Edited by David Martin Jones, Paul Schulte, Carl Ungerer and M. L.R. Smith
Strategic analysis necessarily assumes rationality on the part of those undertaking violence. It holds that social entities are, at some level, always, perhaps imperfectly, consciously endeavouring to relate means to ends. In this manner, analysis seeks to understand the line of thought that informs the values of the actor concerned, and how this influences the use of violence to achieve certain ends. To assume anything else is to engage in de-strategization. While war and violence inexorably evoke primal responses, negating any assumption of rationality presupposes acts to be devoid of meaningful purpose and therefore irrational. Yet, to assume irrationality to be the source of all violence substitutes a plausible theoretical approach for a far less convincing methodology – namely, that violent actors are not in control of their own faculties. The assertion of irrationality, in other words, ‘de-strategizes’ the actions of others, effectively asserting that they have no strategic utility. In doing so, such commentary denies rational actor agency, preferring instead unconscious motivations. This chapter evaluates how, somewhat disturbingly, de-strategizing the adversary has become the dominant mode of analysis in assessing the motives of violent jihadists in the West. As this chapter will argue, the attempt at de-strategizing those deemed to be ‘lone wolf terrorists’ (i.e., those who are apparently motivated by notions of violent jihad) is both deeply confused and a form of secular self-delusion.
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