From ON BEING, PBS, KRISTA TIPPETT
Hopes and Dreams in a World of Fear
For over a decade, the French-American anthropologist Scott Atran has been listening to the hopes and dreams of young people from Indonesia to Egypt. He explores the human dynamics of what we analyze as “breeding grounds for terrorism” — why some young people become susceptible to them and others, in the same circumstances, do not. His work sheds helpful light on the question on so many of our minds as we watch horrific news of the day: How could this happen — and how could we possibly help transform it?
Scott Atran is director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, visiting professor at the University of Michigan, senior fellow at Harris Manchester College of Oxford University and research professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. He’s the author of Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood and the (Un)Making of Terrorists.
RAD: As I was listening to this interview my mind went back to the '60s - why did some of us go down the path Martin Luther King charted of non-violent resistance to confront injustice while others like the Black Panthers and the SDS Weatherman opted for violence? We were of the same generation but we made very different choices which changed our lives. So the questions Scott Atran applies to members of my generation too.
If one goes back to the days of the American Revolution or Civil War - the same questions can be asked. For Americans over the long haul the arc of justice was advanced more by institutions of a civil society not unending violence. But we can't deny the role violence on behalf of freedom played a role as well as in behalf of oppression especially of Native Americans and African-Americans. Each generation has to face these same questions - whether here or abroad.
What does "the other" want? They want to be "significant." What options do "they" have? When we invade their country what do you think? Hannah Arendt talks of the "banality of evil" Scott Atran describes what one might term the "banality of terrorism." To reverse the cycle of violence can we have conflict without enemies? As Lincoln said - "do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" Are we winning friends - their hearts or minds or the opposite?
This interview in 2011 was before ISIS when the Arab Spring brought hope. Scott Atran's comment "sometimes you have to fight things, when people want to kill you or blow you up, then you have to fight them." adds a tragic note. Timing is everything. Thanks to the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq after 9/11 we are left with the collateral damage of a failed US foreign policy. And now we're knee deep in a "surrogate's" war against ISIS, the new face of terrorism.
The problem with the 7 scenarios is the author never discusses option 8 - what happens "if" ISIS is successful in establishing its Caliphate? As Scott Atran points out in the interview foreign policy wonks can come up all kinds of data driven scenarios but they don't really understand the psychology driving each of these groups. If ISIS is the "successful" face of terrorism - what becomes of the Middle East then? Is this the "final solution?"
- Thanks Dubya!