Small Wars Journal

The Hasan Slide Presentation

Sun, 11/15/2009 - 3:18am
The Hasan Slide Presentation

A Preliminary Commentary

by Charles Cameron

Download the full article: The Hasan Slide Presentation

There is no place as private as the interior of a human skull: the mind remains inviolate.

Words can reveal some of what goes on inside us, actions can speak some of our intents and passions forcefully, at times explosively. And yet there is no place more secret -- and what a hint, a phrase, a gesture, a speech or an explosion cannot reveal, what even the best forensic examination can only label a probability, is the complex interweaving of thoughts half thought, doubts entertained, emotions pushing on through, and clashing, building at times to a perfect storm perhaps, with all doubts and constraints cast aside and the emotions unleashed in a blind and defining moment.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan MD MPH, a psychiatrist in the U.S. Army, has now been charged with multiple specifications of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Fort Hood, under Article 188 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Assuming that Major Hasan was in fact the shooter at Fort Hood and that, as alleged, he shouted "Allahu Akbar" during the event, the main question of fact and interpretation now would be whether Hasan was more an introvert under pressure whose "break" took the jihadist cry "Allahu Akbar" as its outlet, or a patient and long-standing lone wolf jihadist of the sort abu Musab al-Suri calls for (Jim Lacey, A Terrorist's Call to Global Jihad, p. 19), or a wannabe with failed or actual al Qaeda connections, or an al Qaeda or related "soldier" under orders.

This analysis attempts to provide some leads in that inquiry, by a careful reading of the only substantial documentation we have from Major Hasan himself, which may throw light on his trajectory.

Download the full article: The Hasan Slide Presentation

Charles Cameron is an independent scholar and writer, and was at one time a Principal Researcher with the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University. He would like to thank Stephen O'Leary, Richard Landes and David Cook for their encouragement and support over the years, the members of the NRM mailing list and particularly Jean Rosenfeld, Jayne Seminaire Docherty, Phil Arnold and John R Hall for their thoughts on this subject, David Ronfeldt, Ibn Siqilli and Leah Farrall among others for recent interactions, Mark Safranski for graciously allowing him to guest-blog on Zenpundit, and Howard Rheingold and the Brainstorms community, the folks at TMN, and Jaen Martens and Kevin Murphy for various other forms of hospitality.

About the Author(s)


Charles Cameron (not verified)

Tue, 11/24/2009 - 4:07pm

I'd like to point those SWJ readers interested in building an ongoing dialog between terrorism analysts and scholars of religion to an extremely useful article co-authored by Ted Oleson and James T. Richardson, <A HREF="">The Confluence of Research Traditions on Terrorism and Religion: A Social Psychological Examination</A>, published in Psicología Política, N º 34, 2007, 39-55:

Here is the overview of the article's Conclusions: <blockquote><b>The Confluence of Studies of Deviant Religious Groups and Terrorism</b>
The two fields of terrorism research and religion research have many overlaps but some differences. The terrorist research generally has emphasized the psychological problems of most terrorists and their leaders in particular. The studies of religious extremism described above deemphasize such personality disorders and are more contextual and interactionist in orientation. Several of the more psychological approaches to terrorism emphasize coercive socialization of individual participants. As Wessinger, supported by research on participation in minority faiths, notes, such coercion is relatively ineffective. Terrorism research reveals several approaches to the use of violence ranging from rational choice to pathological. Most studies of religious violence see it as a strategic choice with sometimes an element of sacred duty. Both religion scholars and terrorism researchers emphasize the notion of a desire for an ultimate concern and often a millennial transformation. However, not all religions are millenialist, while all terrorist groups seem to have a perspective that might be characterized as catastrophic millenialist, to use Wessingers term.</blockquote>The article contains a wealth of information about and quotations from the literature of both "streams" in this confluence, backed up by a substantial bibliography.

Three of the eight tentative conclusions bulleted at the end of the text also invoke "millennialism" -- defined here in Catherine Wessinger's terms as "an expression of the human hope for the achievement of permanent wellbeing". The <A HREF="… strand</A> that's present in <A HREF="… thinking</A> deserves our <A HREF="… consideration</A>.

The various suggested taxonomies in the article will also be of help.

Bob (not verified)

Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:04am

There is only one answer to this commentary about the "Muslim terrorist" Nidal Hasan. We have another Islamist apologist in our midst...

Charles Cameron (not verified)

Thu, 11/19/2009 - 10:35pm

Hi, Mat:

And thanks for your careful reading and comments, both here and on Zenpundit. I have responded to your post there at slightly greater length, but will bring across here those remarks of mine which apply directly to your comment here.

I will take your concern about the language of infection under advisement.

I chose the image of an infected wound and the "red streak" leading to the heart in an attempt to give a visceral initial sense to my readers of a poison brewing and finally discharging to deadly effect, the poison being the conflict between two obligations of obedience -- and also in part because it is my sense that in his slide show, Dr. Hasan was performing a sort of self-diagnosis: it is the sickness he feels as a split being that I am focused on.

Having said that, let me say also that I have no wish to encourage demagogues, and indeed the entire exercise in close reading is designed to elicit subtleties rather than the kinds of broad-strokes, sound-bite, black-and-white opinions favored by propagandists of every stripe.

Should I republish this piece, or write a follow up, I shall add some words intended to clarify my usage and intent, but for the moment I must let my text stand as it is.

Mat M (not verified)

Thu, 11/19/2009 - 8:41pm

While I found the article overall to be thoughtful, considered and insightful, I believe Mr. Cameron should be chastized (and embarrassed)by the "image" he proposes in the second full paragraph on page three--the imagery is one of disease and infection. Apart from the fact that this image adds NOTHING to the article--the careful and detailed analysis (not imagery) is the entire thrust and power of the article. This image is never developed and would appear to be inconsequential attempt at a literary style quite divorced from the entire crux of the article. But more, much more, than a literary criticism is the use of disease as a metaphor in such a highly charged, politically and religiously explosive subject where demagogues abound. The metaphorical use of the words disease, infection etc. have been used metaphorically to great effect in the past to justify the "cure."

Very good article. Terrible imagery that adds nothing but can actually obscure the careful analysis urged (if not engender calls for "curing" or "saving" the military/body politic/etc. by same methods used to fight infectious diseases more generally--quarantine, isolation, strong infection killing drugs, etc.)

jean rosenfeld (not verified)

Thu, 11/19/2009 - 7:42pm

For some time a number of social scientists and scholars from related fields have focused on "new religious movements" for an understanding of how religion "works" in human communities. Most of these communities are recognized as "intentional communities," such as the Shakers. Such NRMs are forming at all times and in all places, although some places are more congruent with the freedom to birth a new religion and are friendlier to "religious entrepreneurs."

Also, at certain times--and there are good hypotheses as to why at these times--millennial movements arise. We are living through a time that is recognizably "millennial" and "apocalyptic."
Not all millennial or apocalyptic movements are violent. Very few are, but those that act as the hand of their god can do disproportionate damage.

What some NRM scholars have attempted to do is classify millennial and apocalyptic movements into types and subtypes with features we can identify. Also, scholars of religious phenomena recognize that religion, like art, is symbolic and inventive. Decoding symbolic expression is paramount in making sense out of new religious movements, including and especially millennial and apocalyptic NRMs.

A method must, first and foremost, fit the phenomena one is examining. It need not be quantitative. We have a deplorable bias towards numbers or "matrices" or IT programs with respect to what is regarded as scientific. Science begins with careful observation, recording, extrapolation, formulation of hypotheses, application of hypotheses, and the drawing of new provisional conclusions. It does not depend upon quantitative manipulations of data, alone, although quantitative methods can be helpful, after we know what to look at.

Example: I once sat through a presentation of a favored new method that used matrix analysis of variables that were inputed. The subject was religious movements that had resulted in violence. It was ingenious, except as I pointed out at the end, the most important variable was left out: apocalyptic elements.

There is a remarkable database of case studies of religion and violence that is both historical and comparative. It consists of our historical record and of primary data from anthropology and sociology that began to be compiled in the late 19th century. Looking at the data, once can extrapolate features that are paradigmatic.

Thus, for example, one can classify al-Qaida as a "revolutionary millennial movement" and a nativist revitalization movement. It shares a set of definable features with other movements that may not look like it at all on the surface. But, thus classified, one can better expect it to act certain ways.

Typologies isolate out the significant and identifying features of an NRM, such that one can examine new cases and immediately "see" these features if they are there. But one cannot "find" them if they are not already part of an applicable paradigm.

Likewise, some features may be more predictive of potential violence than others. By and large, after working with case data using a historical-comparative method, as David C. Rapoport has done, one can also analyze the development over time of repetitive and/or identifiable phenomena.

This is all very sketchy and I apologize if it is boring, but I only want to underscore the fact that scholars have been working for some time in a reliably scientific fashion, and their work can be utilized for and applied to terrorist groups, as well, because we are living through a "wave" of religious terrorism (Rapoport, "Four Waves of Modern Terror" theory). And there are already fields of study with remarkable data on the subject of religion--analytically defined, of course.


Many thanks for your post on my blog, "al Sahwa." Also, I applaud you on your detailed work to provide leads for our comprehensive analysis relating to Hasan and others.

I have been searching for a larger network of professionals who recognize the growing consciousness and need to gather minds together to counter violence of this magnitude. All intellectual and societal resources need to be employed to do so.

I certainly agree with Jean Rosenfeld that religiously-based "methodology, typologies, and frameworks" can formulate "provisional conclusions" and a "database" by isolating phenomena like a medical doctor. Religion needs a scientific method in light of the historic trends of motivation witnessed in AQ; or, to the very least, needs to add a "religious-centered paradigm" with similar meaning as David Ronfeldt at RAND has with a "tribal paradigm" presented in "AQ and Its Affiliates."

My logic is simple: scientific method uses an example of experimenting with two separate but similar growing plants. The objective, of course, is to use variables as well as placebo effects to measure several factors and draw a plausible conclusion. How I think we need to move forward is to begin to measure vertical ideologies (i.e. dawah) with horizontal trends (i.e. population growth). This, I think, can be done structurally and systematically by utilizing systems theory as well as chi-square analysis.

The difficulty ahead is precisely what Marc Sageman exposed in his book, "Leaderless Jihad": there is a progressive movement not hierarchically connected to AQ but linked to its ideology(ies). My colleague, Pat Ryan, asks the tipping-point question: [But] how do we track Hasan-types? I add: By what variables that are quantifiably binding; i.e. legally?

This is exactly why I commented that religiously-centered analysis, at least at the stage it is in currently, is not holistically accepted by officials who are bound to policy which dictates they must present measurable activity which is justifiable in a court of law. Our individual and collective reason, experience, tradition, and/or authority (i.e. leaders) may affirm terrorist ideology and activity is abnormal, unethical, immoral, or unprecendented, but if the conclusions are merely anecdotal evidence than it may be rejected, dismissed, or thought of as a pilot-program/tentative model of inquiry.

The method, as it stands now, is being used to understand suspected terrorists mainly in sociological and psychological terms. It is "out of bounds" to the extent that some officials [I have come in contact with] think it is quality-based in this sense and holds limited or no quantifiable value all-the-while agreeing that it holds deep meaning.

I wish to note - in good manner - that I and my colleagues on al Sahwa fully recognize that your efforts as well as the hard work of your colleagues and the blogs, centers, and entities which you are connected to/affiliated with are substantial, worthy, and legitimate. Simply, my singular comment recognizes that some officials and scholars dismiss this analysis as not holding weight. It does not speak to all officials and scholars in our growing area of study. If it did, I would find every way to ensure that my arguement would be stronger.

In conclusion, Sageman is right to ground his inquiries in data and statistics, but I am continuing to attempt to flesh out - as you, Rosenfeld, Ronfeldt, and Hall are - the exact particulars of how a religious study can be empirically natured in order to a) identify and differentiate between insane, abnormal, "lone-wolf" according to persons like Evan Kohlmann, and/or terrorist as well as b) provide further insight into the ideological teachings - such as those I mentioned; sahwa, shariah - inherent in their motivations.

I would like to be more apart of the team, and will maintain active communication through blogs and other avenues in the future, as this is all in attempt to counter the extreme jihadi movement and strategically plan for proactive and preventative intelligence.


Thu, 11/19/2009 - 9:35am


I thought the same thing as you. His presentation was sloppy, unorganized, full of grammatical and spelling errors... This, compounded with the red flag aspect of the presentation should have alerted someone, somewhere, that 1. this person was not someone we needed helping soldiers with potential or real PTSD (they deserve a higher standard of intellectual talent) and 2. this might not be an appropriate time for the political correctness that continues to plague the US Military and US society in general.

Eric (not verified)

Wed, 11/18/2009 - 11:08am

What really strikes me about this presentation is how sloppy and shallow this seems. As I understand it, this was to have been a pretty important part of his military medical education. It should have been a substantive presentation prepared under the guidance of an advisor. While the subject could fit within the realm of interest for a military mental health professional, I am amazed at the spelling and grammar errors. How could something this poorly done meet any requirement for military medical training? This speaks to me of a person not up to the intellectual demands of the medical profession.

Charles Cameron (not verified)

Tue, 11/17/2009 - 10:04pm

Jean Rosenfeld sent me the following, which I am reposting with permission since I believe it adds a significant dimension to our current discussion:



Thank-you for your sensitive, rigorous paper on Major Hasan's slide show. We need this methodology of "imagining religion" (compliments of J.Z. Smith and van der Leeuw) in order to inquire into the epidemiology of violence in the context of religion.

I recall some years ago that a Harvard Med School professor introduced the idea that violence was a plague, just as other diseases are, and that it impacted society and needed to be addressed as we address such challenges in medicine. The analogy of an infection of the heart by the mind in Charles's paper is certainly apt, and Phil Arnold is also aware of that approach and practices it.

We can't decode the symbols of religion with the DSM, as Jayne Seminaire Docherty rightly points out. It is not adequate and I would add that it is not appropriate. Trying to fit the phenomenon of Major Hasan's mind (or the mind of any zealot) into the square peg of an insanity defense likewise is not appropriate. Neither attempt--psychological or legal--to come to grips with the phenomena of religious terrorism/violence is sufficient.

However, given the convergence of scholars from several disciplines and venues in the study of new religious movements, some of which have been associated with spectacular negative incidents, we do have a database of good sources from which to draw concerning the subsequent phenomenon of a "global jihad." The Mujahidin commitment to self-sacrifice reminds us that such "outbursts" occur not only in the mind of a Major Hasan, but also in historical contexts that are broader and of greater historical consequence.

Whether one can draw a line between the minds of those who justify killing according to a higher moral purpose in the service of a transcendent imperative and any particular incident depends upon the establishing of an appropriate methodology, a useful database, a set of provisional conclusions, and the development of typologies and frameworks. It does not seem to me to matter whether the violence is perpetrated in the U.S. or abroad, by one person or several, in a school or on an army base. There are other variables that appear to be more determinative. Isolating them and applying provisional findings to new cases will help us make sense out of the most shocking and perplexing behaviors without falling back on the DSM or cult theory or Hostage Rescue guidebooks.

I think to come to terms with Columbine or Fort Hood or 9/11 or the assassination of an abortion doctor, or the targeting of citizens going about their daily business, or the bombing of businesses/institutions, we need a new approach/methodology and to build a social science that regards "religion" (or if you prefer, "ideology") as the independent variable, the object of study. We have the beginnings of that now.

The assumption is that violence in the context of a "transcendent purpose" should be addressed empirically, but not shoehorned into any prior "set" or "category" from some other field. The subject of religion and violence is trans-disciplinary. That implies that it is justifiably its own field of study.

As much as we attempt to dissect, analyze, and debate Maj Hasan, we'll return to the same conclusions- he is a treasonous murderer. Outside of his multiple issues and complex reasoning, the bottom line is that he lost his way. As much as we hate to admit it in our society, it happens.

He represents the worst of human nature. His actions are selfish while justified in his own mind as rational. He gave no cause or concern to the families and lives that he interrupted.

Papa Roach speaks to his mentality in "The Last Resort."

John R Hall (not verified)

Tue, 11/17/2009 - 1:26pm

Charles, thanks for your response to my comment. I think you get closest to an interpretation that considers the dynamic development over time with your statement:

On the basis of the snapshot presented by the slides themselves, I tend to think Hasan was "more an introvert under pressure whose 'break' took the jihadist cry 'Allahu Akbar' as its outlet" than a fully-fledged jihadist, lone or wannabe or "connected" -- but that the intensification of his conflict continued for quite some time thereafter, and that towards the end he pretty clearly (IMO) viewed himself as a jihadist (and likely a "lone wolf").

To be sure, a lone wolf terrorist, like a maverick musician, doesn't have the network connections and legitimation, but that doesn't stop him from acting like a terrorist. The problem with an alternative explanation, of lone tribalism, it seems to me, is that it doesn't account for the strategic character that developed in Hasan's alleged actions once he chose a course of action, i.e., had a metanoia -- a classic feature of conversion to a revolutionary point of view. To be sure, the gunman drew on the repertoires of violence most available in the US, but he seems to have done so in order to wreak terror for a religio-political reason, i.e., in what is conventionally defined as terrorism.

But, as all of us must acknowledge, analysis at this point is only preliminary. The task, now that you've written about the slides, is to move to a more comprehensive consideration of all the evidence you can get your hands on. In that regard, I am wondering whether anyone has looked at why the shooter killed some people and passed over others. Who was who?

aha, charles -- the notion of "loner tribalism" calls for elaboration? i added it as an afterthought just before posting my comment. now i have to figure out what i meant: it reflects a view ive held for some time (thanks for pointing out my writings) that a lot of islamist and other kinds of religious terrorism expresses a demonic virulent kind of tribalism, more than the religion itself.

consider some political categories that are being applied to hasan: terrorist. jihadist. but was hasan acting mainly like/as a terrorist, a jihadist, or a tribalist? a tribalist, including one who tribalizes any religion, is keen about expressing solidarity with a group identity; espousing a kinship of blood and brotherhood; distinguishing us from them; upholding codes of honor that make one extremely sensitive about respect, pride, and dignity; and calling for righteous vengeance against perceived insults. im detecting that hasan yearned to defend his tribe (muslims) more than to be a terrorist or jihadist (my understanding of what makes jihadists tick being more about the appeal of tribal than religious tenets).

and heres a related question involving a different set of categories: was hasan acting mainly like/as a muslim, an arab, or an american? he was thinking in muslim terms, and he is a palestinian arab by background. but as someone (shlok vaidya?) noted, hasans act was more like columbine than 9/11. if so, that makes him, including his choice of weapons and the randomness yet categoricalness of his targets, quite "american" these days.

similar recent perpetrators i recall in our country -- e.g., that guy who shot the abortion doctor, the guy out to murder at the holocaust museum, and some incidents i dont quite recall involving students or gang-bangers -- were, id speculate, acting not so much as the lone-wolf terrorists theyve been labelled, but rather as loner wannabe tribalists. what they most wanted was to express solidarity with a group identity that hadnt quite accepted them, but that in their view needed defending against threatening others, even from the fringe where they tried to participate and belong.

wasnt hasan like that? i do not mean to dismiss that he may have thought he was acting as a muslim and arab (note his clothing at the time), but he was into trying to be american too. perhaps, in a sense, his premeditated violence served to amalgamate and harmonize all his multiple identities at once. at that awful moment, they were finally fused and proclaimed, rather than in conflict tearing him apart.

thus my notion of loner tribalism -- in part, a solitary, self-impelled effort to express identity and solidarity with a group to which they yearned but didn't quite get to belong.

* * *

heres an additional speculation: you, jean rosenfeld, and others have noted a lot of distinctions regarding varieties of millenarians, notably in discussions at zenpundit. a distinction i've wondered about is between the true millenarians in a group/movement and the tag-alongs who amount more to "accidental millenarians" (to use a current adjective). the latters' mindsets tend to be more about tribalism (belonging to the group) than about millenarianism (blasting into a new future).

if the distinction makes sense, the point would be to identify strategies and tactics to split the tag-along tribalists off and away from the hard-core millenarians. ive wondered about this a bit in regard to al qaeda and the taliban in afghanistan and pakistan. now im wondering about it in regard to hasan.

from what ive seen so far, hasan wasnt a full-fledged millenarian. his act was apocalyptic, and some of the beliefs he included in his slide presentation had millenarian aspects. but, at least until recently, he was not far gone in that direction. could he have been pulled back? hard-core millenarians cannot be pulled back; they cant be dissuaded or soothed. but tag-along tribalists may be another matter.

if so, a question arises: what kinds of strategies might be advisable? at personal and group levels. to suit hearts and minds. and wouldnt such strategies have to be directed not only at the presumed targets, but also at rectifying the behavior of others in the broader environment who had presumably upset and alienated them?

* * *

of course, these thoughts will prove moot and misplaced if evidence turns up that hasan had in fact morphed into a fully committed, connected jihadist. yet, if he had made only tentative efforts in that direction, which appears to have been the case with other solitary murderers mentioned above, then the notion of a loner tribalist running amok may remain more accurate than lone-wolf terrorist.

-- onward, david

Charles Cameron (not verified)

Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:06pm

Thanks for your comment, John: <blockquote>I have some difficulty locating Hasan's alleged actions in relation to these possibilities. We might well suppose that he was an 'introvert under pressure' but your analysis shows that something more than a psychological 'break' occurred: he had cultivated a set of meaningful oppositions over a considerable period of time, and finally opted for a particular resolution. Would it be too much to suggest that, if he indeed committed these acts [and while granting that he could have fomented even more violence], he came to a view not unlike that of a lone wolf jihadist?</blockquote>I had some hesitation over the paragraph you're referring to myself, because what it describes is the larger question (as I see it) facing us all over the coming weeks and months. Since another longish comment of mine has intervened since your post, I'll quickly repeat here what I'd written:<blockquote>Assuming that Major Hasan was in fact the shooter at Fort Hood and that, as alleged, he shouted "Allahu Akbar" during the event, the main question of fact and interpretation now would be whether Hasan was more an introvert under pressure whose "break" took the jihadist cry "Allahu Akbar" as its outlet, or a patient and long-standing lone wolf jihadist of the sort abu Musab al-Suri calls for (Jim Lacey, A Terrorist's Call to Global Jihad, p. 19), or a wannabe with failed or actual al Qaeda connections, or an al Qaeda or related "soldier" under orders.</blockquote>That's my "big picture" view. <p>In my next paragraph I said "This analysis hopes to provide some leads in that inquiry" -- but my more in-depth analysis is limited to those leads which can be found in the text itself, (i) because the text is the work of Major Hasan and not an interpretation offered by observers, (ii) because it's a detailed snapshot in time, and (iii) because it's my sense that much of the knowledge needed to answer the larger question is still coming into the public sphere in dribs and drabs.
<A HREF="… report</A>, for instance, carries details I didn't know when I wrote up my commentary, but they are details that relate to the larger time-line, not to the slide-show itself.
On the basis of the snapshot presented by the slides themselves, I tend to think Hasan was "more an introvert under pressure whose 'break' took the jihadist cry 'Allahu Akbar' as its outlet" than a fully-fledged jihadist, lone or wannabe or "connected" -- but that the intensification of his conflict continued for quite some time thereafter, and that towards the end he pretty clearly (IMO) viewed himself as a jihadist (and likely a "lone wolf").
But here's my sense of the nuance -- that's a bit like someone who plays guitar, decides they would like to be a singer, and gets a first paid gig with rehearsals and posters and ads in the local papar... in a way you could say they're a singer at that point, but in another way they're just a beginner, not yet fully the thing itself.
Except that in this case, the "first gig" is also apt to be the last -- putting a rather grim spin on TS Eliot's words in <i>Four Quartets</i>, "In my beginning is my end."

Charles Cameron (not verified)

Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:07pm

Okay, we now have two strands of conversation, <A HREF="">one on Zenpundit</A> and one here, and I'd like to do a little cross-fertilizing.

David Ronfeldt has a <A HREF="">comment on Zen</A> in which he contrasts my analysis above with others he's seen: <blockquote>one deemed the presentation irrational -- "just crazy" (commentator on fox news). another claimed it was dogmatic -- a "crystallization of the SJ [Salalfi-Jihadist] ideology" (a jihad-watchers blogpost). yet, i'd say the presentation provides little to no evidence for those views. i'm also surprised to see hasan's rampage at ft. hood being viewed (prematurely?) as possibly "a classic example of Fourth Generation war" (acc. to a dni blogpost).</blockquote> I'd like to add Barry Rubin's analysis into the mix here. I tend to respect the Herzliya GLORIA Center because Reuven Paz really does some very interesting work there, but <A HREF="… piece on Rubin's personal blog</A> struck me as a bit hasty.
Getting back to David's post on Zenpundit, and passing by (for lack of space and time) his paragraphs of analysis using his STA (<A HREF="">space-time-action</A&gt;) distinctions, I thought his comment on "running amok" should be brought on over here. He wrote: <blockquote>finally, your observations about "Hasan's mind . . . as gradually becoming a sort of self-imposed prison, an echo chamber" remind me of the explosive reaction known as "running amok" in which a period of sullen underground brooding is followed by an outburst of sui-homicidal rage. Psychiatrist B. G. Burton-Bradley (1972), based on an analysis of amok-runners in Papua-New Guinea (the source of the term), once paraphrased their thinking as follows:
<i>"I am not an important or "big man." Although poor, I have always had my sense of personal dignity and social identity. But I have had little else. Now even this has been taken from me and my life reduced to nothing by an intolerable insult. Therefore, I have nothing to lose except my life, which is rated as nothing, so I trade my life for yours as your life is favored. The exchange is in my favor, so I shall not only kill you, but I will also kill many of you, and at the same time rehabilitate myself in the eyes of the group of which I am a member, even though I might be killed in the process."</i>
wow. that sounds like part of what happened to hasan. here, the meaning of the violence transcends its instrumental utility (an action orientation). it seems to be mainly about projecting an ego-identity (a spatial orientation), even more than about expecting to break through to a new future (a time orientation). some terrorism has this quality. but so does most tribalism. perhaps hasan was expressing a kind of loner tribalism more than terrorism. </blockquote>David wrote a couple of papers on tribalism for RAND: I'm thinking of <A HREF="">In Search of how Societies Work: Tribes, The First and Forever Form</A> and <A HREF="">Al Qaeda and Its Affiliates: A Global Tribe Waging Segmental Warfare</A> -- but I get the feeling "loner tribalism" is a new wrinkle on his thinking in this (significant) area.

I hope he'll expand on that thought at some point.

Enough for now.

John R Hall (not verified)

Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:51pm

Charles, thanks very much for this lucid and detailed analysis, which, as you rightly argue, foreshadows subsequent events. One thread seems less than fully addressed. At the beginning, you say:

Assuming that Major Hasan was in fact the shooter at Fort Hood and that, as alleged, he shouted "Allahu Akbar" during the event, the main question of fact and interpretation now would be whether Hasan was more an introvert under pressure whose "break" took the jihadist cry "Allahu Akbar" as its outlet, or a patient and long-standing lone wolf jihadist of the sort abu Musab al-Suri calls for (Jim Lacey, A Terrorist's Call to Global Jihad, p. 19), or a wannabe with failed or actual al Qaeda connections, or an al Qaeda or related "soldier" under orders.

Given your analysis, I have some difficulty locating Hasan's alleged actions in relation to these possibilities. We might well suppose that he was an 'introvert under pressure' but your analysis shows that something more than a psychological 'break' occurred: he had cultivated a set of meaningful oppositions over a considerable period of time, and finally opted for a particular resolution. Would it be too much to suggest that, if he indeed committed these acts [and while granting that he could have fomented even more violence], he came to a view not unlike that of a lone wolf jihadist?

Granten (not verified)

Sun, 11/15/2009 - 7:24pm

I find it hard to believe that Mr. Hasan was truly a 'lone wolf' type of terrorist or an actual member of a terrorist organization. I admit to not having a great knowledge of his actions prior to the shootings, but I base my argument of the fact that he chose to use a firearm rather than some more devastating form of attack.
While it is tragic that 13 are dead and 31 are injured by this attack, it really wasn't even close to a major attack on the United States. Compared to the 1983 bombing that killed 241 American soldiers in Lebanon or the approximately 3000 people killed in the Sept. 11 bombings this attack did little physical damage, and it certainly had nothing close to the political damage of the other two.
Also, as a soldier of the rank of major and as a military psychologist he assuredly could have done far more damage over a long period of time. He could have tried to find other like minded people and recruit them for a major attack. He could have tried to encourage dissent towards the war without openly doing anything illegal*. He could have made an effort to pass information on to the Taliban once in Afghanistan, or desert to them. In comparison, this attack may have the effect of creating distrust and prejudice towards Muslims in the military, but that is something that is hardly impossible to counter.
I admit that I am only writing on the attack and its consequences, not of the man. That is because the attack can in some ways be dissected with actually experiencing it. Despite the clear, piece by piece work done in this article I am not convinced that a man can be psychologically analyzed except by a trained professional who has interviewed him over a long period of time and has all the information made available to him. I will also admit that my argument rests on the relatively low impact of the attacks on the United States**. I will admit that there is a possibility that the man was a long term terrorist or that he was a member of an extremist group in some way, but if he was then he certainly was not an especially capable one.

*Simply arguing against a war is in no way illegal. It might be grounds for punishment or a discharge by the military, but it is of course not something that is punishable by incarceration to my understanding.
**By that I mean there have been no anti-Muslim riots reported in a newspaper (my experience with antiwar demonstrations shows that this is not absolute evidence), there have been no draconian laws passed in response to it, and media coverage seems very similar to the 'snipings' from several years ago.

charles -- excellent work. i've opted to leave my comments over at the parallel post at zenpundit, where i'm accustomed to engaging. see you there, i hope. -- onward, david


Good work. I think we had a mind meld- I was writing a similar article. Your words are better though. Couple of thoughts:

1. The mind is incredibly complex, and we will probably never determine a single dependent variable for these actions. As we investigated the motives of suicide bombers in my little corner of Iraq, we found a mixture of ideology, emotion, and sense of grievance in each martyr. The combination stirred and fermented until it burst.

2. For preventive purposes, it is important for leaders in all areas of society to reject these actions as immoral and selfish whether it's Columbine, Va Tech, or Fort Hood.


Jim Gregory (not verified)

Sun, 11/15/2009 - 10:16am

Thanks for the perspective -- very interesting.

I particularly agree with the comment, "I would no more blame Islam or all Muslims for this than I would blame Christianity or all Christians for the actions of a lone anti-abortion activist who bombed a clinic, shouting "Praise the Lord." I hope others can make the distinction as well.

I believe that any religion can be twisted, and as made clear in the article, many many factors contributed to the version of Islam in which Hasan believed. Recognizing the warning signals, just as with someone who might attempt suicide, is the key. That, however, is far easier said than done, and is usually only clear in hindsight. Such is life sometimes I suppose.

One note: (p.2)...a practicing psychiatrist who would shortly have been deployed to one of the theaters of war in Afghanistan or Iran...