POLITICAL observations & opinions

* where are the politicians and voters who can deal with complexity? President Obama is one; there are more in the Obama administration; but Republicans who could contribute to the process of intelligent governance are only allowed by their leadership to say ‘NO’ … and too many voters are listening to simple-minded slogans instead of thinking for themselves

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 12, 2010

Robert Wright writes in the NYT (5/11/10) …

  • behaviors — such as planting a bomb — don’t have a single “root” cause.
  • the following scenario is conceivable:
    • A Pakistani guy moves to America, goes to college, gets a job, starts a family. He grows unhappy. … for whatever reason, he feels alienated in America.
    • He stays in touch with people and events back home in Pakistan, and this gives him another reason to dislike America: American drones are firing missiles into Pakistan, sometimes killing women and children.
    • Thanks to the Internet, it doesn’t take him long to find like-minded folks, or to come under the influence of a radical imam operating out of Yemen. “Jihadi intent” is taking shape, and eventually he comes into the fold of actual jihadis, a faction of the Taliban in Pakistan. They give him what he hadn’t found in America: a sense of belonging, a sense of  purpose. The basic ingredients of bomb-planting behavior are now in place.
  • I’m not sure this is the story of Faisal Shahzad; we don’t yet know enough to say. But this story is consistent with the facts disclosed about him so far — and, more to the point, stories like this do unfold in the world we inhabit.
  • Various things fuel “jihadi intent,” and they may include the policy of firing missiles into Pakistan.
  • Obviously (I hope), to say that American policies may cause terrorism isn’t to say that America is to blame for terrorism. It’s just to say those policies may have downsides. And, obviously, those policies may have upsides as well; drone strikes disrupt terrorist logistics, for example.
  • Unfortunately, President Obama isn’t discarding the Bush-Cheney playbook that has given jihadist recruiters such effective talking points.
  • What is surprising is that Barack Obama, who became the Democratic nominee for president largely because he had opposed the Iraq war, seems increasingly to be taking his cues from the people who so disastrously supported it.

Read the entire column at … http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/11/the-making-of-a-terrorist/?ref=opinion&ref=opinion


When issues are complex, policies and decisions are often the result of balances between multiple objectives and consequences, each imperfectly known. We need political leaders who are smart enough to engage complexity and make reasoned analyses, and who are also willing to communicate their decision-making process, not just the final decision. Our president shows many of those characteristics, although he has so far been less transparent than he might have been; most of our other leaders and most of the electorate tend to behave far more simplistically. Which may be why President Obama is less transparent than he might otherwise be.


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