Saturday, August 12, 2006

Wha?!!?, Take 2

Mark Thoma points out something that is very frightening:

"...I think Iraq has gone not badly but well, is not a disaster or a crime or a delusion, but what's more is a noble, necessary effort." ...

"The only reason in my opinion that we're having as much trouble as we're having in Iraq is that we're not getting intelligence. . . . and you can only get that kind of intelligence by squeezing it out of prisoners. That's all there is to it."

Both domestic opposition and the international community, unhappily, are "defining torture down. The things they're calling 'torture' now have never been and have no business being considered torture." He keeps on: "It is an effort to disarm us that's succeeding to a frightening extent. No, it's worse than that. They're trying to make it impossible to fight terrorism. . . . Every weapon that's been developed to protect us from terrorism, and the Iraqis from internal terrorism, is under assault."

That is 2004 Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and prominent neo-conservative Norman Podhertz. That people that think like him are currently in charge of our foreign policy terrifies me.

The "weapons to fight terrorism" he so loves don't do anything to solve the long term problem. They are entirely attempts to shift in the supply curve by making it more difficult to carry out attacks; however, as I have discussed previously here and here, supply side policies are not likely to reduce terrorism much because demand for terror is inelastic.

Worse, the torture techniques he supports actually make the problem worse because they increase the amount of hatred toward the US. Stories and images of people being tortured and held without trial are easily interpreted as attacks on a specific religious and ethnic group -- particularly when the man responsible makes it sound like exactly that by saying we are at war with "ISLAMIC fascists." Harsh and injust treatment of members of a different group increases the demand for group-level hatred within that group without any special effort by the suppliers of hatred.

Don't believe me? Watch what happens to American views of Muslims in the next few weeks. Tony V is correct -- the recent threat of attacks is going to increase group level hatred of Muslims by Americans without any special efforts by those who typically supply this stuff. When members of a group actually do something hurtful and unjust to the members of a different group, the work suppliers of group level hatred do highlighting the threats posed by members of the other group pose is done for them by the most respectable news sources in the world (of course, according to Republicans, this makes the people who report and discuss these issues, but not the people who actually pose a threat to the other group, supporters of terrorism).

Don't' worry, though, suppliers of hatred also get a big boost out of this stuff. Rather than having to make things up to provoke hatred among their clients (like, I dunno, Saddam Hussein has WMD and ties to al Qaeda), they can use actual recent, verified events. Reliance on "true" events makes it much easier to confuse people into thinking that the other group (not simply insane people who happen to be members of the group) is evil. This lowers the cost of suppling hate substantially and pushes out the supply curve.

More supply + more demand => more hate.

More hate => suppliers of terror garners more support for their causes if they attempt to attack the "enemy" (i.e., demand for terror increases) AND more people are willing to join their efforts making it much cheaper for them to plan and execute attacks (i.e., supply increases).

More supply + more demand > decrease in supply from harsh interrogation, etc. => more terror.

This really isn't that hard to figure out.

The idea that the right answer is just to find and eliminate terrorists, one broken finger at a time, is so absurd (as well as completely disturbing), as opposed to examining root causes.
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