Hearts and minds

This was something I posted to a mailing list, and I’m reposting it here…

Regarding a comment “We are not fighting a mental state, we’re fighting actual individuals that carry out criminal acts”…

This is true, but I can also see the truth in what [the previous poster] was saying as well. Terrorists do exist in a vacuum, sometimes, but they usually turn out to be fringe-dwellers whose own society considers to be wackos — take Timothy McVeigh for example. However, the more organized “terrorist group”, whether it is the one supported by /bin/laden or the IRA, has a level of support in their homeland that we cannot ignore. The “support” ranges from “I don’t believe it’s right, but I’m not going to turn them in” on up to “You can have your meeting in here, and if you need weapons, I’ll give you a discount”.

I suspect for every terrorist willing to give up his life for the cause, there are probably 10x or 100x or 100,000x more people who either support the cause or refuse to act against it. THIS is the war we should be fighting, I think. So far USA has not been effective at winning over the hearts and minds of folks in the Middle East.

I am saddened by the number of people who danced in the streets and gave candy to kids, celebrating that parts of America were on fire and dying. How long does it take those kids to unlearn what they have learned? How many generations will pass before the hatred of America passes? Are we as Americans doing anything to decrease or defuse the hatred, or is it going to grow worse?

Regarding a comment “We have to convince all nations that this is necessary for our mutual benefit….”

I agree with this. It seems to me that Afghanistan was quick to go “on record” as denouncing the actions of the terrorists, but if they are asked to surrender and/or punish their residents who may have been involved, they will have a tough situation to deal with. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have a larger number of children named “Sama” after their national/cultural hero.

We must convince nations that terrorism and terrorists have no place in the world. How do we convince entire nations of people to change their views on such a subject? What’s the best diplomatic action? individual action? military action? Which of these would probably be the most effective?

I’m extremely afraid of the USA “overreacting” and losing the support of the international community. People all over the world have rallied around us. I think a unilateral strike Gulf-style is not the right answer. I would much rather see terrorist-supporters indicted by a war-crimes tribunal and a sentence imposed by the entire International community. USA has been accused of “isolationist” practices in the past, so I wonder if we are going to continue to be cowboys and rope in the evil-doers ourselves, or if we are going to try and get International concensus for what we will do?

Responding to someone who said “I’m still angry over this… This time, it isn’t passing quickly and I want to do something about it. Trouble is, I’m not yet sure what since I don’t think that striking out in blind rage is useful.”

We will probably all react on multiple levels. What I usually tell people at times of extreme emotional hardship, is to acknowledge and deal with the emotions, in whatever way helps, but not to make big decisions or commit to any actions while we are in an extreme emotional state. We have probably all had incidents of taking actions we later regret while “under the influence” of strong emotions.

Dealing with the emotion itself… talking about it helps a lot. Sometimes, beating the crap out of a pillow or punching bag helps.

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