A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

The Psychology of the War on Terror

  • Since the attacks on September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has used a war metaphor to define counterterrorism strategy. Such a description may simplify a complex reality, making it more mentally manageable, but it may also oversimplify and distort reality.
  • Metaphors can guide national decision making. The wars that began in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 clearly demonstrate that the concept of a war to combat a method of violence used by nonstate agents is more than rhetoric.
  • Viewing counterterrorism through the lens of law enforcement may yield more tightly focused tactics that are less costly than war and less likely to provoke resentment and backlash.
  • Relating counterterrorism to disease containment or prejudice reduction shifts the focus to the psychological underpinnings of terrorism and, in doing so, may suggest successful long-term strategies that chip away at the motivations of terrorists.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Kruglanski, Arie, Martha Crenshaw, Jerrold Post, and Jeff Victoroff. 2008. "The Psychology of the War on Terror." Scientific American (October). http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-psychology-of-the-war-on-terror

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