January 10, 2010

Why We Fight

Filed under: Global War On Terror, Mainstream Media — Tags: — Russ @ 2:24 am


The NYT’s “Week in Review” started off badly with a stupid neocon spiel masquerading as a think piece.
But then I was intrigued to see this headline for the next piece: The Terrorist Mind: An Update.
Actually pondering why they fight? Pretty edgy stuff, especially for the NYT. I thought they were just “evil”.
After all, just because the fighters themselves claim to fight because the American war machine invades their land and destroys their people is no reason to take what they say seriously. We’re Americans. We’re the good guys. If we invade and destroy we must have the highest motivations.
“Caesar never did wrong, but with good cause”, as Shakespeare has Caesar say. Ben Jonson may have goofed on that line and called it incoherent, but he was just jealous.
Anyway, I was hoping to read a real essay in the MSM on the motivations of terrorists.
Alas, it’s just armchair psychoanalytical gobbledygook. Once again those who fight couldn’t possibly have rationally and morally comprehensible motives. Nope, it’s a “mystery of the mind”, to be analyzed as if diagnosing an exotic pathology.
I did find this paragraph interesting. It purports to summarize the delusional mindset of the terrorist. But it struck me as very apropos for many Americans themselves, and certainly for the “war on terror” mindset.

Despite the lack of a single terrorist profile, researchers have largely agreed on the risk factors for involvement. They include what Jerrold M. Post, a professor of psychiatry, political psychology and international affairs at George Washington University, calls “generational transmission” of extremist beliefs, which begins early in life; a strong sense of victimization and alienation; the belief that moral violations by the enemy justify violence in pursuit of a “higher moral condition;” the belief that the terrorists’ ethnic, religious or nationalist group is special and in danger of extinction, and that they lack the political power to effect change without violence.

1. “Generational transmission of extremist beliefs, which begins early in life”.
Yup. Believe it or not, neoliberal globalization is an extremist policy and American-style corporatist “capitalism” is an extremist ideology. And the brainwashing does indeed begin in kindergarten and often earlier. But most Americans are so brainwashed they’re incapable of comprehending this.
2. Victimization and alienation.
Americans are prone to combine arrogance and a sense of entitlement with self-righteous paranoia. So whenever they’re subject to any kind of blowback or criticism, their response is to feel victimized and alienated. Cognitive dissonance, digging in, doubling down on one’s untenable position, are part of the standard American mindset.
3. Responding to the enemy’s attack with claims to moral superiority.
As this piece itself (and pretty much everything in the MSM) demonstrates, Americans systematically deny that the terrorists’ motivations have any moral legitimacy whatsoever, while swaddling our own generally tawdry actions and motivations in a fraudulent patina of morality.
4. The danger of extinction.
Although realistically terrorism can never be anything more than a nuisance to America, our “leadership” and its media flunkies have always implicitly and sometimes explicitly claimed that they represent some kind of existential threat. This has always been an intentional Big Lie used to justify power creep and corporate looting. Far too many Americans even now still fall for this lie. It’s almost like they enjoy being the subjects of this kind of domestic establishment terrorism.
The correct word for this is pusillanimity, which adds to cowardice the connotation that you shouldn’t even have been particularly scared of this thing which terrifies you to the point of cowardice. Picture a housewife who leaps screaming onto a chair because she sees a spider.
5. Lacking power to effect change through politics instead of violence.
Americans by their actions have proven they don’t believe there’s a solution to their problems other than violence. Bush rejected diplomacy on principle, and while Obama has tried to talk a better game, his actions show that he agrees with Bush that “the sword will decide” (Jeffers).
More generally, the solution to the problems of an unsustainable empire is to give up the empire, not to pour ever more blood into the engine where you’ve run out of oil. But that’s too political, too rational, too sane, too human. It’s therefore unamerican.
No, America looks committed to violence and the politics of violence, overseas and increasingly at home.
I suppose this NYT piece has helped shed a little light on the terrorist mind after all. 


  1. Excellent job of turning on its head the New York Time’s self satisfied spew.

    Comment by Edwardo — January 10, 2010 @ 10:56 am

  2. I thought every example in the piece (it was sort of a compendium of academics) could’ve received the same reverse analysis, but I just stuck with that one.

    Comment by Russ — January 10, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

  3. Since you clearly appreciate The Bard, I wonder what your profession is?

    Comment by Edwardo — January 10, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

  4. Also, you may find this of interest.


    Comment by Edwardo — January 10, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  5. Edwardo, unfortunately I have no Bard-related profession.

    Wouldn’t that be fun? I’d rather just write about that.

    That link is interesting. It touches on a lot of things we need to be thinking about.

    We’ve been seeing more and more Republicans with Bonaparte dreams regarding Petraeus, and he certainly seems to be a political general. If things keep going the way they are I bet he could clobber Obama in 2012. They wouldn’t even need a classic “coup”, but could carry out the operation through more pseudo-democratic methods.

    Well, if he really does want power, let’s hope he’s more like Boulanger than Bonaparte. Nasty as it is to say, I’d rather have the likes of Palin.

    (It’s a measure of how horrible our plight is that, as much as I deplore and despise Obama, there still seems to be no option: I still have to prefer him in 2012.

    My rationale being that he at least doesn’t seem to actually want an overt fascist dictatorship, and so 4 more years of him might give real activists a little more breathing room to get organized.

    Whereas I could easily picture any new Republican administration literally rounding people up like the Nazis in 1933. Almost nobody expected that then; only a handful of the potential targets knew to flee Germany immediately the moment Hitler came to power; almost everyone therefore was taken by surprise.)

    I had to laugh at the facetious question about the SCOTUS as the real arbiter of the law. I’ve already written a draft for a post later this week once they overturn restrictions on corporate political spending, the way everybody expects them to.

    Comment by Russ — January 11, 2010 @ 3:18 am

  6. In my estimation an overt bonapartist coup would stand a decent chance of occuring in the event of either a major military emergency on our soil, a financial catastrophe, and/or a problem with food and or energy supplies. The latter could easily ome about as the result of a financial dislocation such as a sudden currency devaluation, etc. etc.

    One of these, if not several of these sorts of phenomenon,-they are by no means mutually exclusive- are highly likely in my view.

    In the meantime, Republicans will back anyone that they believe will return them to the seat of power. Their level of shamelessness is akin to that of a sociopath. In any case, I loathe both parties and will not be wasting a vote on either of them no matter who is running.

    As for Palin, or as I prefer, The Whore of Babylon, should she somehow, by the most twisted fate imaginable, wind up as The Republican Party’s standard bearer- perhaps some monstrous oligarch will back her on a third party ticket-that would be as good a signal as any we have ever been bestowed, that the U.S. is a leper colony the bounds of which no sane person should stay within and no responsible person should not work tirelessly to eradicate.

    Comment by Edwardo — January 11, 2010 @ 10:07 am

  7. You guys are all much better educated about all this than I , but of one thing I’m sure. Not that we have much control over the federal (or even state) elections IMO, but the old diaper analogy is true. Change those politicians every chance you get. Of course, then I have to ask myself about Ron Paul.

    In general, wouldn’t it be interesting if we just automatically kicked them out every few years?

    Comment by DualPersonality — November 7, 2011 @ 3:29 am

    • Hi DP,

      My comment there is a little dated. I’d never say now I “prefer” Obama to anyone, or that I prefer the Republican to the Democrat. I agree in principle that if we threw everyone out every election that would make things harder on the crooks, but in the end it’s still playing their game. (And besides, like you said earlier, most people won’t look at it that way. They’ll pick their tribe and stick with it.) By now I just reject them completely.

      My basic view is that we need to build a true movement from the soil up, and perhaps form a political party based upon that movement foundation.

      Comment by Russ — November 7, 2011 @ 4:30 am

  8. Hey! I’m a housewife, and I never leap on chairs when I see spiders. What makes you think we housewives are more cowardly about mice and spiders than women with “real jobs”, huh?

    Comment by Notadesperatehousewife — November 8, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

    • Very sorry, ma’am. I wasn’t referring to any actual housewife, but pointing out how the system acts like the mythical housewife in that condescending caricature. I have no doubt most real housewives are far more intrepid than the average media pundit. And unlike the latter, they do real work as well. 🙂

      Comment by Russ — November 8, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

  9. Reblogged this on Outlaw Blog and commented:
    Russ nails this but his lack of knowledge of cognitive sciences leaves him with no reason we behave this way

    Comment by Dave Outlaw — June 1, 2013 @ 8:35 am

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