Back in September 2001, I was taking a class titled “The Politics of the Middle East and North Africa,” which took an immediate unexpected significance following the 9-11 attacks. Over the next couple years, on the topic of terrorism, I was fortunate enough to have classes that gave me an inside view into academia’s and the Administration’s thinking, including on deep background straight for the lips of those making policy to implement the Bush Administration’s strategy in the War on Terror.
My study of the subject culminated in a thesis titled “Incentive Systems in Terrorist Organizations;” in which, I applied my professional experience managing debt collection organizations to the study of how terrorist organizations function as an organization. Looking back on that paper, I did not really break new ground in understanding what counter-terrorism policies disrupt terrorist organizations, instead I explained in a way that no one else had the cause and effect of why those counter-terrorism policies (backlash, deterrence, and reform) are effective.
The recent Boston Marathon bombing terrorist attack started me to think back again upon my ol’ paper. While there are relevant issues from the paper about organizational affiliation and how distributed networks are able to be maintained by the terrorist organization to achieve organizational goals, I think that most people (including our ignoramus President) are primarily perplexed by how the younger brother could have gone from successful student to terrorist.
I would note that higher education is a breeding ground for terrorists; not my insight as it is a decades old observation in the study of terrorist organization.
In my paper, I noted that there are three conditions for an organization to be a terrorist organization, instead of something else like a criminal gang: (1) the justification to violence (provided by the ideological leaders), (2) the drive to violence (provided by the criminal element who is recruited into the organization as a corrective for their individual past sins), and (3) the capacity for effective action (provided by able individuals who are motivated by fighting what they judge to be injustice).
That last point is hard to believe, but all of the evidence that I examined demonstrated it to be true and it explains the cause and effect relationships for Ted Robert Gurr’s conclusions about which combination of counterterrorism policies are effective.
In 2002 or 2003, while writing my paper, I gave a presentation of my preliminary findings to a group of friends through our philosophy club (George Mason University Objectivist Club). They correctly challenged me on that last point. At the time, I replied that it was necessary to understand that these generally capable and productive individuals were in pre-Aristotelian cultures or subcultures in which logic had not been made a consistent part of their lives.
After reading John Lewis’ Solon the Thinker, I would now add that these individual’s ideas of freedom are pre-Solon.
While my quick response related to culture and the basis in Greek thought satisfied me that I was not jumping off the deep end without support from reality, I had not really thought through the full consequences of that idea. Fortunately for me, Dr. Leonard Peikoff was thinking through those issues and has recently published The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West Are Going Out, which begins with the brilliant observation:
THE FALL OF Western civilization—if it does fall—can be traced to its beginning. I do not mean that its beginning led to its end. I mean the opposite: Our rejection of our beginning is what is killing us.
I have been lucky enough to enjoy some of Peikoff’s lectures that led to the book, so I have an early preview of Peikoff’s thinking. My friends and I have been using terms from the book related to integration vs. misintegration vs. disintegration, and the designations I, M1, M2, D1, and D2 for years now. I have not read the full book yet, but I did attended a discussion with friends on the book’s 1st chapter today.
To be clear, Peikoff is examining broad issues of culture and philosophic systems. However, as a friend and I used to joke about system building, if you can not use an application or component to create value in at least three things that it was never intended to do then you do not really understand it. As such, I am interested in how Peikoff’s hypothesis can (1) explain the relationship between certain philosophic ideas (M1 and M2) and particular mental illnesses, (2) explain the ideological conflicts at the frontiers of civilization and what I think of as the Globalization Wars of local traditionalism versus modernity, and (3) explain presence of the productive individuals who make terrorist organizations a threat.
I look forward to reading more of Peikoff’s final integration to see how I can apply it to concerns in my interests, and improve my understanding of the current American crisis.
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