This is partly the result of a discussion on Slashdot on why terorists are disproportionately engineers, and partly a follow up to my previous post about the staggering incompetence of most terrorists. There is also the issue of how the media and politicians actively help terrorists achieve their goals.
The essence of terrorism is PR. It is getting attention by killing people.
A terrorist must be motivated by the belief that you can change the world for the better through terrorism. This requires being stupid. Although intelligent people can sometimes be selectively stupid (so there are a few intelligent terrorists), this means that the bulk of terrorists must be fairly stupid.
This is borne out by the gross incompetence of so many terrorist attacks, such as those by Islamic terrorists in the West, and in particularly those in the UK (see my previous post). There is no objective that they want to achieve that their actions can realistically advance.
The competent terrorists tend to be part of broader organisations who use terrorism as a supplement to a broader campaign (either political or violent), so that there is something for the PR provided by terrorism to serve. Even here the competence is relative: the benefits of the attention may be destroyed by repelling potential supporters by killing clearly innocent civilians. There are some other possible scenarios: such as the use of terrorism to demoralise the other side (if they believed that they might escape civilian casualties) or to divert forces from the front line to internal security. Mos
On to the media and politicians. I an ideal world their reaction would be something like this:
The terrorists killed some people, but its nothing to the numbers we have lost in real wars, so it should not be something that worries us at a national level. Its multiple murder and will be dealt with as such, with the police or intelligence services investigation using resources proportionate to its greater scale.
Of course this does not happen. The audience and the votes lie in playing along with the terrorists, hyping up the threat in order to sell newspapers, and to make the “leaders” look tough and decisive. Yes, I am saying that the British, American, and other governments help terrorists achieve their aims because there are votes in it.