While he may be willing to die for a vision, a "traditional" terrorist doesn't intend to die. An "apocalyptic" terrorist does.
That's what separates those responsible for Sept. 11 from Basque, Northern Irish, Stalinist or other extremists, former U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters said last week at Westminster College. Peters, who left the Army after 20 years so he could "speak freely" about the military and world events, has written several best-selling books on the topics and was named by Newsweek in 1997 as one of the 100 people to watch as the United States entered the new millennium.
Traditional "terrorists don't want to destroy society, they want to control it," Peters said. "Apocalyptic terrorists are trying to jump-start Armageddon."
Life in prison isn't an effective punishment for terrorists. They will be seen as martyrs and will inspire violent acts by others making statements about their imprisonment, he said.
"You don't deal with them by compromising," Peters said. "You deal with them by killing them."
The seeds for this type of terrorism are planted through the terrorists' experiences growing up and living in Middle Eastern countries, most of which lag economically and militarily, he said.
There are a number of reasons for this, such as lack of freedom of speech in most countries. But Peters believes that not including women in education and the workplace had the most impact in causing the Middle East to fall behind the West in power. They've "alienated 50 percent of the population."
"When confronted with the West, you can ask, 'What happened and how can I fix it?' Or you can ask, 'Who can I blame?' " Peters said.
Middle East terrorists chose to blame. And because many Middle East governments have become increasingly ultra-conservative in recent years, the region's social and economic problems will stagnate, Peters said.
That also means terrorism won't go away soon. "Be prepared for another 100 Years War," Peters said.