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Revisionist History and the War on Terror

- Abstract

To the Editor:

Contrary to what Seth Mandel writes in “The Failed War on the ‘War on Terror’” [November 2013], jihad is not the motivation for Islamic terrorists, it is the campaign—a campaign that is ironically somewhat analogous to the War on Terror itself. The terrorists’ motivation is to raise the cost to the target above the relative level of interest in a particular dispute in order to effect a desired policy change (such as removal of Western, primarily U.S., forces from the Islamic world). There is a solid argument, made by academics such as Andrew H. Kydd and Barbara F. Walter, that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks could fall into the category of “provocative terrorism,” aimed at fomenting domestic revolution through the radicalization of domestic constituencies by drawing a disproportionate or misguided response from the target (which the United States has provided in spades). Suddenly the crazy guys who preached the evil neo-imperialist agenda of the West didn’t seem so crazy after the upsurge in “collateral damage.”