Jessica Stern

Archive for 2013|Yearly archive page

Jessica’s latest in the Atlantic and the New York Times

In News on September 26, 2013 at 9:19 am

Just as containing the Soviet Union required much more than a strategy of hope, so too, containing ISIS will require fighting the organization’s spread with both military and diplomatic means. It took nearly 70 years for the Soviet Union to collapse, which occurred, in large measure, as a result of internal economic forces and the Soviet people’s discovery that what they had been promised was available only to their leaders. ISIS, too, will no doubt eventually collapse as a result of its equally false utopian promises and difficulties delivering even rudimentary human needs, such as healthcare. In the meantime, the United States and its allies need to implement a continuously evolving strategy of robust containment.

Read Jessica’s article in the Atlantic: How Not to Contain ISIS December 9, 2015.

People often wonder, how afraid should we be? My answer is that it depends on who you are, where you live, and what you do. But even with a rise in the number of mass-casualty attacks, the likelihood that any given individual will be caught in such an attack is vanishingly small. Statistically speaking, you are far more likely to die in a car accident than in a terrorist attack, especially if you don’t wear a seatbelt.

In many years of studying this subject, I have come to understand that a mass shooting or terrorist attack evokes a powerful sense of dread. It is a form of psychological warfare whose goal is to bolster the morale of its supporters and demoralize and frighten its target audience — the victims and their communities. Terrorists aim to make us feel afraid, and to overreact in fear.

The good news is that when people are reminded of what they value most, such as the divine, before being reminded of their inevitable death, the negative impact is reduced. And when people are reminded of values such as tolerance or their commitment to individual rights, their awareness of mortality increases these commitments.

Read Jessica’s article in the New York Times: How Terror Hardens Us. December 5, 2015.

 

Jessica Talks at the GRID13 Summit in Stockholm

In News on September 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Jessica presents “Talking to Terrorists” at the 2013 annual GRID two-day summit in Stockholm.  In the talk, she describes how she has met terrorists with Kalashnikovs in Pakistan, interviewed neo-Nazis in America and Sweden, and visited the homes of terrorist leaders in Indonesia. But it was only after she faced her own suppressed trauma that she understood why she was more afraid to meet the victims than the terrorists themselves.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Terrorists

In News, Op-Ed on April 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm

A few times, I have felt myself in the presence of true evil. At those times, I learned what it means to have the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It’s not just an expression. It happened to me when I met with a leader who recruited cannon fodder for his “jihad,” and on a few other occasions in the last couple decades that I’ve spent interviewing terrorists to learn why they do what they do. But, more often, the evil I’ve witnessed has been banal. I have found myself able to understand the mistaken moral logic that can turn a boy into a terrorist.

Here’s a surprising thing. Almost everywhere — in Pakistan, in Indonesia, in Texas — terrorists offer you tea. Sometimes a full meal.

Otherwise, they are quite different from one another. Their motivations vary — from irredentism, to pleasing the God they claim to worship, to cleansing the Earth of the mud-people that contaminate the world of purity in their minds. Some live in war zones with grievances that are easy for outsiders to grasp; for others, living in the cushy West, the war that is taking place is principally in their own minds, often over identity. Some are paid, some are blackmailed. Some are recruited, and some recruit themselves to their own holy war, whether at home or far away.

Read Jessica’s article on talking with terrorists in Foreign Policy.

Iraq: Where Terrorists Go to School

In News, Op-Ed on April 26, 2013 at 2:23 pm

The costs of the terrorism inspired by the war include much more than the number, however horrifying, of lives lost. The terrorists who have been drawn to Iraq since 2003 and survived have been battle-hardened after fighting the most sophisticated military in history, often working together with former officials from Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. They have developed expertise in counterintelligence, gunrunning, forgery and smuggling. Smuggling routes and alliances that moved terrorists and supplies into Iraq during the height of the war, in 2006-7, have been reversed, allowing fighters and supplies to flow into neighboring countries, particularly Syria, now in its third year of civil war.

Read Jessica’s article in The New York Times.

The Costs of the Moral Injury to Our Troops Fighting the Wars on Terrorism

In News, Op-Ed on February 28, 2013 at 3:00 am

Those who volunteer to defend their country know they are putting their lives at risk.  But the troops and their families are only just beginning to understand the extent to which they are putting their mental health at risk.  As we get better at keeping wounded warriors alive, we need to get better, and more serious, about developing tools for healing the injuries to the mind and brain that are often at least as destructive as more visible wounds.

Read Jessica’s Op-Ed at the Hoover Institution website.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 985 other followers