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Terrorism Without a Motive

Means, opportunity and motive are the three crucial elements of investigating a crime and establishing the guilt of its perpetrator. Means and opportunity tell us how the crime could have been committed while motive tells us why it was committed. Many crimes cannot be narrowed down by motive until a suspect is on the scene; but acts of terrorism can be. Almost anyone might be responsible for a random killing; but political killings are carried out by those who subscribe to common beliefs.

Eliminate motive from terrorism and it becomes no different than investigating a random killing. If investigators are not allowed to profile potential terrorists based on shared beliefs rooted in violence, that makes it harder to catch terrorists after an act of terror and incredibly difficult before the act of terror takes place.

The roadblock isn't only technical; it's conceptual. Investigations consist of connecting the dots. If you can't conceive of a connection, then the investigation is stuck. If you can't make the leap from A to B or add two to two and get four, then you are dependent on lucky breaks. And lucky breaks go both ways. Sometimes investigators get lucky and other times the terrorists get lucky.  

Federal law enforcement was repeatedly warned by the Russians that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was dangerous, but operating under the influence of a political culture that refused to see Islam as a motive for terrorism, it failed to connect the dots between Chechen violence in Russia and potential terrorism in the United States, and because it could not see Islam as a motive, as a causal factor rather than a casual factor, it could find no reason why Tamerlan was a threat not just to Russia, but also to the United States.

The missing motive factor has led to a rash of lone wolf terrorists whose acts are classified as individual crimes. Nidal Hasan's killing spree at Fort Hood was put down to workplace violence, but workplace violence isn't a motive, it's a bland description. The motive was obvious in Hasan's background and his behavior; but the military, an organization that by its nature has to be able to predict the actions of the enemy, had been crippled and left unable to see Islam as a motive.

The current working concept is that by refusing to allow our military and law enforcement to identify Islam as a motive, we are stifling terrorist recruitment by preventing Muslim from identifying terrorist attacks with Islam. This ostrich theory of terror assumes that if we blind ourselves to the motives of the terrorists, then potential terrorists will likewise be blinded to their own motives.

Any law enforcement protocol that prevents investigators from understanding the motives of the killers in the hope that this will take away that motive from the killers is absurdly backward. The investigators of terror are not the instigators of terror. A police detective arresting a rapist does not create rape. An FBI agent arresting a terrorist does not create terror. Identifying a crime does not create the crime. It makes it easier for law enforcement and the public to fight that crime.

The insidious infiltration of blowback theory into terrorist investigations has dangerously subverted the ability of investigators to get to the truth and to catch the terrorists. Blowback theory assigns each act of Islamic terror an origin point in our actions. Everything that Muslim terrorists do is caused by something that we did. To those who believe in this linkage, the only way to fight Muslim terror is to stop inspiring it. The only way to defeat Islamic terrorism is to defeat ourselves.

Blowback theory has been dressed up in academic language and expert jargon, but all it amounts to is Stockholm Syndrome with a lecture hall. Its essential postulate is that if we become more passive in our responses, a strategy that is usually described with the complementary term, "smart", as in "smart war" and "smart investigation", then the enemy will become more passive in response to our passivity because we are no longer inspiring his violence.

Smart wars and smart investigations are those that don't offend Muslims. The cost of the smart war in Afghanistan has been a very expensive and bloody defeat. The cost of the smart investigation can be seen in the streets of Boston or in Fort Hood.

Any smart tactic based on inaction and ignorance, on throwing away advantages to seem less provocative, is not smart; it's stupid. When things go unsaid because they are politically incorrect, then they will eventually go undone. And when they are both unsaid and undone, then it becomes impossible to think them. The concepts fade out of reach, the connections in what, Hercule Poirot, called the little grey cells, are no longer made and what was once a familiar mental shortcut becomes an entirely alien concept.

Defeating ourselves in order to defeat Islamic terrorism is a dead end because we are not the source of that terrorism; we are its target. When we handicap ourselves out of a misguided notion that the best way to fight terrorism is with one hand tied behind our backs and an eyepatch on one eye, then Americans die.

Islamic terrorism, once the starting point of any rational investigation, has become an uncomfortable endpoint uttered by uncooperative suspects who refuse to go along with the stress-motivated killing spree defense their lawyers are eager to put forward for them. It is the dark thing at the end of every investigation that politicians don't want to talk about, reporters don't want to write about and prosecutors grow reluctant to discuss for fear of offending judges and stifling career prospects.

Without Islam as a motive, there is no way to fight the larger threat except as a discrete collection of seemingly random events. What connects a Tamerlan Tsarnaev to a Nidal Hasan to Ahmed in Jersey City or Mohamed in Minneapolis plotting the next attack? The official answer is nothing. One was a boxer and another was an army doctor and the third is just an Egyptian student or a Somali bank clerk. They have no motive in common except that of Islam.

Motives identify links. They make it easier to stack events together as a trend. They make it possible to predict the next attack by looking at the common denominators that matter as opposed to the ones that don't. And above all else, they combine together to give us a rational picture of the world so that we understand what we are experiencing and what we have to do about it.

A man dropped onto a battlefield without having the concept of an army or a war will be bewildered and horrified by the incomprehensible experience of large numbers of individuals shooting at him for no reason. "Why do they all want to kill me?" he thinks. "Was it something I did?"

Crime is personal. War is impersonal. The murderer has personal motives for his actions, but the motives of the soldier are irrelevant. In war, it is the organization that matters more than the individual. Wasting time predicting the movements of individual soldiers instead of armies is not productive. Attempting to understand terrorists as individuals, rather than members of a mass movement is equally a waste of time.

Media accounts have presented various exculpatory motives for Tamerlan Tsarnaev ranging from the possible head injuries he may have suffered as a boxer to the murder of a best friend that investigators suspect he may carried out. All these motives are irrelevant, not because they may not have some figment of truth to them, but because they stopped mattering once he became what he was. One soldier may join the army because his girlfriend broke up with him, another  because he lost his job and a third because he wants to impress his friends. Those motives may all be true, but they don't matter. Once organized into a collective, their individual motives stop mattering and the collective motive takes over.

Islamic terrorism is a collective motive. There is limited variation in the tactics and the thinking of terrorists. Whatever they may have been before they fully committed themselves to the war against civilization is an incidental matter. And the only piece of individual identity that matters is still the collective one of their Islamic background. That is still the greatest predictive factor of terrorism.

The Islamic terrorist abandons his individuality and takes on an identity that asks him to love death more than life. His motives are no longer personal, but collective. He is a soldier in the Islamic war against civilization. His marching orders may come from Jihadi videos and magazines, but they provide him with training and an esprit de corps sufficient to the purposes of his campaign of terror. To strive to understand him as a father or a son, as a boxer or a doctor, is a waste of time. These biographical footnotes no longer represent him. They are the things he has discarded to become a messenger of death in obedience to a faith that values death more than life.

Without understanding that, the terrorist becomes a cipher, another nice young man who suddenly
turned violent, and the trend of terrorist attacks ceases to be a pattern and becomes a rash of horrifying incidents that can happen at any time.

Terrorism is a form of war. It cannot be won without understanding that there is a battlefield and an enemy fighting for control of that battlefield. Without that understanding, our superiority in strength and our possession of the battlefield can only result in a temporary stalemate leading to a permanent defeat. 

Terrorism denial turns terrorist attacks into a cipher without a motive. If Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev had not carried out their attack at a public event in the age of the ubiquitous camera, then how long would law enforcement have chased down dead ends or searched for the Tea Party tax protesters that the political establishment expected them to find?

Without a motive, there is no place to begin searching. Without Islam, there is no motive. Terrorism denial isn't just an intellectual error; it is a grave danger to the lives of Americans. Terrorism denial created a space in which the Tsarnaev brothers were free to plot and kill. Terrorism denial cost the lives of three Americans and the bodily integrity of hundreds of others. Denying the Islamic motive for terror, makes it harder for law enforcement officer to do their job and easier for Muslim terrorists to do theirs.


  1. Anonymous25/4/13


  2. Hugh Embriaco25/4/13

    There's plenty of evidence to suggest that the FBI is specifically targeting Muslim groups as a source of terrorism; otherwise, why spend so much resources in trying to entrap Muslims into setting off bombs?

    1. Anonymous25/4/13

      Looks to me like they're more intrested in protecting Muslims from regular Americans.

  3. I'm finding that i am now coming to your blog daily for insight.. keep up the good work.. sad to say, but i'd be lost without your articles

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  5. Anonymous25/4/13

    Their uncle now says that the older brother's radicalization happened in the US and that he was influenced by a new convert to Islam. He also thinks that the older brother used his younger brother as an instrument.


  6. Anonymous25/4/13

    Assume that we acknowledge that Islam is the motive for terrorist attacks not just in the West but elsewhere.

    From this it will follow that our interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, has had nothing to to do with WMDs or installing democracy, but war against Islamic terrorism, i.e., Jihad. From which it follows that we are at war with Islam.

    At this moment in time, we are quite busy destabilising and thus destroying one Muslim country after another, thus such an admission would close that free and easy option.

    Therefore, for the moment, or at least till this very useful strategic option is still open, I would not support officially acknowledging that we are at war with Islam. That option is for the future - I think it will come to pass in a couple of years, after the formation of a caliphate, which we are instrumental in re-building.



  7. Terrorism denial cost the lives of three Americans and the bodily integrity of hundreds of others.

    I think we should say that they killed hundreds, whom doctors were able to revive.

  8. Daniel, you have answered Chris Matthews transparent question, “What difference does it make why they did it?”

    Do you suppose the blind left would still posit, “what difference does it make” even if thousands of Americans died from an all out attack?

    What is the magic number that would make the left eat those words? Three, four, twelve, three thousand? Ten thousand? If a million Americans died from a dirty bomb attack, would they still ask, “what difference does it make?

    There is a dynamic nowadays that shoves the agenda down our throats. It had its beginnings in political correctness but now its heels are dug in deep with the determination to never admit being wrong. No matter what happens, how many are killed and maimed. There is nothing more important to the left than not being held accountable for being wrong.

  9. The FBI and agencies charged with defending the country against enemy attacks (externally and internally) can, because of the politically correct ban on thinking of Islam and Muslims as the usual suspects, can be likened to Mr. Magoo looking for his car but ending up driving a lawnmower.

  10. Anonymous25/4/13

    "If a million Americans died from a dirty bomb attack, would they still ask, “what difference does it make? "

    ya gotta break whole buncha eggs to make an Obamelette

  11. Anonymous25/4/13

    America has the best government that Saudi petro-dollars can buy.
    Your government is no longer your friend, your government is already turning into an agent of Islam, operating under the direction of Saudi Arabia.
    Your violation of political correctness about Islam is no longer an expression of free speech, it is now a violation of Sharia Law.
    The problem goes way beyond clueless political correctness on the part of American government officials.
    Since the bombing in Boston, I've noticed that this and other blogs have been under attack from what looks to me like an organized attempt to disrupt what used to be sincere communication between people who are concerned about the Islamic problem.
    These attacks apear to be at least partially successful and I'm hoping that a way can be found to blunt or defeat this attack.

  12. Anonymous25/4/13

    Our government is never going to be at war with Islam because Saudi Arabia has certainly threatened it against doing so and most likely have been instrumental in shaping our national security directives relating to terrorist acts perpetrated by Muslims. Since we need their money and the royal family to remain in power, the only option is to treat all Islamic terrorism as a common crime by individuals and spin the motive as anything other than Islam.


  13. We need to constantly apply the same kind of analysis the the motives of those who refuse to identify the motives of the terrorists. Always ask "Why are they making it so difficult?".

    If it's for the sake of petrodollars, expose it. If it's for the sake of the glory of Islam, expose it. If it's to advance the interests of the Left, expose it. Without THEIR motives, we are just as incoherent as they are in assigning the responsibility to lone wolves.

  14. After Ft. Hood a woman loudly complained about the Ft. Hood shooting and tugged on the headscarf of a Muslim woman in a store in Chicago. It was extremely rude and stupid. The scare didn't even come off, though.

    Yet the entire apparatus of the hate crimes industry descended on the headscarf-tugger -- she was threatened with three years in prison and finally pled to 2 years probation and other punishments. The feds are still using the incident in their hate crimes denunciation seminars around the country. It was the only post-Ft. Hood incident, so they headline it.

    As the Feds and state hate crime officials were busy denouncing the Islamophobic hate crime in Chicago, they declared the massacre itself "workplace violence."

    I have tried to publish an article about why the feds aren't charging Tsarnaev with the new federal hate crime law that Obama and Holder are so proud of, but to no avail. One conservative outlet told me they didn't want me to mention the ADL in a negative way (the ADL is the de facto head of the hate crimes coalition that trains police and prosecutors and advises the government on enforcement, and thus a central part of such decisions). Another conservative outlet simply hasn't replied, hopefully not for the same reason.

    There are many kinds of suppression. Do people on the Right really not know who allies with the ADL in the hate crimes establishment? What they say about the Tea Party being terrorists? This threw me for a loop.

    Maybe someone else will take up the "hate crime for Tsarnaev" meme. Otherwise, the hate crimes industry has succeeded in silencing us once again.

  15. Fisk Ellington Rutledge III25/4/13

    The problem is that Leftist traitors have succeeded in redefining cowardice as moral superiority in the culture at large. We are all forced to be cowards, in many cases by law, but certainly by the mainstream culture. But only if we are White.

    So we must be cowards, and cowardice demands that we grovel before the enemy. Since our worst enemies at this time and in this place are lively, vibrant, diverse nonWhites, we are forced to embrace our enemies. We see this most clearly when a violent outrage is perpetrated by a nonWhite and immediately the Leftist media and government start screaming that it is the fault of Whites, that the nonWhites are not responsible for their actions (like the children that they are) and that we must do more for them, give more to them and import millions more of these third-world savages. That will solve the problem they say. They don't care about solving any problems. They care about establishing a brutal Leftist tyranny.

    What this means is that our Leftist government and its allies are, by definition, mentally ill. One of the primary symptoms of serious mental illness is the disconnect from reality. That disconnect is now enshrined in our body of law and in our societal norms. Everything has been redefined by the Left as being the opposite of what it is.

    This evil must be overturned. The first step is to realize the fact that our government no longer represent legitimate authority. It is just another criminal gang presided over by a deviant, affirmative-action parasite who is currently defiling the White House. We owe these traitors no allegiance.

  16. Anonymous25/4/13

    No one can open the eyes of those who choose to remain blind...especially those who view their blindness as objectivity or as a way to Save The World. We are stuck in a manner I never in my life conceived that we would be stuck...Turn in any direction, and they have us "fenced off" or "fenced in." I pity the secular, for in times such as these, there is nothing left to do but pray.

  17. Anonymous26/4/13

    And your point is? Look you could have said the important bits in three sentences but you went on for like a page of explanation. For heaven's sake get to the point sooner and you will be hailed as a philosopher of the first order!

    Michael in Nelson

  18. Anonymous26/4/13


    Saudi Arabia may be flush with oil money, but is totally reliant on its survival on the USA. Any attempt by the Saudi royal family to go against US interests, it will find itself at the mercy of the mob.

    Saudi Arabia has no power except what it can wield via the USA. If any regime in SA or even all the Saudis bucked the USA, they will be invaded, using any of a hundred convenient reasons, and a puppet regime installed.


  19. Anonymous26/4/13

    Ditto to DP111 I would not support officially acknowledging that we are at war with Islam. That option is for the future - I think it will come to pass in a couple of years, after the formation of a caliphate, which we are instrumental in re-building.

  20. The left lucked out. They harped on George Bush's Library this week and so avoided any unpleasantness or worse, stupidity regarding the Marathon bombings. Chris Hayes of MSNBC did do a segment on terrorism - that is, drones in Pakistan and Yemen.

  21. Anonymous26/4/13

    DP111: I disagree that we are destabilizing one Muslim country after another. All we are doing is helping transfer power from one dictator to a worse dictator who will not pretend to support us as Egypt and Turkey do. Muslim countries cannot and do not want to be civilized, democratic countries and they cannot and will not support the ideas of Western civilization based upon their enemies-Jews and Christians.

    The sooner we speak the truth, the sooner they can be defeated. In the meantime, you are willing to have hundreds, thousands or millions more, some who will be Americans, lose their lives while waiting for the re-establishment of the caliphate and then, by your estimate, our corrupt government will want to wage war against Islam at last, and hope to defeat them?


  22. Anonymous2/6/22

    It must be frustrating to the Islamists that we refuse to see their motives. It must feel like we don't take them seriously. "Allahu Akbar!! Die infidels!!" "Oh you poor boy, you bumped your head."


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