undertaken if we are to come to terms with global terrorism.
As Hostede (1998) states, “constructs are products of the mind with which we attempt to understand and predict human behavior in an infinitely complex world”, and all constructs are flawed to some degree. In an infinitely complex world, we will never entirely eradicate terrorism in its many manifestations. Our best hope to eradicate the bulk of organized terrorism is through scientific understanding and conscientious application of rational solutions, freed from cultural bias. “Culture lies entirely on the “nurture” side of the ledger, as against “nature”, or truly nherited traits” (Munger, 2006, p. 134).
Solutions to the specter of terrorism will manifest through understanding and responding to such cultural nurture. This paper has posited that understanding other cultures can help to reduce tensions between cultures, which give rise to terrorism and counterterrorism conflicts. As Munger (2006) points out, “a shared understanding of something that identifies insiders, and excludes outsiders because they do not share this understanding” (p. 133), is perhaps the fundamental commonality between conflicting sides.
If we can short-circuit this exclusionary identity concept, by education and promulgate understanding by either, or both sides, and act upon it with responsible communication between parties, then perhaps modern terrorism as we know it will eventually end. It may take many years, because established terrorist organizations are not open to compromise (Smelser & Mitchell, 2002), but such efforts may play a large part in helping to prevent future recruitment, and help eliminate the need for terrorist organizations within the cultures that originally spawned them; losing their luster they slowly fade from existence.