Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Power of Incentives: Fighting Terrorism With Radical Laws

This article is inspired from my discussion with Rob Baiton related to his post, Fatwa and Terrorism. The problem of terrorism is always an interesting theme for me, particularly because I absolutely hate terrorism (for whatever reasons) and because I wrote my thesis on the retroactive implementation of the Indonesian Terrorism Law to the 2002 Bali Bomb Case. In this case, retroactive implementation means that a law is being implemented to a case that occurred prior to the enactment of such law.

In my thesis, I analyzed the Constitutional Court decision which annul the above retroactive implementation, and after conducting an in-depth research including on the historical background of the non-retroactive principle of criminal law, I disagreed with such annulment. To cut it short, for me, when we are dealing with extraordinary crimes, we should also use extraordinary actions to combat them. This is not a place for someone to say something like: "then what would be the difference between us and the terrorist?" That might look interesting in a movie, but in reality, sometimes we are forced to do some radical things in order to put down dangerous and illegal actions.

Now, I will elaborate some of the basic ideas that have been previously discussed with Rob, i.e. what kind of policy which would work best to reduce terrorism, and whether we can use a law that penalizes people for a crime conducted by their closest relatives.

The Inside Mind of the Terrorists

Why were some people attracted to conduct terrorism? Why did they become terrorists? To this question, I would reply: poverty, low education, lack of affection, being depressed, and under constant oppression. Or in other words, terrorism are mostly being conducted by those who were considered as remnants of the world. Of course, for the terrorist leaders, the reasons might be slightly different, i.e. they must gain some benefits for doing terrorism, such as money and power.

In my opinion, religion teachings (or basically any type of ideology) are not a solid reason for conducting terrorism, they might be twisted to support terrorism, but they'll never be strong enough to bring people to actually "pull the trigger". And the reason is quite simple, no reasonable man having high level of education, good flow of income, lots of affection, living his life to the fullest with minimum or no oppression at all would do terrorism acts and wasting his life in the name of a religion unless he is crazy, absent minded, having some lack of mental capacity, or being brainwashed. It just doesn't make any sense. I'm a moslem, and if a clergyman comes to me and asks me to be ready to die for the sake of a crappy holy war, I would simply reply, "no thanks sir, I believe that the heavenly girls are currently reserved for you. So you should go first, remember, they are waiting, now shoo, shoo."

I always believe that most men will act based on the incentives provided to them, be it positive or negative, and terrorism is not free from these kind of incentives. As an example, why terrorist leaders and planners choose miserable men as their main target for brainwashing? Encouraging a miserable man to do a suicidal bombing must involve some good incentives, or else that man would not be willing to sacrifice himself. However, and this is the most important part, I'm quite certain that the costs for making a miserable man to sacrifice his life would be most likely cheaper than making a happy man to do the same act. Thus, there is a great incentive for terrorists to recruit the miserable men instead of the happy men.

So, What are the Incentives for the Miserable Men to Conduct Terrorism?
There are many incentives for miserable men to conduct terrorism. Being in their current state, that is having a miserable life, an option which will somehow make them a "hero" (by killing the enemy of the religion/ideology) and enable them to move to a better place (i.e. heaven, whatever the concept is) would be much appreciated. It is a general knowledge that people might experience a low mental awareness due to certain bad conditions, and during such period, the terrorist leaders will be most likely have the best chance to "brainwash" those poor people.

Another good incentive would be in the form of financial compensation for the families left behind. You see, it is common for the family members of the dead terrorist to receive a quite generous donation from the terrorist leaders to make sure that their future life will be secured.

Having all these kind of incentives, it is no wonder that some people would be willing to sacrifice their life. In some case, the benefit might be higher than the cost! Of course that is from the terrorist's point of view, not mine.

How Should We Prevent Terrorism?
We can say anything about the terrorist, saying that they are a bunch of cowards, losers, etc. But I don't think we can blame these guys entirely. Unless we can get and banish all the leaders, there is almost an unlimited supply for terrorists. It is too easy to find miserable men in any part of the Earth, there are too many people living in despair. In any case, picking one of them would not be that hard.

So what should we do? Surely, trying to banish terrorism by advancing the life of all people would not be a viable option, because I'm afraid that we can't achieve that even until the end of time. I understand that one of the proposed solutions is to cut down the blood supply of the terrorism, i.e. money by increasing legal enforcement to money laundering activities. This is good but I would like to propose another radical, if not crazy, solutions.

Why don't we enact a law which would "penalize" not only the terrorist, but also the closest relatives of such terrorist, i.e. parents, siblings, spouse, and children, of course provided that those terrorists have been deemed guilty based on a final and binding court decision. When I'm talking about "penalize," please don't associate it first with prison and any other type of torture. I could understand that the idea of punishing someone for the mistakes of other people is not generally accepted in this modern world (though I believe that this concept is still being recognized in some part of the world, including in some Indonesian customary laws, such as if a man conduct a certain type of crime, his family member must pay some fines in the form of cows to the village).

The form of sanction could be many. What I'm thinking right now would be a type of sanction which would cause some financial losses such as fines or additional rate of tax, and give peer pressures such as announcement of the name of the family members to the public. The most important thing is that these sanctions must be made known publicly as wide as possible to the society.

The Ratio for Giving Sanctions to Closest Relatives
Why give additional sanctions to the closest relatives? There is two basic argument for this, first, miserable terrorists who choose to end their life by their own choice would be most likely have no fear of death, instead they embrace death. Thus, even the death penalty would not be sufficient to cause fear to these kind of terrorists, and in some ways, it might even strengthen their conviction to die in the name of God or whatever they want to believe, making them something like a "hero." You could easily spot this from the trial of Bali Bombers, those who are convicted as the main culprits act as if they all are ready to die, some of them even make books about their so called "struggle" for an Islamic country! This is ironic, we want to make them feel sorry for what they did, not becoming proud of it.

That's why we should put our action to a different side, i.e. the closest relatives of those terrorist. With the current technology, it would be easy for us to find out the family member of convicted terrorists and this should be workable from practical point of view. From the terrorist view, family members are most likely important. It's human nature. Even the most cruel terrorists would not want something happen to their beloved ones. "God" might be important, but when they know that the government will target their parents, spouse, siblings and children, what will the terrorist do? Bringing all of them? For how far? Wouldn't that also limit their movement?

By giving a threat to the family members of the terrorists, I believe we can provide the best incentive to prevent terrorism, at least this can distract them from their movement.

Second, this policy might also provide an incentive to the rest members of the family to prevent any of their member to fall to fundamentalism trap. Since no one would like to bear the consequences of the actions of their "crazy" family member, supervision among family member should increase, and this might prevent the fundamentalism movement to spread its words. Government can not efficiently prevent fundamentalism movement, especially with the current technology. But closest relatives can, and they could actually do that efficiently, simply by putting more attention and affection to their family members, their beloved ones.
You Know, Your Idea is Still Somewhat Crazy
Yes, I know that this is a crazy idea. I would be glad to receive a better policy which would provide better incentives to each family in preventing their members from getting trapped by terrorist movement. So for know, I'll stick to this idea.

But, just to make it clear, my idea focuses on using the power of incentives in preventing terrorism, and other than using legalized sanctions, I'm also interested in using peer pressure method. Maybe it would be good if we have a great marketing team who will advertise the evil of terrorism, starting by having sad testimony from the family members of the terrorist. Yes, the terrorist, not the victim, remember to focus on their loved ones first, because for most terrorists, the victim will be considered as enemies who deserve to die, so focusing on them wouldn't work best to prevent terrorism from the terrorist own perspective. Anyway, hope it's useful and can generate a better solution from the readers.

2 comments:

Rob Baiton Thursday, August 20, 2009 1:46:00 PM  

Pramudya...

Interesting thoughts all round. It certainly is a discussion that could go on for some time.

I must say I had a little chuckle to myself as I read the lengthy disclaimer down the left-hand side of your blog front page. Lawyers! :D

The issue of terrorism is a complex one. However, I would not be in to, or up for, punishing relatives of suicide bombers or terrorists. There are always exceptions, and the exception here would be that the family members being targeted for punishment were actively involved in the commission of the offense.

I cannot see the justice or the fairness in punishing the innocent family members of a terrorist, particularly where those family members are not involved in the crime.

However, as we have previously discussed, I would not have a problem with the extension of some kind of proceeds of crime legislation prohibiting or preventing the surviving family members from profiting from the crime.

Pramudya A. Oktavinanda Thursday, August 20, 2009 4:32:00 PM  

Thanks Rob,

I can understand your position. If I'm in a position where my son or my wife is a terrorist and I am penalized because of that, I would clearly say that this kind of policy is not fair at all. After all, a man should be only responsible for his own deed.

The last time I see a family retribution was when I watched an old chinese kung fu movie and a cheap horror american movie, hahaha.

I'm still trying to find some literature on customary law where community liabilities exist, and will update this post once I can found a decent one.

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