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Terrorist Beheadings
From the US Army War College: Terrorist Beheadings: Cultural and Strategic Implications
• Ritual is a soft power technique that is part of the diplomatic or informational elements of national power. The author advocates a better appreciation of ritual’s role in combating the beheadings, but not at the expense of other elements of national power such as military force.
• Continue to implement and improve upon the complementary countermeasures of, first, defensively providing strong force protection for coalition forces and contractors, and second, offensively tracking down and destroying the insurgents. The terrorists are trying to kill us, intimidate us, and lessen public support for the war. Logically, we must protect our people and allies and fight back.
• To counter the beheadings, implement rituals to affirm the legitimacy, power, and authority of the new government. The terrorists want to destabilize Iraq and its government, so the logical countermeasure is to stage stabilizing rituals such democratic elections, investiture of the new ruler, and a war crimes tribunal. Where appropriate, adapt Western rituals, or encourage the Iraqis to implement rituals which are uniquely Arab or Muslim, such as shura.
• Recognize that beheadings as a tactic have limitations, and their popularity will wane as security conditions improve, since the tactic depends on unstable conditions. Beheadings, however, will continue to evolve, and militants will continue to use the tactic when it meets their needs.
• Recognize that the nationality of the victim and circumstances dictate whether the terrorists will make demands or kill the hostages. Some nations have negotiated the release of their citizens, and in the past, American presidents had a propensity to negotiate the release of American captives when that was a viable option. The door should be left open for discussions, but the current political climate makes negotiation between the United States and the kidnappers very unlikely.
• Understand the meaning of jihadist multimedia productions, including the cultural nuances. Use this understanding to create countering messages and engage in strategic communications.

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