U.S. Airforce Cyber room.

To disrupt terror recruitment, soft power is required.

The Importance of Ideology

October 2016, Number 07.04

“It is well-established that people become involved in terrorism to fulfill a variety of needs, including personal, social, spiritual, practical and even financial. It is also well-known that, for many terrorists, satisfying these motivations may be more important than commitment to ideology. And yet, it is the ideology of terrorist organizations that gives them their unique identity, distinguishes them from their enemies and clearly defines both “good” and “evil.” Moreover, ideology forms the basis of terrorists’ strategy, dictating their ends, ways and means and providing group members with a set of instructions on how to speak, dress and act. Ideology justifies and even necessitates violence, while simultaneously dehumanizing the enemy, giving the perpetrators a twisted sense of morality that sanctions all manner of atrocities.

Individual terrorists do not need to be experts in the ideology, nor do they need to believe every word that comes out of their leaders’ mouths, as long as they adhere to basic ideological principles — what is the problem, who is to blame and what needs to be done about it...”

Excerpt from Sam Mullins, The Importance of Ideology,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues  7, No. 4, 2016: 7-9.

Dr. Sam Mullins served as a counterterrorism professor at the Marshall Center and an honorary principal fellow at the University of Wollongong in Australia. He serves on the editorial boards of the journals Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression and Perspectives on Terrorism and wrote the book ‘Home-Grown’ Jihad: Understanding Islamist Terrorism in the US and UK.


This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.