Killing the head of a terrorist organization doesn’t stop it

→ A comment to The Effectiveness of Political Assassinations.

Another answer why this doesn’t work is really simple: Consider that you were in a terrorist organization. You work with people in secrecy, but the ones you know are close to you, because they know your most intimate secrets.

Short: You fight alongside friends (though probably assholes by most ethical standards).

Now someone kills one of your friends.

He is shown around in the media and people say how evil he was.

Now imagine not wanting revenge. Quite hard, isn’t it? A religious or power-play argument just got personal.

If it helps, imagine that the one who got killed was your father, sister or beloved one.

If it’s still hard to imagine why killing a leader is counterproductive, try to imagine that someone raped and killed your 14 year old daughter. Then he got celebrated in the media as hero. Would you manage to not start a personal war against him but to calmly go to a lawyer and accept to hear that your daughter incited him to his acts by dressing like a whore?

If this sounds unrelated: It’s the same emotional reaction, just pulled into our own cultural context. Terrorists believe that they fight for a just cause (at least if they aren’t only in it for the money). So any killing just strengthens their will to fight all out.

The only reason why killing a leader could stop the group is that the leader may be the only one whom all inside the group know and who can coordinate it. But naturally he has lieutnants who also know all, and if one of those dies, he gets replaced.

So please fight terrorism in way which works: Making sure that terrorists have no support in the general population. This naturally means that you must not be openly hostile to them.

Ask first “Why do they hate us?”, and then try to change that.

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