Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rationality and Taliban and how can we rationally handle them

Here is a daunting question; are Taliban rational? i say terrorism is the only rational thing Taliban are capable to do. Taliban as individuals are not rational. they lack control over basic human instincts such as anger, joy, jealousy… etc. that is why they decided to be Taliban as a result of foreign occupation, corruption or anything that is happening in Afghanistan which made them angry. Taliban movement is the only framework that helps the lunatics behave rationally and have a sense of fulfillment.

Mullah Rockety, Waheed Mozhda and Abdul Salam for instance were all Taliban but they are not any more. They are in the government or have something going that is engaging and provides that rationality which they once enjoyed from being a Talib. No longer these men have nothing to lose.

There has been many theories to reconstruct a rational theory of terrorism an one of the best is Eli Berman's. Reverse the story of mullah rockety or abdul salam and you get a sense of Berman's argument: effective terrorist groups are effective only because their members are cut off from the outside world and have little to gain from quitting the group. This could be caused by many things such as poor education and etc but the core reason for the majority of a nation is bad governance and in Afghanistan failed state for decades.

Of course, the world is not short of terrorists, but there are many grievances, many disaffected young men and hundreds of thousands of murders or deaths on the battlefield. Given what an impact terrorist violence can have, and how low-tech it can be, Berman is probably right to suggest that the rarity of effective terrorists, however welcome, is a puzzle.

Lets pursue rational terrorism and the answer is in former Taliban. A single defector can jeopardise a terrorist network, and defections do happen. Sudanese militant Jamal al-Fadl quit al-Qaeda in the mid 1990s and jumped ship to the US, reportedly for huge sums of money. Abu Musab alZarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, died when his safe house was bombed in June 2006 – it has been reported that an associate betrayed him for the $25m bounty on his head.

The higher the stakes, the more tempting it will be for a half-hearted terrorist to defect. Berman argues that radical religious groups are well-equipped to ensure that there is no such thing as a half-hearted terrorist. It is not the theology of such groups – martyrdom, for instance – that makes the difference, but their ability to cut off outside options and create very strong ties between group members. there was not a single thing that we didn't fear not to do without fearing Taliban reprisal, from flying kite to the colour of cloths and even genital hair. Everything was Taliban business. The aim is to reinforce a group identity and make everyone part of the circle.

At the core of Taliban is a set of rules that makes it unattractive for adherents to leave, and attractive for them to stay. If they stay, they enjoy the membership of a group that provides substantial social services to members. If they leave – having been cut off from education, work and isolated from real life – their options will be limited, even if they do run off with a truck full of smuggled goods or a pay-off from the Americans.

Berman's theory is puzzling in some ways. He devotes very little attention to the fact that the violent religious groups he studies – the Taliban, Hamas, Hizbollah and the Mahdi Army – are all Islamic. But the focus on the way some radical religious groups are able to control defection does seem very fruitful. It points to clear solutions, too: give potential terrorists attractive outside options, offer effective social services and try to cut off their sources of funding. Not at all easy, and not altogether new. but, what is?


Anonymous said...

Thought-provoking article, but:

"Taliban...lack control over basic human instincts such as anger...that is why they decided to be Taliban as a result of foreign occupation...which made them angry."

So, do they have basic human instincts such as anger or not?

Unknown said...

foreign occupation is a matter of perception. many afghan lives improved since international intervention. taliban's anger prevents them from seeing improvement in lives. then anger prevents them from a more humane response. they can never be reconciled or appeased into the political system.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I only wanted to point out the inconsistency about whether or not Taliban have anger in your opening paragraph - a matter of good composition in writing.

But your psychological question about whether they are rational thinkers is very interesting and should be explored by experts and thinkers. What is rational? Is it the same all over the world? When Taliban behead their enemy, are they thinking rationally or is it pure madness? Does anger play a role in that action or is it just cold blooded and calculated action? Is it rational thinking to expect the international coalition to accept defeat and leave? Is it rational thinking to hide women under veils while the rest of the world is showing more and more skin?