Louis René Beres: What Does It Mean to Kill for a Cause?

Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: psychology, The Atlantic, Louis René Beres, political violence

Louis René Beres is a professor of political science at Purdue University and the author of multiple books.

Before any country can fashion an effective counter-terrorism policy, it needs a clear and purposeful understanding of "the enemy." For the United States, especially after discovering so-many behavioral contradictions in the Boston Marathon bombers, an underlying task must be to look more closely and explicitly at issues of normalcy. On the cover of yesterday's Rolling Stone, for instance (which was the source of widespread outcry) Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is both "glamorously" posed and called a "monster."

Is it correct to assume that all or most of this country's terrorist foes are "abnormal"? Or does such a position ultimately hinder our urgent national security efforts? Would such an assumption represent little more than a ritualized political obligation -- a purely self-serving and ideologically obligatory policy stance -- or might it still be the considered outcome of rock solid and objective psychological science?

Would it be consistent with certain immutably universal standards of normalcy, or merely the predictable result of "cultural relativism?"...

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