Oakes

The "blowback" theory

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I just came back from a 4+ hour conversation with several of my friends on the subject of what motivates militant islamists. I'd like your help in clarifying it.

I recall three possible motivations:

1. The satisfaction of Allah's will to reach heaven

2. The creation of a global islamic state

3. A response to foreign intervention ("blowback")

Which one is it? Is it a combination? Is it something I didn't list?

My friends argued the following: If the goal is #1, they stand very little chance of being swayed by any military show of force, as they value nothing material. If it's #2, one has to question why they believe flying planes into buildings does anything to accomplish this goal.

How would you respond?

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I just came back from a 4+ hour conversation with several of my friends on the subject of what motivates militant islamists. I'd like your help in clarifying it.

I recall three possible motivations:

1. The satisfaction of Allah's will to reach heaven

2. The creation of a global islamic state

3. A response to foreign intervention ("blowback")

Which one is it? Is it a combination? Is it something I didn't list?

My friends argued the following: If the goal is #1, they stand very little chance of being swayed by any military show of force, as they value nothing material. If it's #2, one has to question why they believe flying planes into buildings does anything to accomplish this goal.

How would you respond?

"Hatred of the good for being the good."

I wonder though if they recognise good as good, and if that statement is not giving militant Islamics FAR too much credit.

At best though I wouldn't attribute them any "positive" goals. Much like the current socialist/environmentalist movement. The goal is not the establishment of a utopia, but the destruction of capitalist/human society.

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"Hatred of the good for being the good."

I wonder though if they recognise good as good, and if that statement is not giving militant Islamics FAR too much credit.

At best though I wouldn't attribute them any "positive" goals. Much like the current socialist/environmentalist movement. The goal is not the establishment of a utopia, but the destruction of capitalist/human society.

This is an interesting idea. The thing I can't figure out is, if it's true that they essentially hate us for our freedoms, why do they not attack countries like Sweden? The main targets outside the middle east have been New York, Madrid, and London, all in countries that have intervened in the region.

Now, as a counterpoint to this, we have the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines, which is not apparently reacting to any foreign intervetion - they simply want to create an Islamic state in Mindanao.

So that's why I created this thread. It's not completely clear to me what their motivations are, or whether they have the same motivations at all.

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How would you respond?

They are fundamentally no different than other religious fanatics in history, e.g. Jim Jones and his followers committing mass suicide in Jonestown.

Religion is about denying reality and telling your mind to shut down. Those who really take it seriously are unfit for life, miserable, and they know it. I suspect that the suicide bombers, and their spiritual brothers such as the VA Tech killer, see it as a way to kill both themselves and those that they hate (i.e. everybody and everything), with a hefty dose of rationalism ("I'm doing it for Allah") to mask the real nature of their evil to themselves.

Religious or other irrational fervor doesn't really require over-analyzing. In essential terms, the strongly religious mind is literally a few steps removed from being a rabid animal. It can't be reasoned with and if it poses a threat, the only rational answer is to kill it.

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Religious or other irrational fervor doesn't really require over-analyzing. In essential terms, the strongly religious mind is literally a few steps removed from being a rabid animal. It can't be reasoned with and if it poses a threat, the only rational answer is to kill it.

Okay so it seems that both of you are closer to #1 in that it is purely religiously motivated (or simply nihilism masked with religion), and that they do not have any positive goals like Islamic hegemony or ending foreign interventions.

Assuming this is true, we would first need to conclude that Osama bin Laden was lying when he cited our presence in Saudi Arabia as his motivation. The next question I arrive at is: why they don't simply target Western countries randomly? You could argue that they targeted the US because it is the greatest symbol of good, but London and Madrid were also targeted.

The Abu Sayyaf Group I mentioned before is problematic to explain as well, because they not only explicitly say they want to create an Islamic state, but many people (like this article) are speculating that their main goal is simply money. Many of their attacks came after their victims refused to pay them protection money. In other words, they're pretty much a racketeering gang with a pinch of religion.

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<snip> ...what motivates militant islamists. I'd like your help in clarifying it.

I recall three possible motivations:

1. The satisfaction of Allah's will to reach heaven

2. The creation of a global islamic state

3. A response to foreign intervention ("blowback")

Which one is it? Is it a combination? Is it something I didn't list? <snip> How would you respond?

I think Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism" is a good resource here. There are leaders and followers in Islamism, roughly dividing into Intrinsicists and Subjectivists. The leaders of the movement are Intrinsicists, essentially, Rationalists. They are the dogmatists, "following" (asserting) Allah's Will, as it serves their power lust to see it, and advocating first, the destruction of the infidels, second, the hegemony of Islam. The form of their crusade is different, but the motivations are the same as in previous cases: They have a ready-made belief system that can serve as a justification for their lust for power, control over others. One could argue about the "sincerity" of any given Islamic leader, but it won't change the form of the threat significantly.

The followers are Subjectivists, following the fatwah's of the leaders because belonging and following orders feels good, or better than being 'out'.

The elimination of the threat requires the elimination of the leaders. There are a finite number. New leaders/power-lusters, will be created, yes, but if we conducted the war now that we did against Japan and Germany, the little leaders-in-the-making would scurry back under their rocks. The followers would look for something else to believe in and follow.

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The elimination of the threat requires the elimination of the leaders. There are a finite number. New leaders/power-lusters, will be created, yes, but if we conducted the war now that we did against Japan and Germany, the little leaders-in-the-making would scurry back under their rocks. The followers would look for something else to believe in and follow.

I see. So in other words, we should focus our study on the motivations of the leaders, not all islamic militants.

Would you say that the other motives I mentioned, such as money or opposition to intervention, are inconsequential and simply the result of followers opportunistically piggybacking on the broader religious movement? Or are you saying that these other motives are held by the leaders themselves, and are fundamental to their motivation?

I guess one way to answer this question is to make clear who the leaders actually are. Are they the Imams? Are they heads of government? Are they individuals like Osama bin Laden? It's not very clear to me.

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"Hatred of the good for being the good."

I wonder though if they recognise good as good, and if that statement is not giving militant Islamics FAR too much credit.

By "hatred of the good" I believe Ayn Rand meant good by the hater's own standards -- usually simply a desire for something the hater wants and the object of his hatred has. It does not necessarily mean that which is objectively valuable. I can see some people hating Peter Keating because they wish they were as popular as he was.

At best though I wouldn't attribute them any "positive" goals. Much like the current socialist/environmentalist movement. The goal is not the establishment of a utopia, but the destruction of capitalist/human society.

That is always the case with "hatred of the good for being the good." That is what distinguishes hatred of the good from the kind of honest envy that motivates a man to achieve that which he envies others for having. The hater of the good doesn't want make the effort to produce values. He just hates, and wants to destroy, those who have them.

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"Hatred of the good for being the good."

This is an interesting idea. The thing I can't figure out is, if it's true that they essentially hate us for our freedoms, why do they not attack countries like Sweden?

Because they also hate us for our prosperity, proud self-confidence, and other qualities that are uniquely American.

The main targets outside the middle east have been New York, Madrid, and London, all in countries that have intervened in the region.

Another motivation for terrorism, and a big factor in the caluculation of terrorists, is "Can we get away with it?" Before 9/11, American aviation was a soft target they could exploit, but much less so now. There have been almost no terrorist attacks in Israel since they built the wall. Observe that the Islamic rioting in France also has more to do with opportunism than with French foreign policy in the Middle East.

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The Abu Sayyaf Group I mentioned before is problematic to explain as well, because they not only explicitly say they want to create an Islamic state, but many people (like this article) are speculating that their main goal is simply money. Many of their attacks came after their victims refused to pay them protection money. In other words, they're pretty much a racketeering gang with a pinch of religion.

It wouldn't be the first time religion was used to rationalize behavior that would otherwise be regarded as immoral.

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Because they also hate us for our prosperity, proud self-confidence, and other qualities that are uniquely American.

[...]

Another motivation for terrorism, and a big factor in the caluculation of terrorists, is "Can we get away with it?" Before 9/11, American aviation was a soft target they could exploit, but much less so now. There have been almost no terrorist attacks in Israel since they built the wall. Observe that the Islamic rioting in France also has more to do with opportunism than with French foreign policy in the Middle East.

So let me try to integrate this into a general view of islamic terrorism (and please correct me if I'm wrong about anything):

The primary motivation is the religion of Islam, which when followed seriously causes a hatred of the good for being good. The United States is a major target because it excels in these qualities, but they will also attack other prosperous targets out of opportunism or petty theft.

According to this, should we conclude that the blowback theory is invalid, and that when the terrorists cite intervention as their motive they are masking the real motive, which is a combination of opportunism and hatred of the good? (This question is open to anyone.)

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I see. So in other words, we should focus our study on the motivations of the leaders, not all islamic militants.

Would you say that the other motives I mentioned, such as money or opposition to intervention, are inconsequential and simply the result of followers opportunistically piggybacking on the broader religious movement? Or are you saying that these other motives are held by the leaders themselves, and are fundamental to their motivation?

I guess one way to answer this question is to make clear who the leaders actually are. Are they the Imams? Are they heads of government? Are they individuals like Osama bin Laden? It's not very clear to me.

Those who have declared war on us are both state leaders -- Ahmedinejad, Khatami of Iran, Assad of Syria -- and bin Laden and his Al Qaeda leadership. Step 1 is to eliminate the governments of states that threaten us. Since the seizure of our embassy in the Carter era, the Iranians have included "Death to America" in their official prayers on a daily basis. They are and have been, financing, training, and directing Islamist terrorists against us in the Mideast and abroad. Saudi Arabia has stuck to funding and indoctrinating as their devil's bargain with the Wahabi sect since the first King Saud married Wahab's daughter. The Taliban was trained in Pakistan. Syria is a Baathist state, Socialist, not officially Islamic (was true of Iraq). I don't know if we know where bin Laden is.

It is a question of the most effective way to achieve our objectives with the minimal loss of American lives in the long range. I'm not a military expert. But, if I were suggesting a strategy, I'd agree with Yaron Brook and recommend eliminating the government of Iran as the highest priority. That is the first and the most consistent Islamist state. That would cut off the largest open source of funding for Islamic militants. If we did that with complete moral clarity, Saudi Arabia would get the message and attacking Saudi Arabia and Pakistan would probably not be necessary. Musharraf would have benefitted greatly from American consistency. He backed off his efforts to purge Islamists from his military and intelligence organizations when it was clear that we were not declaring them The Enemy. We went after the largest secular enemy Arab state. That gave no clear message at all and left Iraq open to Iran, who couldn't defeat Iraq while Saddam was around. After Iran, we may well have seen quick and effective intelligence leading to the capture or elimination of bin Laden and Al Zawahiri. Nobody would want to be on the wrong side of a ruthless, consistent United States.

Oh, as far as "blowback," I think that grants sanction to the specious argument that we have "oppressed" the Middle East. Islam has as a tenet in the Koran that any land that was ever ruled by Muslims is forever Muslim Land. So "giving back" Israel wouldn't satisfy the Islamists. Besides the emboldenment to try to spread Islam over the entire globe, similar to the results of Neville Chamberlain's betrayal of Poland, even a "conservative" plan of the Islamists would include Spain, Greece, the former Yugoslavia. Anything the U.S. has ever done anywhere near the Middle East is just an excuse, a pretense, which they will use to justify any attack and acquisition possible to the Islamists. That's kvatch.

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I just came back from a 4+ hour conversation with several of my friends on the subject of what motivates militant islamists. I'd like your help in clarifying it.

I recall three possible motivations:

1. The satisfaction of Allah's will to reach heaven

2. The creation of a global islamic state

3. A response to foreign intervention ("blowback")

Which one is it? Is it a combination? Is it something I didn't list?

My friends argued the following: If the goal is #1, they stand very little chance of being swayed by any military show of force, as they value nothing material. If it's #2, one has to question why they believe flying planes into buildings does anything to accomplish this goal.

How would you respond?

Is it possible you (or your conversants) are reaching too far? The jihadists' book tells them to make jihad. They believe in their book as a moral guide, i.e. they take it seriously. QED they make jihad. Interviews with those who have actually engaged, unapologetically, in jihad make this clear.

Think, by analogy of some Objectivists or sincere Christians. They are not at all morally equivalent, but to the extent they take their philosophy seriously, they take it as a guide to their choices.

There are many ways to answer the question, 'Why does X do Y?' but I think in this case this explanation is the broadest and simplest.

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Oakes,

In thinking over my answer just now it occurred to me to wonder if maybe I've misunderstood your question. Are you asking 'Why do jihadists make jihad?' or are you asking 'Why do they pick the targets they do?'. Your question/comment about Sweden made me think that perhaps you're mixing some questions together, or perhaps you're looking at Sweden (to use one case) as a possible counter-instance or test case to consider the validity of an answer...

So, I ask a question of you. What do you mean by 'what motivates'? Are looking for a psychological explanation, a philosophical one, a political one? There's no unique answer to 'what motivates' without specifiying.

Jeff

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Sorry if this post is long. I'm replying to three different people.

Muslims live purely by rationalization and feed off of others' skepticism and tolerance. They are motivated by the supposed glory of Islam conquering the world. The collectivism of living to see a purer, more dominant Caliphate is what gets them out of bed in the morning and keeps them from mass martyrdom.

Thanks for your response Kurt. I think your explanation is a bit different from others here, because you point to "Islam conquering the world" as their motivation. Others have said that they don't actually have a positive aim, they simply hate the good for being good.

Another issue with this view that I've wrestled with is that it doesn't appear to make sense that flying planes into buildings will help establish the Caliphate in America. You could say they are stupid or irrational, but I think that would be a non-falsifiable theory because you could use that argument to explain away anything.

Limiting our actions to taking out their leaders is a total waste of time. We must crush what they truly value, what drives them to kill us: their culture.

I think you disagree with alann on this point then. I don't want to address it now because it is tangent to the main point of the thread: motivation.

Those who have declared war on us are both state leaders -- Ahmedinejad, Khatami of Iran, Assad of Syria -- and bin Laden and his Al Qaeda leadership. [...]

But, if I were suggesting a strategy, I'd agree with Yaron Brook and recommend eliminating the government of Iran as the highest priority. That is the first and the most consistent Islamist state. That would cut off the largest open source of funding for Islamic militants. [...]

I think we're getting ahead of ourselves here. I don't want to get prescribe a cure just yet; I'm still diagnosing. Understanding the motivation is necessary before anything else.

So, what is the motivation of the state leaders and Al Qaeda leadership you mentioned? If you hold that it's purely religious fervor, and that foreign interventions (i.e., blowback) don't play a role, then we need to ask ourselves why OBL lied and why attacking states like Iran and Saudi Arabia will stop that religious fervor.

Keep in mind that I'm not promoting any specific view here of my own. I'm still thinking hard about this.

So "giving back" Israel wouldn't satisfy the Islamists.

I can't speak for them, but I haven't heard so-called non-interventionists who promote the blowback theory call for Israel to be given back.

So, I ask a question of you. What do you mean by 'what motivates'? Are looking for a psychological explanation, a philosophical one, a political one? There's no unique answer to 'what motivates' without specifiying.

I don't think a psychological explanation is important. As for philosophical or political, I think that hits at the core of the quesiton: Are the motivated by the overlying philosophy, specific foreign interventions, or both?

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So let me try to integrate this into a general view of islamic terrorism (and please correct me if I'm wrong about anything):

The primary motivation is the religion of Islam, which when followed seriously causes a hatred of the good for being good.

It is hard to tell what causes what here. I suspect that many who hate the good do so for reasons inherent in their own souls and may be attracted to radical Islam as a rationalization and for a social group that supports their hatred.

The United States is a major target because it excels in these qualities, but they will also attack other prosperous targets out of opportunism or petty theft.

They will also attack non-prosperous nations and groups out of sheer hatred for existence and anything living. See what is now going on in with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Lebanon or, for that matter, the entire bloody history of Muslim vs. Muslim war in the Middle East.

According to this, should we conclude that the blowback theory is invalid, and that when the terrorists cite intervention as their motive they are masking the real motive, which is a combination of opportunism and hatred of the good? (This question is open to anyone.)

"Blowback" is but one of many rationalizations the Jihadists use to shift the blame for their actions onto someone else.

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Below is my initial response to Oakes' post, which contained an expletive that Betsy rightly asked me to clean up. I have done so and reposted it.

Really good, really important question, Oakes. My thoughts closely mirror Alan's and Phil's. I used to give some creedence to #1, because we hear all the time about how they're pursuing jihad to please Allah and to reach the afterlife in the most favored status. But then I realized this was nonsense, because if they truly believed it, nearly every Muslim would rush to the nearest infidel to blow themselves up. But they don't, and I believe they don't because what really motivates them is #2, and #3 is merely fuel for the fire of #2.

One of the biggest, most indescribably frustrating fallacies, to my mind, is our belief that supporters of jihad are actually consistent in applying Islam to life, that they more or less practice what they preach. They don't. They are total whim-driven, prehistoric animals. Our leaders, experts, and laymen get morally paralyzed by the tribal and organizational emnity within Islam. They hear that Sunnis hate Shias, or that Iraq warred against Iran, or that Bin Laden was a pariah to the Saudi royals. They hear that Hizb'Allah built roads and hosptials in Southern Lebanon, or that Iran has small Christian sects, or that Jordan is more tolerant to Westerners than Afghanistan, or that Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades doesn't attack America, it only kills Israelis. All of these are red herring equivocations. It doesn't matter that one gang conducts jihad differently from another, or that one hive interprets the Quran differently from another. What matters is that the practitioners and supporters of jihad are a direct threat to America and they must be destroyed.

Muslims live purely by rationalization and feed off of others' skepticism and tolerance. They are motivated by the supposed glory of Islam conquering the world. The collectivism of living to see a purer, more dominant Caliphate is what gets them out of bed in the morning and keeps them from mass martyrdom. They love fighting the infidel with their insular, fanatical gang, and knowing that there are hordes of other such gangs throughout the world, slowly spreading subjugation to Islam's authorities. This world is merely a temporary platform to fight for Allah. They take their identity, their very reason for living, from the victories and enraging defeats against the infidel. This is what they have to gain by flying planes into buildings. It's a real blow to our morale, and we are the enemy. We value everything that went into the capitalistic engine that was the World Trade Center, and it stood as a powerful force in opposition to the mysticism and collectivism that they live for. If they can wreck what makes us go, they can make us doubt our ability to live free, and that makes them feel potent and that their cause is divinely approved.

Rather than being a primary motivating factor, I believe "foreign intervention" is merely a consequential excuse of #2. They aim to conquer. If they meet any resistance, that gets termed "foreign intervention", and is thrown in with all the other invented excuses for victimization. It can't start with #3, because the very reason "foreign intervention" is offensive to them is that it is antithetical to the establishment of the Caliphate.

They aren't organized in their leadership. They are opportunists. Al Qaeda doesn't have strict membership policies that bar outsiders from branching off and calling themselves "al Qaeda". They don't check your official credentials. If you live to wage jihad, you're in. It is this anti-conceptual mentality of our leaders that is contributing to our peril. We regard the assassination of some top-level terrorist piece of garbage as a victory, because he's on the CIA's list of bad guys and we have a tape of him taunting us, and we breathe a little easier. Disgraceful. These are not tactical or motivational masterminds who are key to breaking the threat of terrorism. They are merely the most collective of the collectivists, the best brainwashers among the mystics. They are nothing, and when Bin Laden is finally announced dead, we will hail it as a huge victory, and will relax and reach a whole new level of denial about the zero impact this has on the jihad. In fact, Bin Laden's death will be a victory to his enemies in Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Iran, whose gangs have subsequently moved up a notch in the jihadist heirarchy. And the next Bin Laden will take his place and the jihad will go on. Limiting our actions to taking out their leaders is a total waste of time. We must crush what they truly value, what drives them to kill us: their culture.

Finally, I find it grossly offensive that Americans even entertain the question of what motivates them as a necessary condition of moral action. We don't need to know why they want to kill us in order to defend ourselves. The only purpose that knowing their motivation serves is to supply us with more effective targets. If they are motivated by Islamic instiutions, such as shrines or ancient cities or anointed leaders or sacred books, those should be primary targets. Our goal should be to drive them into a frenzy of agony and despair, to eliminate the actual killers and to mercilessly punish their supporters, and to announce to them with every single round of ammunition, "This comes from the mind of free men who love this life in this world. In the name of everything that is worth loving, we don't give a damn about you and will use everything we have to wipe the plague of your existence from the earth."

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Sorry if this post is long. I'm replying to three different people.
Muslims live purely by rationalization and feed off of others' skepticism and tolerance. They are motivated by the supposed glory of Islam conquering the world. The collectivism of living to see a purer, more dominant Caliphate is what gets them out of bed in the morning and keeps them from mass martyrdom.

Thanks for your response Kurt. I think your explanation is a bit different from others here, because you point to "Islam conquering the world" as their motivation. Others have said that they don't actually have a positive aim, they simply hate the good for being good.

Another issue with this view that I've wrestled with is that it doesn't appear to make sense that flying planes into buildings will help establish the Caliphate in America. You could say they are stupid or irrational, but I think that would be a non-falsifiable theory because you could use that argument to explain away anything.

I would agree that they hate the good, but I don't think it is at all for being good. They are totally oblivious to the good. They have no concept whatsoever of what is actually good. Rather, they regard submission to the will of Allah as dictated by Islamic authorities as the good. That is why they fight us, because our way of life is antithetical to submitting to their imaginary god. We are an abomination, an unclean infidel to them. To hate the good for being good, you must know what the good is, and resentfully oppose it. They are totally brainwashed into thinking that reason, freedom, individuality, rights, productivity, romance, honesty, and everything that is easily understood as good to a Western mind, is horrendously evil and a threat to them. They hate the good because they regard it as evil.

Flying planes into buildings does go a long way to help establish their Caliphate. They exist entirely on the perceptual level. Smashing a major value of ours makes us look vulnerable to them. To them, if Osama can use our own tools to harm us, that must mean that Islam is gaining strength against the infidel. It validates the terrorist means to their ends. But recognize that jihadists don't have a consistent plan of attack. Again, this is a hideous mistake on the part of our leaders and intellectuals. If it was so relatively easy to hurt us by flying planes into major buildings, why not do more of that? Why not launch waves of jihadist hijackings that would paralyze our airline industry and destroy scores of American icons? Because the majority of jihadists are nothing more than screaming, victimized cowards. They live to suffer and submit and wage jihad. Their entire life is a constant struggle between wanting to kill the infidel and be a martyr for Allah, and waiting to see if other lunatic jihadists will jump in first so they can live to revel in their collectivist glory. I think actual martyrs are merely those who were the most fanatical and desperate and cornered among the otherwise chickenhawk jihadist population.

So instead, they attack trains in London and Madrid. They explode car bombs in civilian populations. They capture Western civilians and behead them on videotape. None of these things are anywhere near as destructive as the terrorists are fully capable of. So why do they attack in such random ways? What is their goal, and what, if anything, do these methods have in common?

As I said, they pull their punches because they are so incredibly cowardly and are waiting for somebody else to martyr himself. Even consistency to their beliefs is not something they value. Their lives are random actions in a widely generalized context of submission to Islam. What their means of attack is meant to accomplish is to throw the infidel ("Dar al Harb" -- "the house of war") into panic, which will break our will to fight them and open the way for them to conquer us. They want us to think that nowhere is safe, that terrorism could happen anywhere at any time. That's what the insurgency in Iraq is all about. Bring chaos to Iraq, pit one sect against the other, bog America down in a futile battle for stability, pile up our losses, break our will to bring freedom to the Middle East and, by extension, our belief that we can beat the jihad.

So terrorist attacks on our soil aren't meant to directly establish a political Caliphate in America. They are meant to paralyze us from defending ourselves against the cultural and theocratic movement that would establish the Caliphate here.

Limiting our actions to taking out their leaders is a total waste of time. We must crush what they truly value, what drives them to kill us: their culture.

I think you disagree with alann on this point then. I don't want to address it now because it is tangent to the main point of the thread: motivation.

I want to clarify that my position is that taking out individual leaders of terrorist groups has a neglible benefit. They are easily replaceable, as we have already seen. Taking out the heads of terrorist states would have a considerably bigger impact, but it still doesn't do nearly enough. Axeing Ahmadinejad or Assad or Abbas or al-Sadr isn't going to suddenly neutralize jihadists. They're still going to feel free to attack us, because no authority will stop them. Observe that the overwhelming majority of terrorist groups (heck, every one that I can think of) are outcast among aggressor Islamic nations. Al Qaeda is hated by the Saudi royals. Ditto Hizb'Allah by the previous Lebanese government; Hamas by Arafat's/Abbas' ruling Fatah party in the Palestinian territories; abu Sayyaf in the Philippines; the Taliban by the Pakistani government; and the Muslim Brotherhood by the Egyptian government. These are outcast rebels who won't play the traditional political games of tribal warfare. The new terrorist gangs have been radicalized and emboldened by the most violent and oppressive view of Islam ever, and they want revolution in the Middle East and conquest in the West.

So my point was that just killing their leaders won't stop them from attacking us. We must destroy their hope to hurt us by destroying the one, overarching goal that they have: the hope of Islam conquering America.

Those who have declared war on us are both state leaders -- Ahmedinejad, Khatami of Iran, Assad of Syria -- and bin Laden and his Al Qaeda leadership. [...]

But, if I were suggesting a strategy, I'd agree with Yaron Brook and recommend eliminating the government of Iran as the highest priority. That is the first and the most consistent Islamist state. That would cut off the largest open source of funding for Islamic militants. [...]

I think we're getting ahead of ourselves here. I don't want to get prescribe a cure just yet; I'm still diagnosing. Understanding the motivation is necessary before anything else.

So, what is the motivation of the state leaders and Al Qaeda leadership you mentioned? If you hold that it's purely religious fervor, and that foreign interventions (i.e., blowback) don't play a role, then we need to ask ourselves why OBL lied and why attacking states like Iran and Saudi Arabia will stop that religious fervor.

Keep in mind that I'm not promoting any specific view here of my own. I'm still thinking hard about this.

If I could add my two cents here, I don't think Osama did lie. I think he really thinks that Saudi sandpile is sacred ground, and that Americans defiled it when the Saudis asked us to come and protect them from Saddam. I think he complements his religious fervor with his hatred of the West. They just go together; foreign intervention is simply a convenient gripe that fits the paranoid scheme of Islamic dogma.

What I think attacking the worst states like Iran and Saudi Arabia would accomplish is not eliminating fringe terrorist groups from wanting to wage jihad, but what I do think it would do is get the population of those states to stop supporting them. Terrorists can operate only because they are tolerated by their citizen hosts. If we showed Muslim nations that we will respond with massive destruction to terrorist attacks connected at all to their country, then they would direct their outward barbarism inward to those terrorists responsible for their suffering, and terrorism would drop to practically nil. They would go the way of contemporary Nazi groups: bitter, ankle-biting losers.

So, I ask a question of you. What do you mean by 'what motivates'? Are looking for a psychological explanation, a philosophical one, a political one? There's no unique answer to 'what motivates' without specifiying.

I don't think a psychological explanation is important. As for philosophical or political, I think that hits at the core of the quesiton: Are the motivated by the overlying philosophy, specific foreign interventions, or both?

In summary, I think jihadists are motivated by the belief that fighting the infidel brings the global Caliphate closer to reality, that they have nothing much else to live for, and, as a lesser motivation, that they'll be rewarded for blowing themselves up.

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I want to make one more quick point. What convinces me that jihadists aren't motivated by the hatred of the good for being good is that you just don't hear their complaints that we have all this great technology or all these freedoms or happiness or longer lives, and they don't, and they resent us for it, and they hate all that stuff because it's so much better than the hell that they have. No, they accuse us of being depraved and decadent and immoral precisely because of all the good things that we have, which they regard as evil and an affront to Islam. If they truly hated the good for being good, like Toohey, they would merely try to destroy the good and replace it with nothing. Instead they try to destroy the anti-Islam and replace it with Islam.

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So let me try to integrate this into a general view of islamic terrorism (and please correct me if I'm wrong about anything):

The primary motivation is the religion of Islam, which when followed seriously causes a hatred of the good for being good.

It is hard to tell what causes what here. I suspect that many who hate the good do so for reasons inherent in their own souls and may be attracted to radical Islam as a rationalization and for a social group that supports their hatred.

Agreed.

The United States is a major target because it excels in these qualities, but they will also attack other prosperous targets out of opportunism or petty theft.

They will also attack non-prosperous nations and groups out of sheer hatred for existence and anything living. See what is now going on in with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Lebanon or, for that matter, the entire bloody history of Muslim vs. Muslim war in the Middle East.

Agreed. Look at the jihadist chaos and opportunism in the Sudan, Algeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. Not exactly wealthy, Westernized countries. It's not like they can claim blowback from foreign intervention there. They are a cancer trying to infect the entire planet.

According to this, should we conclude that the blowback theory is invalid, and that when the terrorists cite intervention as their motive they are masking the real motive, which is a combination of opportunism and hatred of the good? (This question is open to anyone.)

"Blowback" is but one of many rationalizations the Jihadists use to shift the blame for their actions onto someone else.

Agreed.

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Another issue with this view that I've wrestled with is that it doesn't appear to make sense that flying planes into buildings will help establish the Caliphate in America.

I believe the Bid Laden thought that destroying the Twin Towers would bring economic collapse and financial ruin to the US, leaving it free to Islamists to take over.

You could say they are stupid or irrational, but I think that would be a non-falsifiable theory because you could use that argument to explain away anything.

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Without diverting the focus of this thread, I just wanted to point out that Popper's theory of falsifiability is not objective. So claims that a theory is "non-falsifiable" says nothing. I'd suggest you listed to Karl Popper's Assault on Science.

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Flying planes into buildings does go a long way to help establish their Caliphate. They exist entirely on the perceptual level. Smashing a major value of ours makes us look vulnerable to them. To them, if Osama can use our own tools to harm us, that must mean that Islam is gaining strength against the infidel.

But isn't this assuming that Osama bin Laden is stupid - i.e., not able to think conceptually? I mean, it's clear to you and me that there is no way smashing a major value of ours will get even close to bringing about an Islamic government. In fact, it made it more difficult, because it created a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment (the President's own appeasement notwithstanding).

That's what the insurgency in Iraq is all about. Bring chaos to Iraq, pit one sect against the other, bog America down in a futile battle for stability, pile up our losses, break our will to bring freedom to the Middle East and, by extension, our belief that we can beat the jihad.

This is interesting, because my understanding is that most Objectivists do not equate bringing freedom to the Middle East with beating jihad. Nevertheless, I'm going to leave the topic alone for now.

So terrorist attacks on our soil aren't meant to directly establish a political Caliphate in America. They are meant to paralyze us from defending ourselves against the cultural and theocratic movement that would establish the Caliphate here.

So your belief is that it will clear the way for Islam to be spread evangelically? If it's true then I again have to question their intelligence, since it ended up doing the exact opposite.

If I could add my two cents here, I don't think Osama did lie. I think he really thinks that Saudi sandpile is sacred ground, and that Americans defiled it when the Saudis asked us to come and protect them from Saddam. I think he complements his religious fervor with his hatred of the West. They just go together; foreign intervention is simply a convenient gripe that fits the paranoid scheme of Islamic dogma.

This suggests that he's using foreign intervention as a recruiting tool, since not every follower can be motivated by religious fervor alone. Do you think this should be taken into account at all? For example, by not putting troops in Saudi Arabia or giving foreign aid to Israel and Kuwait? After all, a government according to Objectivism would be funded through voluntary donations anyway, so instead of giving part of those donations to Israel and Kuwait why not let the American people donate directly to them on their own?

I'm just suggesting ways to limit the terrorists' ability to recruit people and find willing donors, if that's possible.

What I think attacking the worst states like Iran and Saudi Arabia would accomplish is not eliminating fringe terrorist groups from wanting to wage jihad, but what I do think it would do is get the population of those states to stop supporting them.

This is a separate discussion but I think it's interesting anyway. Do you believe that most terrorist groups rely on the support of the government or the citizens of these two countries? I'm wondering because as I understand it, al Qaeda is funded by bin Laden's personal fortune along with charities from all around the world. I also believe that the London bombers were British-born and the Madrid bombers were from North Africa.

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I believe the Bid Laden thought that destroying the Twin Towers would bring economic collapse and financial ruin to the US, leaving it free to Islamists to take over.

I should pose a similar question to you, then: Do you think Osama bin Laden is stupid? I'm not asking that in a polemical way. I'd really like to know your view on his intelligence. If he really thought that bringing two buildings down and damaging the Pentagon would cause the economy to collapse (as opposed to the minor recession we did feel), he must be pretty stupid.

Without diverting the focus of this thread, I just wanted to point out that Popper's theory of falsifiability is not objective. So claims that a theory is "non-falsifiable" says nothing. I'd suggest you listed to Karl Popper's Assault on Science.

I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing (I haven't ever studied Karl Popper). What I mean is that there is literally no way to prove you wrong if you think they are stupid or irrational. No matter how much evidence I have to illustrate how unlikely it was for 9/11 to cause our collapse, one could always respond by saying "of course, but he's not rational!"

It's similar to conspiracy theorists who say 9/11 was rigged or Roswell was visited by aliens. No matter how much evidence you have showing that there is no conspiracy, they can always respond by saying that the unlikeliness is more proof that it happened - they just did a really, really good job covering it up.

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A belief in god is irrational. When you talk about motivations for belief in god it still boils down to the fact that that particular person has defaulted in that instance on rationality and applying it to observable reality.

I do not wish to go down the path of "yeah, but they are irrational." As you have pointed out, you can solve ANY problem via that method. However, when discussing this particular thread we must concern ourselves with it. Because the defining characteristic of Jihadists is their irrationality.

Now to go back to the original analogy, a belief in god can be caused, or motivated, by any number of things; lack of a rational philosophy, there are no non-emotionalists in foxholes, trouble dealing with overwhelming grief, etc... No matter what the "motivation" is for a belief in god/religion, in the end it is a form of irrationality. Or the suspension of rationality for certain aspects. Which, all things considered, is just a step along the path.

So when you talk about "motivations" for jihad, there can be an infinite number of motivations for the actions of terrorists. Including (but not exhaustive) hatred of the good for being good, revenge, establishment of Islamic Hegemony, anti-Capitalism, rejection of Western Values, the destruction of the 'Evil Empire', etc... In the end, as almost every reply on this thread has hinted, it is just some rationalisation of an irrational philosophical system.

When one pursues irrational goals, one must pretend to oneself that they are not evil. (Read: Cult of Moral Grayness - THE OBJECTIVIST NEWSLETTER, June, 1964 & Chapter 9: Virtue of Selfishness) Hence all the different stated motivations of terrorists and Jihadists. In the end, one simply observes that they are irrational, and whim driven.

It is the hypothesis that best fits the facts. For if it was a principled driven goal achieving philosophy behind the actions there would be a lot worse going on than 2,974 deaths in a single attack.

So while it is not "convenient" to account for the actions going on, and it is not an exhaustive analysis, of the psychological motivations of the perpetrators, I must promote that hypothesis of "yeah, but they are irrational." Not because it is convenient, but because it is the cause of whatever motivations each individual uses when they are going about whatever it is they are going about.

As a movement certain different groups may be identified as having specific motivations. But as a broad whole, no one but they and they're psychiatrists can truly know the cause. So as far as philosophy is concerned, I think a broad stroke of "irrationality" might be warranted in this situation. I have tried to nail it down further, and perhaps someone can help me out. The however is the current step in my thinking.

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I do not wish to go down the path of "yeah, but they are irrational." As you have pointed out, you can solve ANY problem via that method. However, when discussing this particular thread we must concern ourselves with it. Because the defining characteristic of Jihadists is their irrationality.

What I've found, though, is that someone who is irrational philosophically can be extremely rational strategically. For example, many criminals and mobsters are highly adept and skillful in what they do. Hitler's Wehrmacht, despite its irrational political aims, had some of the best generals on the planet. So while it goes without saying that jihadists are irrational in conviction, we cannot conclude that their specific strategic choices are equally departed from reality.

I think it's safe to say that the ideology and global dominance is an ultimate, idealistic goal. But then there are more immediate, secondary motivations that drive them to act. If we are to destroy their motivation to kill us, I think it's important to understand those secondary motivations.

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