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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

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Killing the Terrorists

20 January 2009

This feature is being written even as Israeli shells fall on the citizens of Gaza and people are being killed and maimed. (That’s quite a sobering thought!)

The aim of the Israeli assault on Gaza avowedly is to neutralise terrorist organisation Hamas’ capacity to fire rockets into southern Israel. However, there is also talk of toppling Hamas – the duly-elected party controlling the government of the Gaza Strip.

Does a government have the right to take action to protect its citizens? In a BLUE-ORANGE Western-style democracy, the government has an obligation to take action. If it doesn’t, the electorate will punish it at the polls – and it’s no coincidence that Israel has an election next month. (By contrast, with the kind of RED-BLUE zealotry, with which Hamas runs Gaza, its government can actually sacrifice large numbers of its own citizens with a fair degree of impunity!)

Does a government have a right to invade the land of those who are trying to kill its citizens (and sometimes succeeding!)? The Americans certainly saw it as legitimate to invade Afghanistan as a response to 9/11 – and most of the rest of the world supported the invasion (or at least didn’t openly object to it).

However, most of the rest of the world objected to the invasion of Iraq because, while few doubted Saddam Hussein would be a serious threat to the United States if he could, the case that he was presently a highly-dangerous threat was simply not credible and it was generally believed that the United Nations’ strategies to contain Iraq were working.

As the Israelis claim territorial jurisdiction over Gaza – and have the military muscle to enforce it – technically they’re not invading another country. The fact that much of the rest of the world supports the notion that the Palestinian Territories should be recognised as the sovereign state of Palestine, however, somewhat undermines that argument.

These are not mere semantic points. For the Indian government, under pressure to go after the terrorist groups in Pakistan who bred the Mumbai gunmen, how far you can go to protect your citizens from terrorism is a very real issue. Should Indian forces go into Pakistan if the Pakistani government doesn’t deal with those groups itself? And, if they did, what would be the consequences? India and Pakistan have a tortuous history of bloody conflict and there’s more than a few influential figures in both countries who would dearly like to wipe the other lot out. (And with the nuclear weapons both states have acquired, wiping the other lot out is not a total impossibility.)

How far should a government go in dealing with terrorism?
If we use the Assimilation-Contrast Effect (ACE) Don Beck (2003) derived from applying Spiral Dynamics to the work of Muzafer Sherif, then you have to look at the vMEMES driving the terrorism. In most cases, it’s RED and BLUE. RED’s exertion of personal power or obeying those with more power in the ‘power pecking order’, married with BLUE’s sacrifice self to the ‘noble cause’. If there’s land involved – and clearly there is in both the Israel-Palestine and India-Pakistan conflicts – then it can be easy for RED and BLUE to manipulate PURPLE’s attachment to the land and make the land itself part of the noble cause. Once PURPLE’s involved, then not-of-our-tribe racism is also easily invoked which makes killing those not of our tribe, who are not like us, that much more palatable.

If key individuals are also high in Psychoticism, then you can expect a gleeful cruelty in the design of the terrorist atrocities.

As ACE depicts, the more RED and BLUE are in charge of one party in a conflict, the more unreasonable and unwilling to accommodate other views that party will be. Even moderate versions of that party’s view will be contrasted and demonised as betrayers of the cause. Thus, Hamas couldn’t just take over from Fatah in Gaza, it had to drive the more moderate Palestinians out.

These distorted memes – beliefs that only their own solutions can be the right solutions and that any other proposed solutions of any kind cannot be tolerated – means that terrorists of the likes of Hamas cannot be reasoned with. If there are those who are a real and present danger to your electorate, then a government has no choice but to take action to protect its citizens. So those in the Israeli government, like Tzipi Livni, who are calling for the removal of Hamas probably have it right. The fact that Hamas would rather fight on, with all the suffering being inflicted on their citizenry, rather than accept their supply of arms through Egypt being cut off (a key condition in the Franco-Egyptian ceasefire proposal) is stark evidence of the ruthless zealotry the RED and BLUE vMEMES working together can create. Hamas needs to be destroyed.

Of course, the way Israel has been going about its assault on Gaza has defied common sense – but that is commented on in the Blog Israeli stupidity in Gaza! .

Just as Hamas needs to be destroyed, so do the radical groups in Pakistan that carry out terrorist acts on Indian territory.

Utterly. No mercy.

If you show zealots mercy, they will simply get their strength back, regroup and attack again. Only if vMEME stacks change and higher vMEMES start dominating psyches and sub-culture groupings, should mercy be shown. Then, as ACE shows, pragmatism and moderation will start to prevail and differing views are more likely to be accommodated.

And terrorist mindsets do change. Northern Ireland Deputy Prime Minister Martin McGuinness once thought ‘the bomb and the bullet’ were the best way to pursue Republican aims in Northern Ireland. Indeed he is reputed to have pulled the trigger himself on at least one occasion. And let us not forget that Nelson Mandela, arguably the most inspirational statesman of our times, is credited with having invented the ‘flaming necklace’.

So any sign of movement beyond zealotry needs to be seized upon and encouraged. But there is only one answer to rigid zealotry.

Put your own house in order
…or I’ll do it for you!” is a common enough saying that a several governments would be well-advised to take notice of.

Pakistan,obviously, is one country that desperately needs to eliminate its extreme groups. A new all-out war with India – and the potential nuclear consequences – is unthinkable to the sane. But what are the Indians supposed to do if the Pakistani government lacks the will or the military muscle to prevent terrorists attacking India from Pakistani territory?

Countries which at best fail to stop terrorist groups operating from their territory attacking the citizens of another country or at worst actively facilitate them are asking for trouble. From the 1986 American bombing of Libya to the Second Chechen War to the invasion of Afghanistan, the message is clear. If the country you’re allowing attacks to be made against is more powerful than yours, they will most likely punish you in some way or other.

Ideally Pakistan, if it can’t eliminate its radical groups itself militarily, would request assistance from other countries or international bodies whose forces would be at least not too unacceptable to the majority of Pakistanis. Any such assistance would need to be brief and highly focussed, with not the slightest hint of forces staying any longer than it took to do the job. (Otherwise PURPLE would demonise the outsiders as occupiers of its land.)

Was a trick missed when Hamas drove Fatah out of Gaza? The niceties that Hamas was democratically elected to government may have blinded some to the inevitable trouble that would ensue. The economic blockade Israel, the US, the EU and others imposed on Gaza caused real hardship for Gazans without undermining Hamas who played the “look what the evil Satans are doing to our people” card – building every affected Gazan into the myth of martyrdom and strengthening Hamas’ grip on the cultural psyche of Gaza.

There’s an argument for saying Fatah should have received covert assistance and resources to prevent Hamas driving them out of Gaza. It wouldn’t have been very ‘democratic’, of course, but a number of Gazans who have died or been maimed in the past few weeks now might still be alive and whole.

Ideally Fatah would have termed Hamas a proscribed terrorist organisation and crushed them themselves. That would have been one way of demonstrating to the Israelis that Palestine can be an equal and responsible partner to Israel in designing the mechanisms to keep the Middle East stable and peaceful.

Tough on terrorists, tough on the causes of terrorism
Our ‘terrorists’ are someone else’s ‘freedom fighters’ or ‘avengers’ or ‘justice makers’. They have a degree of popular support – sometimes a considerable degree! – due to the perceived oppression/injustice they are seeking to overturn. While the thinkers in rigid RED and BLUE need to be destroyed, unless you’re going to go to genocidal levels of killing, more will replace them to fight and sacrifice themselves for the ‘noble cause’.

Which means killing the extremists is only a short-term fix. Removal of those oppressions and injustices which feed into the noble cause is essential if zealotry is to be minimised in the longer term.

As the ACE model shows, the pragmatists and moderates will actively seek assimilation and accommodation but there needs to be reward in it for them.

Thus, Israel needs to court and support relative Palestinian moderates like Mahmoud Abbas and the ordinary Palestinian needs to find that life is better living in accord with Israel. In the 1990s the rise of the ORANGE vMEME in the Irish Republic, fed by the country’s booming economy, led to an emphasis on personal wealth and progress – undermining BLUE’s claim to the 6 counties of the North – to the extent that the Irish electorate voted for it to be removed from the country’s constitution! Perhaps taking his cue from the Irish story, Don Beck at one stage proposed flooding the West Bank and Gaza with money tied to infrastructure projects (roads, hospitals, schools, etc) and the creation of wealth-generating businesses. If Palestinians got a new bug for money and better living, perhaps they would lose the bug for shooting or blowing up Israelis….? Then perhaps the Israelis would see the Palestinians as potential economic partners…?

Of course, a sustainable resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict will be far more complex than simply putting in money – but it could be a potent strand in a MeshWORK of solutions.

Other terrorist flashpoints like Kashmir will require different MeshWORKS to undermine the noble causes and minimise the number of people getting sucked into them. But the principle is the same. Take away the oppressions and injustices and the perceptions of oppressions and injustices. And, of course, fill the lines of communication with ‘good news’ memes. Talk the talk as well as walk the walk!

While the Northern Ireland resolution was aided massively by the economic boom in the Republic, the British employed something of the tactics discussed here. While we won’t have it confirmed until ‘sensitive documents’ are released under the ‘100 Years Rule’, many commentators believe that the British government had a shoot-to-kill policy where IRA terrorists were concerned and that a number of leading IRA figures were targeted and assassinated. (It is even rumoured that fear of assassination was one of the factors which led to Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams opting increasingly for a political solution to the conflict!) But the British government also made sure that a power-sharing agreement would be put in place for the leading ‘hard men’ who were ready to change, with opportunities for advancement in a political career. They also ensured that the Northern Ireland economy received plenty of stimulation so that the ordinary people could feel the ‘peace dividend’ once the ‘war weariness’ had started to wear off.

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