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« Foresight Conference Reporting | Main | Transformative Power »

October 27, 2004

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Tom Craver

The one and only known method of preventing terrorist attacks - nuclear or otherwise - is to not piss them off. Don't send troops into their country, don't bomb them or blockade their ports. If they're religious fanatics, don't attack their co-religionists in another country. Keep your troops at home, and your navy in your own waters, and your airforce in your own airspace. Don't try to monopolize orbital space. Defend yourself, and do NOT go off on ideological crusades - not even to protect the weak from bullies.

Now if an individual wishes to go off and risk his life fighting to defend some little country from a bully, more power to them - so long as he first cuts his citizenship ties, so he doesn't drag his former nation into a war.

Janessa Ravenwood

Tom: the problem is that our EXISTENCE pisses them off. The fact that we’re not fundamentalist Muslims living under strict Sharia Law. The fact that I – a woman – am not someone’s property who can be murdered at will for their “honor” deeply disturbs them. What you’re talking about is APPEASEMENT. Has it not occurred to you that there is something deeply wrong with a group of people who it’s necessary to “act carefully” around for fear they’ll just up and go psycho on you and anyone else in easy reach if you don't? And your suggestion that we should never try to help people in trouble is utterly reprehensible – I assume you’re perfectly OK with the genocide going on in the Sudan? Should we have let the Axis powers conquer Europe in WW2? Was that intervention unjustified?

Brett Bellmore

While I'll agree that it helps to avoid unnecessarilly pissing people off, it's not always possible, short of paying a price that's too high. Sometimes people are pissed off by things you just can't reasonably change, like the fact that you won't adopt Sharia as the basis of your legal system.

Tom Craver

Domestic terrorists are a more difficult nut to crack - no pun intended. Well, ok, pun intended, but I'm hard pressed to think of anyone who historically comes close the feared "lunatic" terrorist, who might use nanotech to destroy the world "just because they can". Most terrorists are very angry about being powerless to change something - but that doesn't mean they are insane. Offer them a way out, and they'd likely take it.

So maybe all society needs to prevent domestic terrorism is a "relief valve" - a way that those who feel they are trapped and oppressed by their own nation, can escape. Set aside a good sized region as a "free zone" where minimal laws apply - perhaps only "Life is sacred" (murder, slavery, and WMDs outlawed) is enforced from outside. Anyone could go there and stay as long as they wished - set up their own local government if they so desired and could convince others to join. Even give haircuts without a license - go wild, as long as you don't break that one law.

Tom Craver

Janessa, Brett - sorry, but I think you both know better.

Appeasement says "if we let them take what they want, maybe they'll leave us alone". I'm saying "It isn't any of our business if some other nation so poorly defends itself that they get taken, and resists so weakly afterward that they can be kept." I suppose you might call it isolationism, though usually that has protectionist trade connotations that I'm not suggesting. I prefer to call it "Avoiding Foreign Entanglements" - you may have heard of the idea.

Also - they don't "hate us because we're free" (i.e. our existence) nor even "because we don't follow Sharia" - they hate us because we support and manipulate the secular governments over there to our benefit, and support Israel, and because the West keeps troops in the region to keep the oil flowing.

When did Muslim terrorism start? Seems to me it was the PLO, angry about Israel, and at the West for supporting Israel. Anger over that helped Iran go Islamic and they held some people "hostage" for a while - mostly just chaos in the wake of a revolution. Then the massive Western adventure of the first Gulf War, and the fundamentalists started to get broader support, as all the secular governments looked like our puppets. Then 911 and, after a justifiable (though not necessarily wise) conquest of Afghanistan, the US decided to up the ante by going into Iraq - and now the terrorists are making converts and allies left and right. Yeah, this entanglement stuff is working really well for us. Why do they hate us so???

Janessa Ravenwood

Janessa, Brett - sorry, but I think you both know better.
-----
I was hoping I could say the same about you, but I guess not.


Appeasement says "if we let them take what they want, maybe they'll leave us alone". I'm saying "It isn't any of our business if some other nation so poorly defends itself that they get taken, and resists so weakly afterward that they can be kept." I suppose you might call it isolationism, though usually that has protectionist trade connotations that I'm not suggesting. I prefer to call it "Avoiding Foreign Entanglements" - you may have heard of the idea.
-----
I’ve heard of it, I just reject it utterly. Case in point – if you’re getting mugged some night on lonely city street and I’m wandering by, shall I just keep on passing by and say “not my problem” or shall I attempt to assist you and/or call the police? According to what you’ve said above (and before), the former response is the correct one. We are diametrically opposed here (but if you insist, I shall never attempt to come to your aid if you’re in distress).


Also - they don't "hate us because we're free" (i.e. our existence) nor even "because we don't follow Sharia" - they hate us because we support and manipulate the secular governments over there to our benefit, and support Israel, and because the West keeps troops in the region to keep the oil flowing.
-----
Regarding our staunch ally Israel, they are the ONLY democracy in the Middle East (hoping to add Iraq to the list soon). We aren’t going to stop supporting this ally of ours anytime soon, so I’d get used to it. And am I to take it that you prefer to take the sides of the Islamic dictatorships that surround it, who have publicly declared again and again that they want to conquer and destroy it completely, and who in fact have tried to do so, over Israel? I do, in fact, assume this to be the case with you from your writings here, but I’ll give you a chance to refute it. Women are property in the most of the rest of the Middle East, but they are voting citizens with equal rights in Israel. That tells me pretty much all I need to know about the situation there, not that I suppose you care about little things that (USA & Israel = always bad, always wrong?).


When did Muslim terrorism start? Seems to me it was the PLO, angry about Israel, and at the West for supporting Israel.
-----
[BLEEP] the pseudo-state of Palestine. They’re our enemies who danced and sang in the streets on 9/11. I wish them nothing but misery, death, and destruction (as I do all enemies of the U.S.). And I’M dancing with joy at the news today that Arafat’s finally on his deathbed. Long overdue and hopefully a civil war will wrack Palestine fairly soon and then the terrorists – that’s TERRORISTS not “militants” – of the PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc. can start killing each other instead of blowing up buses full of civilians in Israel; it would make for a nice change of scene.


Anger over that helped Iran go Islamic and they held some people "hostage" for a while - mostly just chaos in the wake of a revolution. Then the massive Western adventure of the first Gulf War, and the fundamentalists started to get broader support, as all the secular governments looked like our puppets. Then 911 and, after a justifiable (though not necessarily wise) conquest of Afghanistan, the US decided to up the ante by going into Iraq - and now the terrorists are making converts and allies left and right. Yeah, this entanglement stuff is working really well for us. Why do they hate us so???
-----
Once again, there is something DEEPLY wrong with a group of people who it’s necessary to “act carefully” around for fear they’ll just up and go psycho on you and anyone else in easy reach if you don't. Lots of people around the planet don’t like us (and to hell with all of them as well) but the only ones strapping bombs to themselves and declaring a holy war against us are the Muslims. They’re also the group responsible for most of the slavery currently still in practice on the planet and ones with absolute worst track record of civil rights for women (and just civil rights period). Coincidence? I think not. I REPEAT, if you have to tip-toe around a group of people for fear that unless you do they’ll become crazed homicidal psychopaths towards you and yours, then you’re dealing with some seriously screwed-up people. Just “leaving them alone” won’t help. As the head of Hamas said “We aren’t fighting you because we want something from you, we are fighting you because we want to destroy you.” This leaves us with 2 options – kill or be killed. I know what side I’m on and unfortunately I suspect which side you’re on – and I’m doubting it’s ours.

=====

I’m admittedly getting a bit off-track here, but America-hating terrorist sympathizers rather irritate me. Ultimately, I can say that regarding nanotechnology, the Islamic terrorists (again, that’s TERRORISTS not “militants”) are the groups I most worry about getting their hands on it. Although if we get it first, we can use to better hunt down and kill them all. Another reason for early development in the U.S. – a nano-enabled War on Terror would be frightening beyond words to our enemies. It would improve our detection and kill ratios of terrorist vermin considerably.

Brett Bellmore

Historically, Muslim terrorism has it's origins in WWII, when Nazism took the middle east by storm, and we didn't do squat to clean the place up after wee took out Hitler. It's not just an epithet, most of the older Muslim terrorist organizations were literally founded by Nazis.

Michael Vassar

Janessa, while I generally understand your sentiments, I don't think that islamists developing MNT first is plausible. Simply put, they are STUPID. That's why they are terrorists. What major technical innovations have come from the middle east in the last few centuries. For that matter, what major technical innovations have come from ANYWHERE but the US in the last few decades?

Chris Phoenix, CRN


I have to question Tom's view of terrorists. After 9/11, some political organizations that used terrorism--I'm thinking of Ireland--realized that times had changed and terrorism was simply not appropriate. So they decided to stop using terrorism.

As a result, some terrorists left the organization and traveled to other continents so that they could continue being terrorists under other organizations. In other words, they did not care why they were terrorizing--they had no cause whatsoever--they simply wanted to commit terror.

Chris

Karl Gallagher

Jihadis don't have to develop MNT to use it any more than they needed to develop airliners. Lots of useful gadgets can be lethal with a little tweaking or a malicious operator.

I'll second Janessa's points here. It is not possible for some religions/ideologies to coexist with others, they have to either win or be destroyed. Ideally we'd be able to spare the carriers of the memes in the process, but self-preservation usually requires harsher measures.

Chris Phoenix, CRN


More thoughts on terrorism and terrorists:

To understand terrorism, we must not lump all terrorists together. And for at least some terrorists, we must look at psychology. My analysis hints that organized terrorism may be perpetuated by career terrorists practicing psychological manipulation on susceptible individuals. Injustice may even play a secondary role.

There are at least two dimensions of terrorism. One dimension goes from guerrilla (small irregular/militia fighting groups, focused on a military objective, who may or may not also target chosen civilians) to terrorist (small nonmilitary groups targeting random civilians using paramilitary tactics). (Militaries may commit terror and/or destruction on civilians during wartime, but I think that may be a separate conversation.) It's a mistake to assume that guerrillas have the same motivation and psychology as terrorists--and it's a mistake to ignore the slippery slope that can turn guerrillas into terrorists.

The other dimension is the level in the organization. It goes from the person directing the terrorism (often politically motivated), through the person planning the attack and recruiting the attackers, to the person who carries out the attack. Occasionally these may all be the same person, as in Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City) and Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber). But in any terrorist organization, you'll find some people running the organization, supporting others who recruit yet other people as suicide bombers or whatever. I'll call these levels the directors, the planners, and the perpetrators.

The directors' motivation is probably straightforward: they have a goal, and calculate that terrorism will help them achieve it. So they go out and find a few planners. Of course, some terrorism can start without directors, simply from an escalating pattern of violence; but it's a good bet that planners will soon emerge in these cases.

I think psychology is important in understanding the planners and the perpetrators. My assumption is that it's the planners who left Ireland to continue being terrorists. I don't have a good understanding of their psychology; I can't see any motivation or thought pattern. Process of elimination suggests that, to them, it's simply a career.

The perpetrators are interesting. From everything I've read, their psychology is similar if not identical to the "amok" psychology. That is, they brood over injustices and insults until they decide that their life is worse than useless and the rational response is to take as many people with them as they can. This psychological process seems sufficient to explain why a person would make a good recruit for the planners.

Even if what I've written above is correct in every detail, it is woefully incomplete. For example, it doesn't even touch on the factor of general-population support for terrorists. But I don't see how we can address terrorism usefully without first completing this analysis. It's easy to lump the issue into "terrorism" or "terrorist" or even "terror", and then declare an intention to stop it, but if we really want to stop it we'd better understand where it starts.

Are some sociocultural situations more likely than others to produce the "amok" mindset? Can formerly normal people be talked into it (by the planners/recruiters), and if so, how can this be prevented? What is the connection between the level of actual personal injustice and the level of perceived insult? Does it differ by individual case?

Is it best to focus our efforts on the directors, the planners, or the perpetrators--or do we have to address all three?

To what extent does organized terrorism depend on support among the population? What makes a population willing to support terrorism? (Injustice certainly plays a part here--but the relationship is at least nonlinear--and what else is involved?)

How can lone-wolf terrorists (spontaneous amoks) be prevented? Did Kaczynski and McVeigh have the same psychology?

Chris

Janessa Ravenwood

Michael: let me clarify. I certainly don't think MNT will be *developed* by terrorist groups (beyond laughable, I agree), but what I worry about is that it might be developed first by someone else besides us who isn't friendly to us but might be a bit more friendly towards them (or at least not caring if Hamas wants to place an order with them for WMD's as long as they can pay).

Janessa Ravenwood

Chris: A very thoughtful essay. I'll need some time to think that one over. Well done.

Karl Gallagher

Can formerly normal people be talked into it (by the planners/recruiters), and if so, how can this be prevented?

The Palestinian terrorist groups have set up a well-defined process for doing this. They have the support of a society where "martyrdom" is glorified from elementary school on, so that may be a prerequisite. Al Qaeda has also drawn on recruits from fanatical backgrounds (Saudi Arabia, Pakistani madrassas) for their suicide troops. Eliminating that support may require restructuring their society (cf all debates about Iraq as a front in war on terror).

Is it best to focus our efforts on the directors, the planners, or the perpetrators--or do we have to address all three?

Israel seems to be having tactical success by focusing on the directors of terror groups.

What makes a population willing to support terrorism? (Injustice certainly plays a part here--but the relationship is at least nonlinear--and what else is involved?)

"Injustice" is slippery in this context. Is it unjust for Belfast to be ruled from London? I don't mind. My cousins in Ireland (both sides) don't mind. Some of the relatives in America, now, they mind. The latter have moderated their support for terrorism considerably now that 9/11 drove home the relative values of sovereignty and life. That reduced the money flowing to the Provos, and they became less aggressive.

So--is it unjust for women to walk about unveiled? How about for a Jew to be mayor of Jerusalem? Many people think so, and are in favor of using violence to correct the situation. That's a big reservoir of support for terrorism. I think ideology or religion has to be considered directly. "Injustice" just begs the question of which values are used to judge by.

How can lone-wolf terrorists (spontaneous amoks) be prevented? Did Kaczynski and McVeigh have the same psychology?

That strikes me as the hardest problem. But fortunately lone-wolves tend to not prefer suicide attacks, which make them easier to stop. I don't really see a solution short of a transparent society for them.

Tom Craver

Janessa:

So if I'm not for the nations you favor, I must be for their enemies, and an America-hater? Nope - I'm for neither of them and more pro-America than you - you're willing to risk American lives (and not just soldiers, as you should have learned on 9/11) to protect your favorite other nations. (What benefit does the US get from "staunch" Israel, to balance the risks we take because of them?)

A nation is not an individual - the same rights and responsibilities do not apply. Nations are only responsible for their own citizens' safety - they have no other moral value. If you wish to go fight to defend Israel, feel free (as many former US citizens did, BTW) - just don't drag the U.S. into it. (Too late for that now, of course. Gee, thanks.)

I am not suggesting that the United States "act carefully" around Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Iran, etc. I'm suggesting that we not act for or against them so long as they leave us alone. Since most of the world now thinks of the US as "someone to act carefully around", I guess you believe France and Germany should form a coalition to attack the US on behalf of Iraq, just as we jumped in to defend Kuwait? Or in their case do you think they should just mind their own business?

Project your interventionist policies out to the nanoweapon proliferation era, and compare that to my disentanglement approach. After maybe 20 years of each approach, under which policy would US citizens be safer? Twenty years of creating more terrorists or perhaps inciting the unification of a hostile Islamic empire - or twenty years for terrorists to lose interest in the US because we won't play their games?

Tom Craver

Chris:

Irish planners that just move on to be terrorists for other causes (probably feeling betrayed by the directors of their own movement), are locked into the life of a terrorist. They can't just settle down in Ireland, or any civilized nation - they are still "most wanted".

I'm talking about removing the motive to become a terrorist. If ideological directors and professional planners can't recruit masses of perpetrators, they fail.

Chris Phoenix, CRN


Karl: "Israel seems to be having tactical success by focusing on the directors of terror groups." I have some serious (non-rhetorical) questions: Are they creating martyrs? And/or are they creating a climate where society will support more terror directors? If so, tactical success could lead to strategic failure.

"But fortunately lone-wolves tend to not prefer suicide attacks, which make them easier to stop." I question this. Think of Columbine. Some (most?) amoks want to go out in a blaze of glory/destruction. Hm... are there two subtypes? Was McVeigh more of a director type than a perpetrator type?

"So--is it unjust for women to walk about unveiled? How about for a Jew to be mayor of Jerusalem?" These were not what I meant by injustice. Trying to think from the point of view of incipient amoks, I would classify these as insults. But brooding on "intolerable insults" is quite enough to drive someone amok. What is taken personally, and what is considered intolerable, of course, vary considerably from culture to culture.

This was my point about injustice having only a limited effect on spawning terrorism. Insults also have an effect--and insults are in the eye of the beholder--people can be trained to be insulted by things that do them no harm and were not even intended to affect them at all. What is the relationship between insult, injustice, and terror?

And how much effect do economic conditions and social prospects have? Amoks, so I've read, think their life is worthless. How much harder would it be for recruiters to convince them of this if they had better economic prospects? (What are the poverty statistics in Palestinian refugee camps?)

Speaking of economics, another thing that can make someone feel low is coming from a poor and proud culture into a rich but alien one. This may be the origin of the idea that "they hate us for our lifestyle." I've read anecdotes of people coming to the US, being overwhelmed by our relative riches, and deciding we were corrupt and decadent and needed to be destroyed. How common is this?

If I created a "terrorist mindset" project over on Wise-Nano, would anyone come contribute to it?

Chris

Janessa Ravenwood

So if I'm not for the nations you favor, I must be for their enemies, and an America-hater? Nope - I'm for neither of them and more pro-America than you - you're willing to risk American lives (and not just soldiers, as you should have learned on 9/11) to protect your favorite other nations.
-----
You seem awfully eager to condemn America for the attacks of the terrorists and are all but an apologists for their actions (it’s all our fault, not theirs, that they attack us). My suspicions stand.


(What benefit does the US get from "staunch" Israel, to balance the risks we take because of them?)
-----
A) A good deal of cutting edge biotechnology is being developed in Israel right now. In fact, they might even be the ones to make the MNT breakthrough since the U.S. is dragging its feet on it and they certainly have plenty of incentives to do so.
B) A great deal of financial investment (both ways).
C) Just about any democratic nation surrounded by savage and barbaric dictatorships has and deserves our friendship and support (as an foreign policy Isolationist, I know you certainly disagree on this point).
D) Unlike the traitorous Europe (whose defense costs we’ve paid for decades), Israel supports our actions on the world stage instead of stabbing us in the back like Europe.

I also believe you to be at least a low-grade sympathizer as you seem to be coming from the same point of view as the Islamic dictatorships that surround Israel – that this tiny little country is cause of all of their problems (such a convenient scapegoat that absolves them of any responsibility for themselves). While not explicitly stated by you, I’m sensing a lot of condemnation of Israel from you, but none of the countries surrounding. Feel free to correct me by condemning them for their actions (and societies, and lunatic psychopathic religious cultures), but you keep mentioning Israel a lot.


A nation is not an individual - the same rights and responsibilities do not apply. Nations are only responsible for their own citizens' safety - they have no other moral value. If you wish to go fight to defend Israel, feel free (as many former US citizens did, BTW) - just don't drag the U.S. into it. (Too late for that now, of course. Gee, thanks.)
-----
A convenient excuse. Duly noted, no one should help you if you’re in distress. And fortunately our support for Israel is democracy in action – the leaders we have elected have chosen to do so. If you disagree, you are free to vote against them and communicate to them your disapproval of this. Just out of curiosity, since you’re such a foreign policy isolationist, should we immediately nullify all treaties we have ever signed with all other countries, pull out of the U.N., and expel the U.N. from U.S. soil? Just curious how consistent your views are. If we are not to interfere in other countries, we should sign no treaties and not be a part of organizations that consistently interfere (or, well, ineffectually TRY to interfere) in other countries all the time. Admittedly, I don’t entirely disagree with some of that, but my reasons are different from yours. I’m an unabashed U.S. nationalist who wants to see the U.S. continue to reign supreme on planet Earth. I’m going to take a wild guess that you want to see the U.S. “humbled.”


I am not suggesting that the United States "act carefully" around Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Iran, etc. I'm suggesting that we not act for or against them so long as they leave us alone.
-----
But as I said, they WON’T leave us alone. It’s either deal with situation proactively now or deal with it when it becomes a bigger problem later. It’s part of their religion that we have to die because we’re infidels – you seem to have a problem with figuring that out. Islam does not co-exist well with others.


Since most of the world now thinks of the US as "someone to act carefully around", I guess you believe France and Germany should form a coalition to attack the US on behalf of Iraq, just as we jumped in to defend Kuwait? Or in their case do you think they should just mind their own business?
-----
Now you’re deliberately twisting what I said. Saying that American foreign policy is comparable to the behavior of suicidal, psychopathic Islamic terrorists waging a holy war on us is just ludicrous – but it says a lot about your feelings toward America. You were saying you weren’t an America-hater?


Project your interventionist policies out to the nanoweapon proliferation era, and compare that to my disentanglement approach. After maybe 20 years of each approach, under which policy would US citizens be safer? Twenty years of creating more terrorists or perhaps inciting the unification of a hostile Islamic empire - or twenty years for terrorists to lose interest in the US because we won't play their games?
-----
The policy we would be safer under is the one that kills the most terrorists, not the one that tip-toes around them for fear of angering them. Get it through your head, WE are not creating terrorists, their RELIGION is creating terrorists. Again, like I said before, there are plenty of people who don’t like us (and are you honestly going to even try to make the case that any nation will never have any enemies anywhere?) but only the Muslims are strapping bombs to themselves and declaring holy war on us. France doesn’t like us at all, either. In fact quite a few French people hold large rallies to scream the most horrible epithets imaginable about America. However, despite all that, I still don’t see any Frenchmen crashing planes into American buildings shrieking “Viva La France! Die American Pigs!”

Tom Craver

Janessa:

This is getting a bit too far from nanotech. If you want responses to your latest post, I'll be happy to answer in email.

I'll close here by asking how many times the US was attacked by those horrible, barbaric Muslims in the first half of the 20th century. Pretty close to zero?

Why did they suddenly get worse? What changed? When you can answer that, you may find the key to preventing nano-terrorism - and I guarantee you it won't involve killing people.

Brett Bellmore

"Why did they suddenly get worse? What changed?"

Two things:

1. The Nazis got a lot of converts in the middle east, around the middle of the last century, and we never did get around to cleaning out THAT sewer, like we did Europe. Most of the older Islamic terrorist organizations like the PLO and Hamas were founded by Nazis after WWII.

2. Oil revenues have given them the resources to reach beyond their own borders.

Oh, and you think Islamic terrorism is something new, look up the Barbary pirates. This goes back more than a few decades.

michael vassar

The question to me is, how long from MNT development till terrorists get a hold of it. If the time gap is significant, I just don't think it's an important issue. Sorry fellows, I don't think we *can* plan for 5 years post MNT. We have to make short term massively parallel proposals, plans not likely to be obsoleted by a single historical contingency of moderate size, and accept that mature MNT will have consequences that make planing now fruitless, but which people can handle as they develop.

Minor factoid for consideration. Palistinians in Israel have, for what its worth, a longer life expectancy than African Americans, and 5-15 years longer than that of natives of Arab nations. To the (high) extent that this is a proxy for adequate material conditions, they are not very high on the list of oppressed people. I would love to find life expectancy data on French Muslims. All I could find was that 80% of French prisoners are Muslims (out of 10% of the population). This is a much larger fraction than the fraction of US prisoners who are African American (drawn from a larger percent of the population)

Tom Craver

Brett:

If Nazi involvement is a cause of Islamic attacks on the US, why did they wait so long to start attacking the US after WW-2, and why have the attacks increased in recent decades?

Barbary Pirates - with criminal/mercenary rather than ideological/political motivations. If the Barbary pirates reveal the inherent violent tendencies of Islam, does the Mafia reveal the inherent violent tendencies of Catholicism?

Janessa Ravenwood

Tom: Waiting for an e-mail response. Thought you said you wanted to take this discussion off-site?

Karl Gallagher

Chris asks: Are they creating martyrs? And/or are they creating a climate where society will support more terror directors?

Martyrs, yes. But the Pals have a plethora of martyrs, I don't see that adding a few more will matter. In the same vein the climate there seems to be maxed out in support for terror, so that may also not have an impact. The actual long range impact is TBD, which is why I phrased it cautiously. But it's certainly a lot easier to implement than going after perpetrators.

Think of Columbine.

Yep. Suicidal lone-wolves. Tough problem to identify and head off. Though easier in one way--bombers have to be prevented before it goes off, an armed population can take down a shooter before they cause much damage. We may be forced to rethink our practice of having teachers unarmed in the future.

insults are in the eye of the beholder

That's the key problem with all appeasement/non-interference policies (sorry, Tom). Eventually they take offense anyway, or pretend to offense to extort more, or you're caught between two groups with incompatible demands (say, Marxists and Wahabis).

Amoks, so I've read, think their life is worthless. How much harder would it be for recruiters to convince them of this if they had better economic prospects?

Most of the suicide bombers I've read about are doing pretty well economically, at least above average. The truly poor just keep struggling. The doing well who've hit a ceiling seem to be the best recruits.

another thing that can make someone feel low is coming from a poor and proud culture into a rich but alien one.

Can be a big impact, yep. Though the USA seems to assimilate a good many immigrants successfully. Europe tends to let in degreed engineers, forbid them from working, and put them on welfare so they can sit at the mosque and brood continuously. See Mohammed Atta. So I see assimilation as more a driver than culture shock per se.

If I created a "terrorist mindset" project over on Wise-Nano, would anyone come contribute to it?

Sure. I might even recycle some of my old arguments onto it:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/selenite/53556.html?thread=109620#t109620
You might want to look at how wikipedia is handling controversial subjects first. That could be serious troll-bait.

Matt

From what I´ve been reading here I conclude everyone here holds the view that the Iraq was indeed harboring terrorists to no end before the last war, thus possibly justifying preemptive intervention. Iraq certainly does hold lots of terrorists and guerilla fighters now, but outside the US administration and some of its supporters a quite different view of the situation before the invasion seems to prevail. Has that been considered by anyone?

Also the typical argument in justifying the war nowadays is that the Iraqi people are now better off than before, with free elections coming to them etc. But who exactly is "the Iraqi people", because it obviously can´t be all of them? All I know is that daily too many civilians die from fighting alone (killed by US military and terrorist bombs alike) so that often it´s not worth an even short mention in newspapers anymore; as always after wars, many, especially the poor, live under worse conditions than before. I don´t know to what extent this was directly caused by the invasion and how much was just revealed as left-over from Husseins regime, but I do know that the US currently show no signs of any plan whatsoever of how to turn Iraq into a stable democracy. And before someone says "There will be elections soon": Elections alone, as noted in the "Defining Democracy" post comments, don´t go anywhere towards building a democracy, if the rest of the plan is still missing.

If I created a "terrorist mindset" project over on Wise-Nano, would anyone come contribute to it?

I´d be in too, and I agree with Karl: Such a hot topic can only work under strict neutrality, the one that for example the Wikipedia has been practising from the beginning. This means: no rhetorical questions, no fictional narratives, source quotations (links) recommended, opinions formulated as neutral as possible, no first person perspective. If important changes are made to the text, for example removing an argument, it might be wise to explain the changes in the Talk if it´s not obvious from the article.
In brief, it should look almost like a scientific text. Of course it will still be mostly opinion. But for such a discussion to be any useful, neutrality is mandatory.

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