Monday, December 14, 2015

Luke Skywalker and ISIS

Via Marginal Revolution, I found "The Radicalization of Luke Skywalker" interesting.

Despised people -- terrorists; slaveholders; Republicans, to the New York Times -- think of themselves as good and worthy, though they do things we find unfathomably evil. Understanding how they see themselves is the first step to any sort of progress in world affairs. Understanding need not mean agreeing or condoning. The language we use -- "terrorist," "radicalize" -- puts them beyond comprehension; useful for ordering drone strikes but not for understanding why people sign up and how they might be turned. The analogy is admittedly strained, but seeing that we might have felt the same feelings that attract terrorists is an unsettling and useful experience.  Even if it's only a movie.


  1. If 120 people killed in Paris pisses people off, imagine how they feel in the Middle East when that's a typical day - if they're lucky.

    We make a country look like the bottom of a Shake n Bake bag and can't understand why they're "radicalized". Then when they seek refuge in the countries that inflicted this horror they're rejected. If you wanted them to stay home you should have left them a home to stay in.

    Does anyone have a particular beef with Syrians to the point where you want to kill them? I don't know any Syrians. I have no quarrel with Syrians. I don't want to kill anybody. But as Adolf Eichmann observed, you have to convince the people that somehow this threatens the Homeland. Otherwise you could never get people to go fight in a war where their best possible outcome is to come home in one piece.

    1. Large misreading of the situation. The Syrian War is really part of a broader conflict in the Middle East I call the Arabian Peninsula Civil War, other fronts of which include Yemen where the Saudis and Emiratis are getting waxed by the Houthis (like Hezbollah an Iranian client), northern Iraq, a presidential election in Lebanon that has been unable to produce a quorum to determine a winner for 15 months now, random skirmishes in Egypt, and the de facto split of Libya into 2 countries. The combatants in this war are Saudi Arabia and allies (GCC countries mostly and the likes of al-Qaeda affiliates) vs. Iran and allies (Assad, Hezbollah, various Shias) with other characters playing ancillary roles, but it's mostly Saudi Arabia vs. Iran. At stake is control of the Middle East for the next couple generations, the reason it's so opaque is because both sides let others do their dirty work for them. The civilian is irrelevant to the conflict.

    2. Ryan, wadr, had JWB hunt in Tx, ME wud of been in different state..only conjunction..

  2. Reporter:"What if the kids at Columbine were her today, What would you say to them?"
    Marlyin Manson: "I wouldn't say anything, I'd listen to them, which nobody else did.

  3. Also, I would like to say that one of the reasons i love studying the Founding Fathers of the US is that at one point they were also considered terrorists.

    This however does not justify killing of innocents and general thuggery...which is something that the Founding Fathers debated greatly.

    -Same Anon as the Manson Quote.

  4. The belief that all conflict is caused by resentment at past injustice or ongoing injustice stems from the belief that all people would share our goals if only they could look past their anger or we would do them no harm.

    This belief might be incorrect.

  5. John, thanks for the post and the link. Very entertaining.

    Philospher Peter Boghossian claims that better success can be had in deradicalizing the radicalized by undermining their faith by introducing doubt: something he implies is under-utilized by many deradicalizers. He's had some experience in this regard with prisoners (that is in getting them to change their minds when they don't want to change them). I don't know how successful he really has been, but his talks are entertaining if nothing else.

    Another approach I heard of recently was from this Columbian marketing expert, who claims success in getting rebels to quit the rebel army:

    I first heard about it here:


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