Maybe Terrorists are Actually Just Morons?

Gwern has a fascinating essay about terrorism, Terrorism-is-not-about-Terror:

There is a commonly-believed strategic model of terrorism which we could describe as follows: terrorists are people who are ideologically motivated to pursue specific unvarying political goals; to do so, they join together in long-lasting organizations and after the failure of ordinary political tactics, rationally decide to efficiently & competently engage in violent attacks on (usually) civilian targets to get as much attention as possible and publicity for their movement, and inspire fear & terror in the civilian population, which will pressure its leaders to solve the problem one way or another, providing support for the terrorists’ favored laws and/or their negotiations with involved governments, which then often succeed in gaining many of the original goals, and the organization dissolves.

Unfortunately, this model, is in almost every respect, empirically false.

It’s a great essay, so go read the whole thing before we continue. Don’t worry; I’ll wait.



Now, since I know half of you didn’t actually read the essay, I’ll summarize: terrorists are really bad at accomplishing their “objectives.” By any measure, they are really bad at it. Simply doing nothing would, in most cases, further their political goals more effectively.

This is in part because terrorists tend not to conquer and hold land, and in part because terrorism tends to piss off its targets, making them less likely to give in to the terrorists’ demands. Consider 9-11: sure, the buildings fell down, but did it result in America conceding to any of Al-Qaeda’s demands?

The article quotes Abrams 2012:

Jones and Libicki (2008) then examined a larger sample, the universe of known terrorist groups between 1968 and 2006. Of the 648 groups identified in the RAND-MIPT Terrorism Incident database, only 4% obtained their strategic demands. … Chenoweth and Stephan (2008, 2011) provide additional empirical evidence that meting out pain hurts non-state actors at the bargaining table. … These statistical findings are reinforced with structured in-case comparisons highlighting that escalating from nonviolent methods of protest such as petitions, sit-ins, and strikes to deadly attacks tends to dissuade government compromise. … Other statistical research (Abrahms, 2012, Fortna, 2011) demonstrates that when terrorist attacks are combined with such discriminate violence, the bargaining outcome is not additive; on the contrary, the pain to the population significantly decreases the odds of government concessions.3

(Aside: Remember, right-wing violence doesn’t work. It’s stupid and you will fail at accomplishing anything.)

Another “mystery” about terrorism is that it actually doesn’t happen very often. It’s not that hard to drive a truck into a crowd or attack people with a machete. Armies are expensive; coughing on grocery store produce is cheap.

If terrorism is 1. ineffective and 2. not even used that often, why do terrorist groups exist at all?

Terrorists might just be dumb, stupid people who try to deal with their problems by blowing them up, but there’s no evidence to this effect–terrorists are not less intelligent than the average person in their societies, anyway. People who are merely dumb and violent tend to get into fights with their neighbors, not take airplanes hostage.

Gwern suggests a different possibility: People join terrorist organizations because they want to be friends with the other terrorists. They’re like social clubs, but instead of bowling, you talk about how going on jihad would be totally awesome.

Things people crave: Meaning. Community. Brotherhood.

Terrorist organizations provide these to their members, most of whom don’t actually blow themselves up.

Gwern quotes Sageman’s Understanding Terrorist Networks:

Friendships cultivated in the jihad, just as those forged in combat in general, seem more intense and are endowed with special significance. Their actions taken on behalf of God and the umma are experienced as sacred. This added element increases the value of friendships within the clique and the jihad in general and diminishes the value of outside friendships.

Enough about terrorists; let’s talk about Americans:

“Jihad” is currently part of the Islamic cultural script–that is, sometimes Muslims see some form of “jihad” as morally acceptable. (They are not unique in committing terrorism, though–Marxist terrorists have created trouble throughout Latin America, for instance, and the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka were one of the world’s deadliest groups.)

Thankfully, though, few major groups in the US see jihad or terrorist violence as acceptable, but… we have our exceptions.

For example, after a Jewish professor, Bret Weinstein, declined to stay home on a “Day of Absence” intended to force whites away from Evergreen State College, WA, violent protests erupted. Bands of students armed with bats and tasers roamed the campus, searching for Weinstein; the poor professor was forced to flee and eventually resign.

(More on Evergreen.)

Antifa are a growing concern in the US, both on-campus and off. As Wikipedia notes:

Antifa groups, along with black bloc activists, were among those who protested the 2016 election of Donald Trump.[10][44] They also participated in the February 2017 Berkeley protests against alt-right[47][48][49][50] speaker Milo Yiannopoulos, where they gained mainstream attention,[27] with media reporting them “throwing Molotov cocktails and smashing windows”[2] and causing $100,000 worth of damage.[51]

Antifa counter-protesters at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 “certainly used clubs and dyed liquids against the white supremacists”.[39]

During a Berkeley protest on August 27, 2017, an estimated one hundred antifa protesters joined a crowd of 2,000–4,000 counter-protesters to attack a reported “handful” of alt-right demonstrators and Trump supporters who showed up for a “Say No to Marxism” rally that had been cancelled by organizers due to security concerns. Some antifa activists beat and kicked unarmed demonstrators[51][63] and threatened to smash the cameras of anyone who filmed them.[64]

Antifa, like terrorist groups, typically attract folks who are single and have recently left home–young people who have just lost the community they were raised in and in search of a new one.

The article recounts an amusing incident when a terrorist organization wanted to disband a cell, but struggled to convince its members to abandon their commitment to sacrificing themselves on behalf of jihad. Finally they hit upon a solution: they organized social get-togethers with women, then incentivised the men to get married, get jobs, and have babies. Soon all of the men were settled and raising children, too busy and invested in their new families to risk sacrificing it all for jihad. The cell dissolved.

Even Boko Haram was founded in response to the difficulties young men in Nigeria face in affording brides:

Our recent study found that marriage markets and inflationary brideprice are a powerful driver of participation in violence and drive recruitment into armed groups. Armed groups often arrange low-cost marriages for their members, help members afford brideprice, or provide extra-legal opportunities to acquire the capital necessary to take a wife. In Nigeria, in the years in which Boko Haram gained influence under founder Mohammed Yusuf, “items required for [a] successful [marriage] celebration kept changing in tune with inflation over the years.”66  A resident of the Railroad neighborhood of Maiduguri, where Yusuf established his mosque, recalled that in just a few years, Yusuf had facilitated more than 500 weddings. The group also provided support for young men to become “okada drivers,” who gained popularity for their affordable motorbike taxi services — who often used their profits to afford marriage. Thus, Boko Haram’s early recruits were often attracted by the group’s facilitation of marriage. Even in the aftermath of Yusuf’s assassination by the Nigerian state and the rise of Abubakar Shekau, the group has continued to exploit obstacles to marriage to attract supporters. The women and girls that are abducted by the group, estimated to number more than 6,000, are frequently married off to members of the group.

Antifa of course aren’t the only people in the US who commit violence; the interesting fact here is their organization. As far as I know, Dylan Roof killed more people than Antifa, but Roof acted alone.


I suggest, therefore, that the principle thing driving Antifa (and similar organizations) isn’t a rational pursuit of their stated objectives (did driving Milo out of Berkley actually protect any illegal immigrants from deportation?) but the same social factors that drive Muslims to join terrorist groups: camaraderie, brotherhood, and the feeling like they are leading meaningful, moral lives by sacrificing themselves for their chosen cause.

Right-wingers do this, too (the military is an obvious source of “meaning” and “brotherhood” in many people’s lives).

And the pool of unmarried people to recruit into extremist organizations is only growing in America.

We have always been at war with Eurasia--I mean, supported gay marriage

But we don’t have to look to organizations that commit violence to find this pattern. Why change one’s avatar to a rainbow pattern to celebrate gay marriage or overlay a French flag after the Charlie Hebdo attack?

Why spend hours “fighting racism” by “deconstructing whiteness” online when you could do far more to help black people by handing out sandwiches at your local homeless shelter? (The homeless would also appreciate a hot lasagna.) What percentage of people who protest Islamophobia have actually bothered to befriend some Muslims and express support toward them?

The obvious answer is that these activities enhance the actor’s social standing among their friends and online compatriots. Congratulations received for turning your profile picture different colors: objective achieved. Actions that would actually help the targeted group require more effort and return less adulation, since they have to be done in real life.

Liberal groups seem to be better at social organizing–thus I’ve had an easier time coming up with liberal examples of this phenomenon. Conservative political organizations, at least in the US, seem to be smaller and offer less in the way of social benefits (this may be in part because conservatives are more likely to be married, employed, and have children, and because conservatives are more likely to channel such energies into their churches,) but they also do their share of social signaling that doesn’t achieve its claimed goal. “White pride” organizations, for example, generally do little to improve whites’ public image.

But is this an aberration? Or are things operating as designed? What’s the point of friendship and social standing in the first place?

Interestingly, in Jane Goodall‘s account of chimps in the Gombe, we see parallels to the origins of human social structures and friendships. Only male chimps consistently have what we would call “friendships;” females instead tend to live in groups with their children. Male friends benefit from each other’s assistance in hunting and controlling access to other food, like the coveted bananas. A single strong male may dominate a troop of chimps, but a coalition can bring him to a bloody end. Persistent dominance of a chimp troop (and thus dominance of food) is thus easier for males who have a strong coalition on their side–that is, friends.

Man is a political animal:

From these things therefore it is clear that the city-state is a natural growth, and that man is by nature a political animal, and a man that is by nature and not merely by fortune citiless is either low in the scale of humanity or above it … inasmuch as he is solitary, like an isolated piece at draughts.

And why man is a political animal in a greater measure than any bee or any gregarious animal is clear. For nature, as we declare, does nothing without purpose; and man alone of the animals possesses speech. … speech is designed to indicate the advantageous and the harmful, and therefore also the right and the wrong; for it is the special property of man in distinction from the other animals that he alone has perception of good and bad and right and wrong and the other moral qualities, and it is partnership in these things that makes a household and a city-state.

Most people desire to be members in good standing in their communities:

Thus also the city-state is prior in nature to the household and to each of us individually. [20] For the whole must necessarily be prior to the part; since when the whole body is destroyed, foot or hand will not exist except in an equivocal sense… the state is also prior by nature to the individual; for if each individual when separate is not self-sufficient, he must be related to the whole state as other parts are to their whole, while a man who is incapable of entering into partnership, or who is so self-sufficing that he has no need to do so, is no part of a state, so that he must be either a lower animal or a god.

Therefore the impulse to form a partnership of this kind is present in all men by nature… –Aristotle, Politics, Book 1

A couple of other relevant quotes:

From Eysenck’s work on political extremism


The spread of the internet has changed both who we’re talking to (the people in our communities) and how we engage with them, resulting in, I hypothesize, a memetic environment that increasingly favors horizontally (rather than vertically) transmitted memes. (If you are not familiar with this theory, I wrote about it here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) Vertically spread memes tend to come from your parents and are survival-oriented; horizontal memes come from your friends and are social. A change in the memetic environment, therefore, has the potential to change the landscape of social, moral, and political ideas people frequently encounter–and has allowed us to engage in nearly costless, endless social signaling.

The result of that, it appears, is political polarization:


According to Pew:

A decade ago, the public was less ideologically consistent than it is today. In 2004, only about one-in-ten Americans were uniformly liberal or conservative across most values. Today, the share who are ideologically consistent has doubled: 21% express either consistently liberal or conservative opinions across a range of issues – the size and scope of government, the environment, foreign policy and many others.

The new survey finds that as ideological consistency has become more common, it has become increasingly aligned with partisanship. Looking at 10 political values questions tracked since 1994, more Democrats now give uniformly liberal responses, and more Republicans give uniformly conservative responses than at any point in the last 20 years.

This, of course, makes it harder for people to find common ground for compromises.

So if we want a saner, less histrionic political culture, the first step may be encouraging people to settle down, get married, and have children, then work on building communities that let people feel a sense of meaning in their real lives.

Still, I think letting your friends convince you that blowing yourself is a good idea is pretty dumb.

Terrorists are getting better at Terrorism

Courtesy of Saul Montes-Bradley‏ @Debradelai

Saul Montes-Bradley is the author of Gander: Terrorism, Incompetence, and the Rise of Islamic National Socialism

Data from 1981-2015 is from the State Department; 2016’s data is from Homeland Security. Note that this is global, not limited to the US or Europe; it’s also specifically terrorism, not guerrilla warfare or similar war-related acts.

Let’s assume the data is accurate and not biased by something like “we couldn’t get into this area to count how many attacks there were before 2000,” nor, “Well, before this was a ‘war’ and 3,000 people were dying from ‘warfare’ every year but now we’re calling it ‘terrorism’.”

Montes-Bradle attributes the massive, recent rise to Obama/Obama’s policies, but I note that the rise began in 2004–when Bush II was still in power–and had a local maximum in 2007–also when Bush II was still in power. Things improved during Bush’s final year in office, and continued improving (slowly) for Obama’s first four years in office, before jumping back to Bush-levels in 2013.

So: clearly something has changed, and I’m going to say it changed in 2004, though we might say 2001. But what? And why? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the terrorists got serious about killing people. A lot of bombs and even airplane hijackers back in the 70s and 80s didn’t actually kill anyone, or if they did, casualties were fairly low. 9-11 marked a big departure from previous terrorism in that it actually killed a huge number of people, especially relative to the number of terrorists involved.

Terrorists are getting better at what they do because terrorists change their tactics much faster than governments change theirs. Terrorism mutates faster than governments can respond.

The West has no Idea how to Handle Islam

ETA: more terrorist attacks have happened since I wrote this. I give up on covering them all.

Most of the world’s ethnic groups divide up pretty neatly–if not into countries, then into distinct groups spread across several different countries. Alliances between countries are normally formally announced, so that you know that if you attack, Japan circa 1942, you’re likely to be counter-attacked by Germany. You don’t have to worry, though, about being attacked by China, or random Chinese people living in your own country, because China isn’t Japan, doesn’t have an alliance with Japan, and the Chinese people don’t particularly care what you do to Japan so long as you don’t do it to them. (In fact, the Chinese were pretty pissed at Japan by that point.)

As long as two countries don’t have an alliance, you can normally attack one without worrying about the other.

Islamic identity seems to function somewhat differently (at least in some cases.)

Americans are used to thinking of religion as a set of beliefs, eg, “God made the world in 6 days,” or “Enlightened people move on to a higher plane of existence,” or “You shouldn’t turn on the lights on Saturday.” Religion therefore falls under our philosophical notion of freedom of conscience, enshrined in the First Amendment.

But throughout much of the world, religion functions much more like ethnicity than like belief. Yes, technically people from different religions believe different things, but as a practical matter, the belief that “We are people who follow the true religion and they are people who follow the false religion,” is more important than the specific details of the religions involved.

If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself what were the theological underpinnings of the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland?

It’s a near meaningless question. Knowing that the Catholics have a Pope and the Protestants don’t because centuries ago because King Henry VIII wanted a divorce tells you nothing useful. You just need to know that Catholics and Protestants see themselves as different groups.

Judaism is the only religion Westerners have much experience with and are used to thinking of as operating like an ethnic group. Most Westerners I’ve discussed the subject with seem vaguely confused about what exactly Judaism is, but they understand pretty well that if you start massacring Jews in your country, you should expect a visit from the Israeli air force.

But Jews are a relatively small group, with only one official country which has clearly articulated alliances with others, so there is not too much confusion on the point.

Recent random terrorist attacks in the West have included a Pakistani couple who opened fire at a Christmas party in an Bernardino, CA; a Moroccan Tunisian man who drove a truck into a crowd of French folks celebrating Bastile Day; and an Afghan teenager who attacked a train full of Germans with an axe.

The US is not at war with Pakistan*, France with Morocco, nor Germany with Afghanistan. Random American, French, and German citizens abroad do not, to my knowledge, make politically motivated mass-attacks on their host countries.

*Or is the US? I know Obama has authorized drone strikes on targets within Pakistan, among other countries. It was easy under Bush II to keep track of America’s military engagements, because they were big, declared, and obvious. Under Obama, we are not exactly at war with Pakistan, but we do sometimes kill people who happen to be living in Pakistan, like Osama Bin Laden. It’s confusing.

At any rate, according to Wikipedia, the Farooks were motivated by the desire to be jihadis and allegiance to ISIL, not Pakistan. Riaz Ahmadzai, the 17 year old Afghan, also appears to have acted on behalf of ISIL (though probably not on ISIL’s instruction,) not Afghanistan’s. Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the Tunisian armed with a 19-ton truck, also committed his attack on behalf of ISIL, not Tunisia. Fun fact: “A UN report from May 2015 shows that 25,000 “foreign terrorist fighters” from 100 countries have joined “Islamist” groups, many of them working for ISIL or al-Qaeda.[393]

Picture 4

The US, France, Germany, Russia, India, and probably the majority of the world are, in fact, at war with ISIL, which makes it kind of incredible that it still exists–the rest of the world has forgotten how to conduct wars.

You might think that ISIL draws its supporters from the ranks of the super-devout, but the opposite is most likely true:

“I always thought the people most likely to join a terrorist group were the people praying five times a day with a beard and being very pious and going to a radical mosque,” says Usmani, who is Muslim and was born in Pakistan. He came to the U.S. to do his PhD at Florida Institute of Technology.

But what he found is that they are more likely to go from secular to radicalized. They are often educated online — among the 5,000+ YouTube videos from supposed Muslim “scholars.” Technology has enabled an explosion of content that is far from true Islam.*

Now, this is a rotten pickle. It’s bad enough to worry about about Japanese-Americans when you are at war with Japan; it’s another thing entirely to have to worry about anyone whose parents were vaguely Buddhist.

I am particularly saddened by all of this for personal reasons. This isn’t the world I asked for; I certainly don’t want this conflict.

I assume the solution is to actually defeat ISIL instead of pussy-footing around so that it stops being a problem. But look how well that went the last time we tried to take over a country in the Middle East and replace its government with a more favorable regime.


*Phrases like “true Islam” annoy me because as far as I know, there is no Islamic “Pope” who gets to decide what is and isn’t “true Islam.” Nevertheless, it remains a constant in my experience that really devout people (of whatever religion) tend to believe more in principles like “love everyone because we are all God’s children,” than moderate religious folks.


An Open Letter to the People of Germany

(With special thanks to Pwyll for the translation!)

Liebe Deutschen:

Es ist OK. Sie können ruhig aufhören, sich zu entschuldigen.

Ja das stimmt, vor etwa 80 Jahren hat Deutschland einen Fehler gemacht. Dieser Fehler hat viele Menschen getötet. Keine Sorge, diese Geschichte kenne ich schon. Und jetzt tut es Ihnen Leid, sehr Leid. Sie wollen, daß die Welt weiß, daß Sie gute Menschen, nette Menschen sind.

80 Jahre ist eine lange Zeit. Fast alle, die daran beteiligt waren, sind jetzt tot.
Liebes Deutschland, du mußt dich für deine Großväter und Urgroßväter nicht dauernd entschuldigen. Die Vergangenheit kann man nicht ändern. Ihre Vorfahren können Sie nicht ändern.

Sie müssen für deren Sünden nicht sterben.

In der Nikomachischen Ethik hat Aristoteles die Moral als das Verhalten zwischen Mangel und Übermaß definiert. Ein Mensch der zum Beispiel zu viel ißt, ist der Fressgier schuldig. Ein Mensch, der mit Absicht verhungert, ist jedoch genauso schuldig, und bereitet zusätzlich seiner Familie viel Qual und Leid.

Mit dem Nationalismus ist es auch so: zu viel ist ein Laster, zu wenig jedoch auch.

Deutsche haben das Recht auf Sicherheit, Frieden, und Glück. Sie haben auch das Recht, auf Ihre Leistungen und Ihre Kultur stolz zu sein.

Und Sie haben das Recht, Wut für die Leute zu empfinden, die versuchen Sie zu töten und Ihnen Leid anzutun. Die Deutschen haben das Recht, sich zur Wehr zu setzen auch wenn es heißt, zurückschlagen zu müssen und Maßnahmen zu ergreifen, die solchen Situationen vorbeugen. Sie haben das Recht auf Ihre Existenz.

Ich wünsche Ihnen viel Glück,



Dear Germans:

It’s okay. You can stop apologizing.

Yes, about 80 years ago, Germany made a mistake. It killed a lot of people. Don’t worry; I already know the story. And now you’re sorry, really sorry. You want the world to know that you are good people, nice people.

80 years is a long time. Almost everyone involved is now dead.
Germany, you don’t need to keep apologizing for your grandfathers and great-grandfathers. You can’t change the past. You can’t change your ancestors.

You don’t need to die for their sins.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defined morality as behaving between deficiency and excess. A person who eats too much, for example, is guilty of gluttony. A person who purposefully starves himself, however, is equally guilty, and causes his family great distress and suffering.

So, too, with nationalism; if too much is a vice, then so is too little.

You have a right to safety, peace, and happiness. You have a right to pride in your accomplishments and your culture.

And you have a right to be mad at the people who are killing you. You have a right to fight back. You have a right to exist.

I wish you the best of luck,


What the hell do the terrorists even want?

IRA: Wanted Northern Ireland to be part of Ireland.

Palestinian Terrorists: Want to take over Israel

Ted Kaczynski: Wanted people to stop chopping down his forest

OK City: Revenge for Ruby Ridge and Waco

9-11: Incoherent hate of America

Madrid Train Bombing: None

Anders Breivik: didn’t like communists

Tsarnev Brothers: Incoherent hate of America

Charlie Hebdo: disliked Hebdo’s Muhammad cartoons

Paris attack: ISIS support

San Bernardino Christmas party shooting: incoherent ISIS Support

Oregon Occupation: Opposition to the BLM

Brussels bombing: ISIS Support

Easter bombing in Pakistan: hatred of Christians

Say what you will, the IRA, ETA, and PLO had clear, coherent goals. Goals they were willing to kill babies to achieve, but still goals. You knew what they wanted and could at least hypothetically negotiate with them about it.

Since 9-11, the attacks have been increasingly incoherent. Why would Pakistani-American citizens attack the US in support of one side or the other in a civil war going on in Syria? Why would the children of Chechen refugees attack the country that took them in? Why would a guy living in Afghanistan believe it is anti-Muslim for the US to protect the interests of Muslims in Kuwait? Why move to the EU and then violently object to the laws or foreign policy? For that matter, why the hell would anyone support ISIS?

We may infer a kind of pan-Islamic tribalism which regards the US (and other Western nations) as acting against Islamic interests, but even this is incoherent. Why would Osama bin Ladin feel the need to stand up for Saudi Arabia when the Saudis could do it perfectly well themselves?

In reality, the US prior to 9-11 was pretty agnostic on Muslims. Palestinians were unpopular, due to terrorist attacks against Israel, but countries like Egypt and Jordan attracted the average person’s interest only because of their pyramids and long history. Most US actions in the Middle East over the past 55 years had been motivated by Cold War or “peace keeping” concerns.

The US supported Egypt in the Suez Crisis, keeping the Suez Canal under Egyptian control, an obvious economic boon to Egypt. We have supported, at various times, the Shah of Iran, the King of Jordan, Iraq against Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan against Soviet invasion. We intervened militarily on behalf of Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Somalia.

The US gives a substantial amount in foreign aid to other countries every year; in 2013 (the Wikipedia only lists our foreign aid for 2013 and 2012,) we gave 42.829 billion dollars–or $134 from every American citizen–to Muslim countries from Afghanistan to Yemen. (See bottom of post for my list of aid dollars per country.)

It has only been since 9-11 that Americans really become aware of the “Muslim world” as a coherent entity (if such exists) with which “we” are supposedly in conflict.

Before then, as mentioned before, our concerns were largely leftovers from the Cold War era. The “modernizers,” like Kemal Ataturk, King Hussein of Jordan, the Shah of Iran, and Saddam Hussein were “the good guys,” capitalists intent on modernizing their countries and promoting free market economic opportunities.

I recall a conversation I had with a high-ranking US government official in the weeks before 9-11. He pointed out a picture of the King of Jordan he had hanging in his office, and referred to the king as “a good guy” and “one of our friends.”

The “bad guys” were the Communists. If you’ve read Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, then you know that the Iranian Revolution was a communist revolution. The triumph of “radical Islam” in Iran was a Communist revolution against Western Capitalism.

Saddam was our guy against the Ayatollah, until he invaded Kuwait (which may be partially our fault due to our ambassador inadequately conveying the idea that we would invade if he did.)

The Palestinians are supported by the likes of Noam Chomsky, Cultural Marxists, and regular Marxists.

Anti-capitalism is anti-colonialism is anti-modernism is anti-Westernism is radical religious fundamentalism.

The Muslim world is split between two factions, modernizers who want capitalism and are happy to work with the West, and radical internationalist who oppose Western influence and want to return to religious fundamentalism through out the Islamic world.

This is why the invasion of Iraq failed and could not help but fail: we took out our own guy, the modernizer, the capitalist. Who would replace him? Another capitalist? No, we got the opposition party, the fundamentalist, the communist, ISIS.

We took out the capitalist and put the communists in power.

We fucked ourselves, to the tun of 3 trillion dollars and thousands of dead soldiers. (And Iraqis.)



Table of 2013 US Aid to Muslim countries in millions of dollars (I picked Bosnia, on behalf of whose Muslim population the US intervened following the breakup of Yugoslavia, as my “minimum Muslim %” cut-off for inclusion in this list.) My apologies if I’ve missed any.

Afghanistan 5265.95
Albania 298.38
Algeria 207.96
Azerbaijan -63.13
Bangladesh 2669.1
Bosnia 550.04
Burkina Faso 1040.11
Chad 399.33
Comoros 81.9
Djibouti 152.95
Egypt 5505
Eritrea 83.69
Gambia 110.8
Guinea 499.5
Guinea Bissau 103.6
Indonesia 53.3
Iran 131.3
Iraq 1,541.4
Jordan 1,407.9
Kazakhstan 91.3
Kyrgyzstan 536.6
Lebanon 626.4
Libya 129.4
Malaysia -119.4
Maldives 22.9
Mali 1,391.3
Mauritania 291.2
Morocco 1,966.1
Niger 773.1
Nigeria 2,529.4
Pakistan 2174.1
Senegal 982.8
Sierra Leone 443.7
Somalia 991.9
Sudan 1,163.1
Syria 3,626.7
Tajikistan 382.2
Tunisia 713.6
Turkey 2,740.5
Turkmenistan 37.3
Uzbekistan 292.5
Yemen 1,003.5


Important Update: Looks like my sources were wrong and Lt. White has not been charged, but is considering charging him. The text below has been changed accordingly.

Anarcho-tyranny is when the state itself imposes anarchy on its population and punishes them for trying to rectify the situation. It refers most egregiously to situations where people cannot legally defend their own lives or property, or where they are charged with crimes after defending themselves.

In today’s anarcho-tyranny, the Navy is considering charging Lt. Commander White with unlawful possession of a firearm on Navy property after he stopped a gunman in the midst of a mass-murder.

You remember this case. A man–we shall call him a Muslim terrorist–walked into a Navy recruitment office and opened fire. The center’s commanding officer, Lt. White, returned fire, probably killing the shooter (there was another gun on the premises that may also have been used, but that shooter is dead and so won’t be charged with any crimes.) and saving the lives of many people. Lt. White faces a minimum of 20 years in prison for bringing a firearm onto a no-guns Federal property.

Now, as far as gun laws themselves are concerned, I’m pretty agnostic. I’m neither on the “everyone should have their own machine gun” side, nor on the “all guns are evil” side. It is pretty obvious to me that different conditions–like, are there bears in your neighborhood?–should probably lead to different laws. I am in favor, however, of not punishing people for good deeds, and for letting them defend themselves.

The whole point of having a gun-free zone is to prevent violence; if the government cannot guarantee the safety of people in those zones, then the government has failed. People must be able to go about their business without fear of random violence; if violence is a problem, then people must be allowed to take steps to protect themselves, like installing metal detectors or taking self-defense classes, or the government must step in and protect them, say, by increasing police patrols. To prevent the former while failing to do the latter creates the conditions of anarcho-tyranny–people are legally prohibited from defending themselves while the gov’t does nothing to defend them.

Lt. White’s violation of the law saved the lives of multiple people. His actions are a clear case that should not be prosecuted; rather,the government should investigate ways to make its no-gun areas safe.

The over-proliferation of laws–legal over-criminalization and over-regulation–is partly a side effect of an over-large government that’s been around for longer than almost any other government on Earth (no, seriously, most governments got their start post-WWII) and so had a long time to make legislation, and partly a side effect of trying to get a bunch of different people with different social norms to get along together in one big country.

For example, Freedom of Speech–one of our core American values–allows one to insult the leaders of major religious groups. But Muslims tend to really dislike seeing their Prophet disrespected. Put both groups in close contact, and one or the other (or both) is liable to be highly unhappy. The result–more laws trying to clarify when it’s okay to be offensive and when it’s not–tends not so much to make people happier, as to make life a bigger pain in the butt for everyone involved. (The obvious solution, IMO, is that people who want to insult Mohammad and people who don’t want to see Mohammad insulted shouldn’t talk to each other.)

More and more regulations are a creeping, silent tax. Small businesses especially hare hard-hit by ever-increasing regulations to keep track of and comply with; eventually the winners are those with the spare budget to afford armies of lawyers to wade through the legislation, or those who cheat. Increasing regulations disincentivise honesty.

Gun laws, as I understand them, have gotten to a similarly complicated state. Of course, there is always some conflict between keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, and keeping guns in the hands of people who would defend themselves from criminals. In this case, I am inclined to think that Navy officers probably aren’t criminals, whether on Federal property or not.

The reasons for the gun-free zones like the one Lt. White was caught in probably stem from the crime wave of the late ’80s/early 90s–the “Gun Free School Zones Act,” for example, was passed in 1990. That crime wave had nothing to do with Naval officers carrying guns at Naval recruitment offices, but everything to do with the impact of the crack/cocaine trade on inner city ghetto (black and Hispanic) homicide rates and gang wars.

Anarcho-tyranny is using laws intended to stop black and Hispanic gang violence to punish whites for defending themselves against Muslim terrorists.