Islamist Terror and Stockholm Syndrome

On a recent visit to Scandinavia, I recalled with clarity that strange psychological twist called the "Stockholm Syndrome" in which the victim of terror or abuse identifies with his torturers.

Immediately after the 9/11 terror attack on America, the eminent Middle East historian Bernard Lewis rushed a book to market titled What Went Wrong? It explained the mindset of the Muslim world. But for many Americans -- including those in the media -- the question asked was: “What did we do wrong?” For ordinary Americans who see the world as a microcosm of their own genteel environment, the instinctive response to the murderous rampage of Arab-Muslim terrorists was: “What did we do to them to make them so hateful?”

The rise of terrorism in the last 50 years as a weapon against the West and its institutions, and its success as a psychological tool to weaken Western resolve, has proven it to be a cheap and effective instrument of war.

Some liberal-minded Americans, Europeans, and Israelis would excuse methods of terror such as suicide bombers or exploding jetliners into buildings as the poor man’s weapon, since they lack fighter planes, tanks, and armies. However, the real target of the terrorists is Western public opinion. Change it and you are on the road to defeating your (Western) enemies.

The Soviet Union employed terror through proxies by training and supporting such groups as the German Baader-Meinhoff gang and the Italian Red Brigades. The terror attacks perpetrated by these groups weakened Western resolve and changed public opinion. These acts prompted questions such as: “What motivated ordinary Italian or German middle class young men and women to perpetrate such heinous crimes?” Or in the case of Arab Palestinians, what motivates them to blow themselves up? In Western academia and media, the automatic question was: “What is wrong with our society?” Few asked the following:

Who is behind these young terrorists and who directs their actions?

Who funds them and indoctrinates them to hate the West (Israel and America in particular), its states, and its institutions?

What is the aim of those organizations, groups, or states (like the former Soviet Union) who are behind the terrorists?

When the Western media and academia examine the mental attitudes of terrorists towards the societies they attack, they invariably echo the excuses made by Arab-Palestinians or al-Qaeda about “occupation,” capitalist exploitation of workers (in the case of European terrorists), or colonialism and imperialism as the American academic left did during the Vietnam War. These excuses, mired with their relativist mindset (found among the leadership of liberal Protestant denominations as well), create the impression that indeed the West is guilty in its relationship with the Third World (or the Muslim world) and in its treatment of the weak elements in its own societies.

Flirting with the terrorist’s motivation, many in the West have succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome. Moreover, they have failed to view terrorism in its wider perspective -- that behind the Islamic (previously the Soviet) terror is a clear objective to weaken the West and ultimately defeat it.