Scott Atran, a French-American anthropologist who lives in Paris, is a thoughtful and challenging expert on terrorism, who argues in “ISIS is a revolution,” that “we are not only failing to stop the spread of radical Islam, but our efforts often appear to contribute to it.” Michael Jetter, a German-born, US-educated economist who teaches in Medellín, Colombia, has found that “media attention devoted to terrorism actively encourages future attacks.”
Atran contends that, however brutal and repugnant ISIS is to us and most Muslims, it speaks directly to people who “yearn for the revival of a Muslim Caliphate and the end to a nation-state order the Great Powers invented and imposed” and who long “for something in their history, in their traditions, with their heroes and their morals” – in other words, marginalized people seeking a homeland. This is not the first quest for a homeland in the region, and it has fired adherents around the world “in the service of some indomitable moral and spiritual force” – and created “the largest and most diverse volunteer fighting force” since WWII.
Jetter found that “one additional NYT article [increases] the number of attacks in the following week by 11 to 15 percent.”
Together, the studies suggest we: (1) rethink strategies, such as the “tired call to shore up the broken nation-state system;” (2) recognize that bellicosity, fear mongering and sensationalism play into ISIS’ hands; and (3) realize that retreating into Fortress America makes the world – and America – a more dangerous place. Finally, the authors’ multinational perspectives underscore how our xenophobic fears keep us from understanding a world in which borders are increasingly outdated.
I am grateful to friends who sent both articles.