Have you ever heard about the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam? The Tigers were a group that fought for an independent state in Sri Lanka. They were very organized and even had their own air force. Until 2009, when it was terminated, the movement used terrorism as an important war tactic and had killed the most people in the world with suicide bombers. But few were aware of the Tigers because their war was waged in Eastern soil.
We know about Islamic State and not the Liberation Tigers because ISIS is effective at one thing: spreading terror throughout our homes in the West. With the rise of Islamic extremist movements, terror invaded the West and the numbers of deaths by the Tigers were quickly overwhelmed by those of Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the like. Between 1982 and mid-2015, an estimated 5,000 people died from suicide bombers associated with the Islamic State. This number is as high as 4,800 for Al Qaeda’s bombers. And on this Tuesday was a new tragedy: at least 30 people died because of suicide bombers in Belgium.
Terrorist acts create fear, anxiety, and mass panic. One study showed that three years after the Oklahoma City bombing occurred in the United States, levels of people with PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) in the local population were much higher than that expected for other populations. These levels are generally higher than those observed in regions affected by tsunamis and other natural disasters. Terrorist acts involve man versus man punishment, which creates deeper wounds. Thus, they also involve the vile and perverse character of the human being; this wickedness and vileness are absent in natural disasters.
Terrorist acts create a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, which easily leads to the discrediting of local authorities. People feel insecure and think local authorities are weak and incompetent. A society’s sense of security is depleted, which often causes inappropriate and extreme reactions among citizens and authorities.
And this is all what the terrorists want. That’s why the terror of suicide bombers pays them off.
Even though the suicide act of terrorists may seem irrational, it is a strategic option for terrorist organizations that have a huge military disadvantage compared to those who are attacking them. Terrorists use the “rationality of irrationality.” Suicide attacks are more effective than other types of terrorism because they involve the art of martyrdom, which makes it more convincing to the target population that they are being punished. As the suicide bomber has nothing to lose, the message is that his life is worth what they are fighting for. Thus, suicide bombers are convincing because they increase the credibility of new attacks, which is a key element of this type of act, and trigger the fear that another attack will inevitably occur again anywhere, at any time. Remembering the legendary Sun Tzu: “kill one, frighten thousands.”
It is very important not to go along with the terrorists and give them what they want, which is discord and hatred. After terrorist attacks, the appearance of super-right radicals is a very common reaction. The worsening of segregation, hatred, and xenophobia are also common. Hatred is replied to with hatred. Trumps emerge. The boy Aylan, who was found dead on a Mediterranean beach, reopened a debate from a while ago: close the borders and let thousands be killed by the sea, or welcome them at the risk of our own being killed by terrorists? One needs security without harassing individual freedoms. One must employ vigilance and caution, but not paralysis and paranoia. Studies show that the best way to prevent future acts is to increase homeland security—rationally, without hatred or xenophobia.
The damage of explosions goes far beyond the fatalities of those who died in the attacks. It is necessary for the government and people to contain the wave of hatred—a contaminant that pleases the terrorists very much and makes them continue to blow people up among us.