What Should This Fight Be Called?
Psychological Science in the Public Interest
This monograph examines from a psychological perspective the use of metaphors in framing counterterrorism. Four major counterterrorism metaphors are considered, namely those of war, law enforcement, containment of a social epidemic, and a process of prejudice reduction. The war metaphor is as follows: Wars are fought by states; the enemy is thus an identifiable entity whose interests fundamentally oppose your own. The conflict is zero-sum-the outcome will be victory for one side or the
... there is no compromise. The war metaphor is totalistic and extreme. Arguably, it was adopted in light of the immensity of damage and national hurt produced by the 9/11 attack. It has insinuated itself into the public discourse about counterterrorism, and it has guided policy, but it has also met challenges because of lack of fit and the availability of counteranalogies with different lessons of history. Some of the drawbacks of the war metaphor are addressable in the law enforcement metaphor of counterterrorism. Unlike war's special status and circumscribed duration, law enforcement is an ongoing concern that must compete for resources with other societal needs. A major advantage of law enforcement over warfare is its focused nature-targeting the actual terrorists, with less likelihood of injuring innocent parties. Yet despite its advantages, the law enforcement metaphor exhibits a partial mismatch with the realities of terrorism. Its complete and uncritical adoption may temporarily hamper terrorists' ability to launch attacks without substantially altering their motivation to do so. The public health epidemiological model was usefully applied to the epidemic of terror that followed the 9/11 that appears essential to producing their estrangement and reciprocal animosity. Too, like the epidemiological metaphor, the prejudice-reduction framing takes the long view, thereby neglecting the "here and now" of terrorism and the need to counter specific terrorist threats. Thus, each of the foregoing frameworks captures some aspects of counterterrorism's effects while neglecting others. Accordingly, an integrated approach to counterterrorism is called for, one that exploits the insights of each metaphor and avoids its pitfalls. Such an approach would maximize the likelihood of enlightened decision making concerning contemplated counterterrorist moves given the complex tradeoffs that each such move typically entails. 98