Are Terrorists Mentally Deranged?


  • Charles L. Ruby


Recent terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon have accentuated the threat of terrorism. However, it appears that the attackers are popularly thought of as mentally deranged individuals who are evil. This article suggests that such an understanding is a misperception of these people and may interfere with an adequate response to prevent future attacks. The article reviews the extant literature on psychological theories of terrorism and concludes that terrorists are not dysfunctional or pathological; rather, it suggests that terrorism is basically another form of politically motivated violence that is perpetrated by rational, lucid people who have valid motives. The only real difference between terrorism and conventional military action is one of strategy. Terrorists lack the necessary resources to wage war in furtherance of their political goals.