I'm posting this paper below in light of the October, 2023 massacre in Israel, where Hamas terrorists indiscriminately killed civilians, abducted noncombatants including children and the elderly, committed rape, and defiled the dead. It provides a way to understand why happened and why.
Under more typical circumstances of warfare, there is a general relationship between the scale and complexity of an attack, and its impact and lethality. Nonstate actors incapable of the complexity necessary to produce their desired impact and lethality upend this otherwise linear relationship when they resort to comparatively simple but depraved means. These means have an outsized effect because they are unconstrained by standard accounts of dignity and widely accepted moral norms. Think of crashing airliners into towers by commandeering the planes with box cutters, or invading a nation with trucks and motorcycles to massacre, rape, and abduct unarmed civilians in their homes, cars, at bus stops, and at festivals, with only incidental engagement of military targets.
More powerful nations could foresee these means, but historically fail to apprehend the risks and guard against such attacks for two reasons: 1) doing so would require measures that degrade their civic life in ways nations with an emphasis on personal freedom would not accept, and 2) these nations can lack the perverse imagination of their opponents by virtue of their conditioning as broad adherents to moral norms of violence, or fail to operationalize and compartmentalize that capacity out of complacency.
The perverse imagination of groups like Hamas therefore puts nations that aspire to liberalism in a practical and moral bind. To take the protective measures that would synthetically render evolving perverse means of attack complex enough to be forced into the traditional linear relationship, liberal nations must engage in some combination of 1) perverse thinking that diminishes their own dignity, 2) constraints on civil liberties and freedoms that contravene liberal values, and 3) externalizing defense by prophylactically imposing these costs on an opposition's populace.
The means of attack employed by Hamas and similar groups impose moral injuries that go beyond the proximate human toll of the attacks themselves. They take aim at the values that underly a liberal state in a cycle of escalating depravity.