Monday, October 12, 2009

Anarchism, Terrorism and Nihilism

I love the internet for articles such as this:

By the way, a round of thanks to Andrew Sullivan who pointed his readers to this article.  Anyway, you've read my earlier blog about the importance of the average Muslim in the War on Terror and why torture was a stupid idea.  But I've been thinking more and more about the War on Terror, and about the participants in the Islamic World.  Clearly, there is a disparity between the leaders of Al Qaeda, the soldiers and average folk.

The leaders of Al Qaeda appear, prior to 2001 at least, to be outcasts in their societies.  Bin Laden, for instance, left the relatively cushy life in Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, and never really looked back.  He couldn't give up jihad.  A look at the other leaders of Al Qaeda shows them all to have various home life problems, times spent in jail, and what not.  I think this has to do with the fact that these guys are, for the most part, sociopaths.  Not only do they not care about killing other people, but they actually revel in it.  These guys actually do hate us, but not for our freedoms, but because we're there.

The fighters (like Muhammed Atta), on the other hand, fit the Nihilist as described in the Independent's article.  They view the world as corrupt, and that the killing of a few to save their homelands is worth it.  What strikes me about the article how it captures the sense of despair by even the well-to-do.  The anarchists killed and were killed because they felt that there was nothing left to live for.  So is the case with suicide bombers.  Their idealism is betrayed by the leaders' sociopathy.

The third group are the average Muslims.  While they do not engage in violence, they are willing to look the other way, and in some cases, help the jihadists hide from the authorities.  Like the soldiers, they are angry with the West.

Ultimately, what's hopeful about the article is that, of course, anarchism faded away when social reforms were enacted.  So too, I think, jihadism would fade as social reforms were to be made in the Islamic World.  Not because making such reforms would convince the jihadist leadership, but because the reforms would convince the soldiers to do other stuff.  Similarly, the average Muslim would less inclined to support or help the jihadists.  Without soldiers willing to die for the cause, and the populace willing to hide them, the leadership would, once again, be outsiders in their own communities.

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