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LUISS Guido Carli

The role of information in global security

Professor Orsini discusses the research and goals of the LUISS Observatory on International Security

Alessandro Orsini LUISS DRIA

“International security is a vast concept. It includes the world of relationships between states, but it also touches on questions regarding radicalization processes and migration patterns.” Professor Alessandro Orsini teaches Sociology of Terrorism for the Department of Political Science and is director of both the LUISS Observatory on International Security and the site Sicurezza Internazionale.“The best forces from the Observatory work on the site, where all our research and studies come together,” explains Professor Orsini. “The project has two goals. The first is cultural: we want to allow Italian readers to receive daily updates on political problems that are hardly ever discussed in Italy in order to create serious debate on international politics in our language. Currently, there is a not a single site in Italy like ours. Our second goal is to launch a startup, an economic enterprise based on academic knowledge that creates work for young talented scholars with high level research profiles. Our editorial team is made up of high-profile contributors: PhD candidates and interpreters respected on the international level. We have interpreters and translators of Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Urdu, Portuguese, Spanish, French and English.”

Alongside the quality of the writing staff, Sicurezza Internazionale also boasts continually updated content, offering commentary on fragments of stories as they develop. “We publish approximately 20 articles a day, every day of the year. We write about all countries and issues regarding international security, including commercial agreements, arms trading and diplomatic meetings. Italians interested in international politics will finally have a daily source of information on what is happening around the world. We write with three types of readers in mind: students and scholars, politicians and diplomats, and foreign policy journalists.”

An interest in international politics and an urge to offer a concrete contribution to international security are the foundation of Professor Orsini’s research. “I studied the lives of those who have committed murder or massacres in the name of Islam in the West since 2001. I compared their life stories, looking for a common thread in their radicalization processes. To understand “our jihadists” we have to first work on a methodical classification process. There are thousands of terrorists and it is ridiculous to think that there is a sociological model that is able to take thousands of different radicalization processes into account. The only possibility is to identify a specific category of terrorist and study it in depth. Compared to terrorists who act for revenge, economic reasons or cultural heritage, those that I refer to as terrorists by vocation embrace terrorism to satisfy an inner spiritual need.” 

From a comparative study of these profiles came the DRIA model that aims to explain the radicalization process of terrorists by vocation. “DRIA is an acronym that summarizes the four fundamental phases. D stands for Disintegration of social identity. All these men and women begin their journey towards jihadist ideology with an existential crisis. R stands for Reconstruction of social identity through radical ideology, giving them a new meaning to their lives. I stands for Integration in a revolutionary sect, where the individual moves on from mere cognitive radicalization, that is, radicalized ideas, to violent radicalization with concrete behaviors in favor of jihadist attacks. The final phase is marked by A, which stands for Alienation from the surrounding world, the phase in which radicalized individuals develop deep hatred towards world around them and tend to close themselves off from impure beings.”

From the Kouachi brothers of the Charlie Hebdo shootings to Anis Amri in the recent Berlin attack, the murderers’ profiles reveal that nearly all of them are converts. “A sincere conversion is always the result of great inner anguish. This applies to more than just young jihadists. I have spent my life working on existential crises and anthropological metamorphoses in young people. From the incredibly young Satanists that killed Suor Maria Laura Mainetti to terrorists from the extreme right and left, I have studied the existential paths of young people who live in deep uneasiness. It is from this place that they look to escape, grasping onto radical ideologies that give them a new existential meaning. Be it a jihadist, Satanist or political terrorist, the fundamental point is that existential crises pushes them to extreme and absolute points of reference.”

Developed during a research period at MIT, Professor Orsini’s DRIA model was used by the Ministry of Justice in documents for the Department of Prison Administration to understand jihadist radicalization in Italian prisons in 2016. “We cannot understand, prevent and guide an individual’s exitential crisis, but we can do a lot for the phases of Integration and Alientation from the surrounding world, when we can observe evident behaviors. “The most important thing,” concludes Professor Orsini, “is to study these phenomenons deeply, without giving in to the distorted ideas of superficial information. This is one of the objectives of both the Observatory and Sicurezza Internazionale: encourage Italian readers to examine what happens outside of Italy and how problems of various countries are interconnected.”