Perspectives from the Behavioral and Social Sciences
Neil J. Smelser and Faith Mitchell, Editors
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
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Suggested citation: National Research Council (2002) Terrorism: Perspectives from the Behavioral and Social Sciences. Panel on Behavioral, Social, and Institutional Issues, Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism. Neil J. Smelser and Faith Mitchell, editors. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
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PANEL ON BEHAVIORAL, SOCIAL, AND INSTITUTIONAL ISSUES
NEIL J. SMELSER (Chair),
Department of Sociology (emeritus), University of California, Berkeley
ROBERT McCORMICK ADAMS,
Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego
School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Department of Political Science and the Technology and Development Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
EUGENE A. HAMMEL,
Departments of Anthropology and Demography (emeritus), University of California, Berkeley
ARIE W. KRUGLANSKI,
Department of Psychology, University of Maryland
Center for Middle Eastern Studies (emeritus), University of California, Berkeley
Department of Sociology, University of California
PHYLLIS OAKLEY, Career Foreign Service Officer (retired),
U.S. Department of State
THOMAS C. SCHELLING,
School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland
FAITH MITCHELL, Study Director
JANET GARTON, Program Associate
BENJAMIN WOOLSEY, Project Assistant
To stress the salience and urgency ofthenational situation as dictated by contemporary terrorism and to underscore the need for behavioral and social science understandings of that situation are to pronounce the self-evident. Terrorism, already recognized by some as the looming form of international conflict in the late twentieth century, moved dramatically to center stage on September 11, 2001, and promises to occupy national attention for decades. It is also evident that while the scientific, technological, and military aspects are essential parts of understanding and containing terrorism, every aspect of that phenomenon yields human and social dimensions. This report has the objective of bringing behavioral and social science knowledge and understandings to bear on terrorism and the responses to it.
Shortly after the September 11 attacks, the presidents of the National Academies, comprising the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering—wrote a letter to President George W. Bush pledging the scientific resources of the nation, as represented in the National Academies, to help contend with the new national crisis. As part of that pledge the Academies established the Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism, which began work immediately and issued a comprehensive report on the relevance of science and technology for defending the nation against terrorist activities.
As part of its work the committee spun off eight panels on specialized aspects of terrorism, some of which are preparing their own reports. The group responsible for this report is one of these panels. Two of our panel members served as members of the main committee, and many parts of our report have been incorporated into the master report. However, the report con-
tained in these pages was prepared independently of the work of the larger committee.
In this report we focus first on the nature and determinants of terrorism itself and, second, on domestic responses to terrorist activity. Under the first heading we take up nettlesome definitional issues, and then—moving from remote to proximate determinants—consider the international, demographic, economic, political, and cultural determinants of terrorism, as well as its motivational and organizational aspects.
Under the second heading we bring knowledge about disaster behavior to bear on the topics of preparedness, warning, and short-term responses to terrorist attacks, calling attention to likely longer-term political, economic, and cultural processes of recovery. At the end we present our best sense of the priorities for behavioral and social science research on many aspects of terrorism.
The panel included scholars from the disciplines of anthropology, demography, economics, history, political science, psychology, and sociology. Its special areas of expertise include the history of Muslim societies, the contemporary Middle East, the politics of the state, revolutionary social movements, deterrence and game theory, the cognitive structure of beliefs, disaster studies, the politics of diplomacy and peacekeeping, and social change. The panel met twice in Washington, DC, on January 13-14 and February 24, 2002. Between the meetings the panel members undertook drafting assignments and exchanged materials and ideas by email. We pooled our general knowledge of relevant topics, read what we deemed as the best in the exploding literature on terrorism, and made use of the face-to-face meetings to synthesize as best we could the extremely diverse strands of knowledge at our disposal. The report that follows represents a solid consensus on the part of the panel.
The panel would like to thank the National Research Council staff who supported our work and facilitated the achievement of this ambitious goal: Faith Mitchell, study director; Janet Garton, program associate; and Benjamin Woolsey, project assistant. Erik Smith worked as a consultant with Eugene Hammel on new demographic analysis. Lewis Branscomb, Richard Klausner, and other members of the main committee made helpful comments about the draft and provided other intellectual contributions. The panel is grateful as well to the National Academies for their financial support.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Phillip Heymann, Harvard Law School; Alex Inkeles, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Edward H. Kaplan, School of Management, Yale University; Clark McCauley, Psychology Department, Bryn Mawr College; Henry Riecken, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (emeritus); and Edward Wenk, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Engineering, Public Affairs and Social Management of Technology, University of Washington.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Robert Frosch, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, and Charles Tilly, Departments of Sociology and Political Science, Columbia University. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
Neil J. Smelser, Chair
Panel on Behavioral, Social, and Institutional Issues