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Children, War, And Terrorism

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Author: Kathryn Seifert, Ph.D.

As we all watch the horrific devastation in Israel, Gaza, and Lebanon on the news day after day, glued to the "tube," we have to be thinking, "Where does it end? When does it end? Will it ever end?" Periodic military and diplomatic solutions in the Middle East since 1949 have attempted to provide a lasting peace in the region. And yet, here we are again, in the middle of a war that has both local and global implications.

For terrorists, beyond patriotism and self defense, is the ability to kill innocents, non-combatants with no hesitation or regret. It becomes a strategy of war. What enters or does not enter the minds of terrorists? What does it take for someone to grow up to be a terrorist? It was reported that a Hezbollah member stated that they will be triumphant because they love death and the Israelis love life. How can someone have no respect for human life? Many, if not all terrorists seek power and control regardless of means. They see violence as a means to that end. This is instrumental violence. It does not differ from criminal violence anywhere in the world and likely has the same roots.

Criminal violence has it beginning in the abuse, neglect, loss of parents, and exposure to violence in early childhood resulting in disruptions in attachments. Those with disrupted attachments fail to reach pro-social maturity interpersonally, in affect regulation and self control, and in moral development. They may not understand human reciprocity. Relationships are superficial. They may have little or no empathy or remorse. To them the world is not safe and they must always be on the offensive in order to be safe. Generations of war and violence in the Middle East continues to produce more terrorists. Children are not safe and they become orphaned. They are exposed to violence daily during times of open conflict and always have the fear of a new attack. The effect of this environment on everyone, especially young children can be psychologically devastating.

The world finds itself in a quandary. How do we defend ourselves against these people who do not value life as we do without creating more terrorists? The answer is we cannot. War and violence inevitably creates more terrorists. In addition to efforts already underway, massive humanitarian aid to the region is what will curb the growing problem of terrorism. Children and their families must be safe and well cared for so that they will not become cold, heartless and violent. Street children, one of the ripest recruiting grounds for terrorist organizations, must be well cared for and not left to be recruited by terrorists.

Terrorism will not end of its own accord. People must protect and defend themselves, as terrorists will not stop. Additionally, terrorism will not end by humanitarian aid alone. Everyone knows that a long term solution is needed. However, a permanent end to war, humanitarian aid and services for those who have lost loved ones, those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and children with attachments disrupted by war may have a chance of reducing terrorism in the Middle Eastern Region in the future.

About the author:

Kathryn Seifert, Ph.D.

Dr. Seifert ( is a psychotherapist, author, speaker, and researcher who specializes in family violence and trauma and has over 30 years of experience in mental health, addictions, and criminal justice work. Dr. Seifert's articles on violence, trauma, and risk have appeared in The Journal of Psychiatry and Law and Paradigm.

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