Monday, September 11, 2006

Understanding Terrorists No Matter Their Size

I was halfway into this post earlier in the day but feared it would be considered too political and not keeping the focus where it should stay--on those who lost loved ones, on those who sacrificed so much, on those who died.

The topic is still burning, so I'm posting on it. The notions herein occurred to me while simultaneously gorging on 9/11 memorials and the inevitable sickness that results, parenting my toddler, and contemplating discipline methods as they pertain to terrorists. And all these issues swirled around this question: who would do such a thing?

At the two extremes of answering the above question:

  1. Those who believe it shouldn't be asked at all. This school of thought is action-oriented. Who cares why they do what they do? They do it. They kill us.. Eff 'em. They are scum-sucking bottom-dwellers. Nuke 'em.
  2. Those who believe that by understanding the terrorist's motivation we can therapize the terrorists and prevent further attacks by making ourselves less target-rich environments. In women-studies classes this is called "blame the victim". Ironically, in the PC intellectually elite world it is called "multiculturalism" and "tolerance."
For new readers to my blog, I lean to #1, but still think it is important to understand the why, if only to be able to better fight them.

Terrorists like toddlers are not sophisticated creatures. They are simple, primal and base, if for different reasons. That does not mean that they are ineffective or harmless. Nay, they are very effective precisely because their means are so simple, primal and base.

A toddler denied is an unpleasant mass of humanity. Angry and aggressive, he is intent on taking what is his. If he cannot have it, his frustration mounts. His solution is often to destroy something, anything--hopefully the thing he can't have. He's not particularily careful about the destruction. The point is to destroy. He might even get what he wants employing this method of communication. Or not. It's still fun to break something.

A terrorist has been nursed on denial. Deprived of the honor and pride that should go with a clearly superior belief system, and seeing the backward, dishonored and humbled results of the belief system, he gets angry. He sees what the other belief system has and he cannot have it. His frustration mounts. His solution is not to examine his own beliefs and the politics and economics that spring from those beliefs. His solution is to destroy the proof of the enemy's superiority. Rather than build his own building. He destroys someone elses.

These days, a destructive, angry toddler will be allowed free reign. The parents will communicate (never mind that his reasoning skills haven't fully developed). The parents will be immobilized by embarassment and exhibit shocked horror (children pick the most public, humiliating times to put their worst behavior on display). The parents will plead and bribe.

This, in psychological terms is called a pay-off. The parents inadvertantly reinforce rotten behavior. The kid loves it. Attention, emotional outburst from mom and dad (like pushing a button-fun!) and a gift for all my effort. Yippee!

A wise parent sets clear boundaries. The child knows ahead of time the consequences for certain behavior. The consequences are such that the perceived benefits of destroying are outweighed by the downsides to destroying. The child learns rotten behavior, while temporarily fun, is unwise and will never get him what he wants.

I have seen so many parents act as though their parenting of their toddler doesn't matter much at all. It's just a phase. He'll grow out of it. And while it's true that as communication develops, certain behavioral problems subside, it's not true that a child will automatically develop a moral sense. That must be taught. Respect, kindness, patience, all must be taught. Certain behavior is unacceptable and must not be allowed.

Wise parents know this and parent with an eye to the future. They know that this cute little lumpkin will grow up and get big and strong. And if let go, his destruction of choice won't be the Lego tower his brother built it will be something significantly more dangerous.

The way society is divided over parenting seems to me about the way society is divided about how to deal with terrorists. And if trends continue, it's not looking good for the home-team. There is a significant chunk of people on the Left side of the spectrum who aren't having children. I do think that this changes their worldview. (A worldview might also be the reason to not have children. I know people though, who, once they had children left their theories in the dust for the realities children tend to bring.)

The cajoling (diplomacy), bribery (bribery), and reasoning (summits, the UN) reinforce the terrorist's behavior. Each push that is not pushed back engenders another push. The ever-present question? How far can I push before being stopped? Like a too-smart toddler, he scorns the weakness displayed as foolishness. The West's pompous elites rationalizing his behavior fills him with mirthful scorn. It emboldens him. He uses it to his own advantage.

Unlike a toddler, though, a terrorist will not "grow out" of his underdeveloped moral sense. His belief system created his terrorism, it will also continue his terrorism until either he or his enemy is dead. It is a zero-sum game. It is deadly serious.

Dealing with a tantruming toddler is a miserable experience. It takes patience, internal fortitude and a resolve to ensure the child's growth over the long haul. As any parent knows, parenting ain't for sissies.

Dealing with a terrorist is like parenting a toddler on crack. Relentless and determined, intent on our utter destruction, the terrorists need relatively little in their arsenal to do a lot of damage.

This is one reason I think all the comparisons to Hitler are silly. Hitler's massive army, airpower and artillery could not do the damage that ten angry men with suitcase bombs or a Surface to Air Missles or a couple of hijacked airplanes could do. Times have changed.

Iran's military is no match for us. So what? They don't need to be. Glenn Reynolds says that this isn't like the Cold War or anything and "we won that one". Yeah, so what? We are fighting the remnants--Russia supplies Iran. Iran funds Russia. French and Russian military bits and pieces and technology end up in the hands of regimes that would do America harm.

The enemies are not direct, but it would be silly to ignore the fact that China and Russia benefit from a dangerous Iran. Sure they play with crazy dynamite, but they count on the fact that we, not they, will be on the receiving end of Iran or some other rogue state's nefarious aims. In a sense, Iran does their post-Cold War era fighting for them and while they get paid to watch. A nice win-win, don't you think?

Back to terrorists and toddlers. Too many in our country hope that if that if the bad behavior is ignored, it will go away. That has proven not to be the case over and over. Acquiesence has bought no one, not even the chief appeasing Germans, safety. Americans ignore and deny to their own destruction.

We don't have a standing army at our border, true. This enemy is worse. This enemy is among us and yet we don't know who is who. When we find them out, we must find the strength within to acknowledge what we are dealing with and then, deal with it. This problem is not going away.


Kman said...

Excellent post!

It makes me sick to see parents reward their child for bad behavior. My personal pet-peeve is when the kid wants to leave and is acting bad only to be confronted with the following choice... "If you don't straighten up right now we're going home!". Duh... the kid is thinking... What was the downside?

And then you see the UN / appeasement crowd saying "If you don't straighten up right now we're going to complain about your parents being too strict and ask the US to pay for the damage you caused!". The toddlers are thinking... What was the downside?

Anonymous said...

Doc, the lesson of all this is:

Be a winner -- Stay a toddler, and the universe will always revolve around you -- OR ELSE.

Just like millions of Baby Boomers.