Open source warfare != open source software

One of my commenters brought up John Robb, a former SpecOps pilot who has made a name for himself as a counter-terror theorist by writing about “open-source warfare”. Mutual acquaintances confirm what Robb’s own writings suggest, which is that his notions of open-source warfare are heavily influenced by what I have called the bazaar model of software development.

When I learned this in 2004 I attempted to begin a conversation with John Robb by email. The remainder of this post is my email to him – to which, for whatever reason, he never replied. I have edited the one link reference into a live link.

A friend pointed me at THE BAZAAR’S OPEN SOURCE PLATFORM. I had been previously aware of the application of social network theory to counterinsurgency and half-expecting my work to show up in that conversation at some point, but this is the first time I actually know of it happening.

You analogy between terrorist networks and the open-source community is thought-provoking but, I think, flawed. The flaws are good news, as they offer guidance towards ways to disrupt and hinder terror networks.

There are at least four traits that make the the network of open-source hackers structurally different from the terror network.

1. Visibility is safe

The first difference is that the hacker network can be entirely visible without risk, but the terror network must remain almost entirely invisible (except at the edges, where it recruits through deniable cut-outs).

Thus, communication between terrorists is much riskier than it is between hackers. (There have already been some well-publicized incidents in which tapped cell-phone conversations led to portions of the terror network being rolled up.) This matters, because it means that every attempt at coordination has to be traded off against the probability that it will result in exposure.

You have already noticed that this tradeoff implies a maximum feasible network size. It also implies a minimum feasible action-reaction loop; the riskier communication is, the longer coordination at an acceptable risk level will take. (Thus Al-Quaeda’s observed pattern of long latency periods between attacks.)

2. Outcomes are easy to measure

Second, success is easier to measure for hackers than for terrorists. A program either runs and gives the expected output, or it doesn’t. Of course there are important kinds of programs for which you cannot predict the output, but it is usually possible to check that output for correctness by various means and be confident that you know whether or not it meets your objectives.

Terrorists have more difficulty measuring outcomes. Let’s take the Chechen separatists as an example: presuming their outcome is to break the Russians’ will to fight in Chechnya, how are they to know whether the massacre at Beslan succeeded or not?

3. The cost of failure is low

There is very little downside risk in what hackers do. If aparticular way of writing a program fails, you throw it away and write a new one. Failure can be sad for individuals or project groups but does not threaten the network as a whole.

The terror network, on the other hand, can be badly damaged by the blowback from its actions. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, Al-Qaeda lost its base camps in Afghanistan, and state sponsorship of terrorism became covert rather than overt.

No analogous loss is really imaginable for hackers. They are protected partly by the fact that there are large demand sinks for what they do in the aboveground economy — our equivalent of state sponsorship is the Fortune 1000.

4. Attack methods are perfectly transmissible

When hackers successfully attack a problem, they produce an algorithm that can be cheaply replicated anywhere. Terrorists, on the other hand, rely on skills that are difficult to replicate (such as bomb-making) and materiel that isn’t easy to get (consider the relative cost of a personal computer versus an RPG).

The bazaar model will only work for terrorists insofar as they can suppress these differencies — e.g., be safely visible, measure outcomes, control the cost of failure, and transmit attack methods.

It follows that counterterror strategy must be aimed at amplifying these differences. Here’s how we can do that:

1. Make it more dangerous for terrorists to be visible.

Terrorists can afford to be visible only where either (a) no local authority can suppress them, or (b) they are sponsored by the strongest local authority. (It is immaterial whether the local authority is a nation-state; this analysis applies equally to Iran, pre-liberation Iraq and Somalia.)

Thus, raising the perceived risk from sponsoring terrorism will force terrorists to operate undercover, making their network less like a bazaar in both communication richness and action/reaction time.

2. Make it more difficult for terrorists to measure outcomes

The most effective step we could take towards this is probably for responsible news media to voluntarily stop covering individual terrorist attacks. Note that this would not be the same as denying or covering up the phenomenon; monthly aggregate statistics on terrorist attacks, for example, would suffice for purposes such as risk evaluation by commercial travelers.

Unfortunately, responsibility by the news media seems rather unlikely.

3. Make the cost of failure high

This can be best achieved by the traditional method of giving no quarter — killing terrorists swiftly and without mercy whenever they present targets by mounting an operation.

4. Make it more difficult to transmit attack methods.

This implies that disrupting terrorist training facilities should be a priority in counter-terror.

306 thoughts on “Open source warfare != open source software

  1. I am surprised to read this from you. You seem to be in favour of using local authorities to suppress terrorists, of ‘mounting an operation’ to kill terrorists swiftly, and of ‘counter-terror’.

    How can you reconcile your anarchism with your apparent advocacy for state-based counter-terrorist activities? You seem almost to imply that you are in favour of the war in Afghanistan, since it has removed Al-Qaeda’s ‘base-camps’ in that country. Is this the case? Isn’t there a fundamental tension in your world-view here?

  2. Sounds like a case of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. If there are going to be states (and they’re already there) they might as well earn their keep by suppressing something that in this case seems even worse than states- terrorists.

  3. There comes a point where maintaining ideological purity is a crippling handicap that leaves you unable to function in the real world. Not sure why you’d expect Eric to handicap himself thusly- don’t we have this discussion or one like it on a regular basis? ISTR a conversation that involved not allowing ideals and incentives to align because it was “impure” or something….

  4. Tom, why the surprise? It would be nice if some non-state actor had the resources to fight the terrorists, but that’s no reason why states shouldn’t do so. Are you against states when they catch rapists too? For that matter, if a bank robber happens to save someone’s life, do you have a problem with that just because he’s a criminal? Would you tell him you’d rather drown than be saved by him?

  5. @Joel

    ESR has made it clear that he considers collective self-defense a valid use (the only valid use?) of state power.

    It’s my understanding that, as an anarchist, Eric does not believe there should even be a state.

    @Millhouse

    Are you against states when they catch rapists too?

    No, but I’m not an anarchist. I’m pointing out an apparent inconsistency in Eric’s world-view.

  6. Joel, it’s not a matter of “valid uses” of state power. To an anarchist states shouldn’t exist, and therefore shouldn’t have any power, and therefore there are no valid uses for that power. But a deed that would be virtuous if done by anybody doesn’t magically become bad just because a state does it. Almost all states do some good things, since they’re usually run by people who are not completely evil. Even Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot probably did some good things in their lives.

  7. Tom, that wasn’t the question. States exist, and have the power to stop rapists; do you imagine that any anarchist would say that they ought not to do so?! Why on earth would anyone say that?

  8. >How can you reconcile your anarchism with your apparent advocacy for state-based counter-terrorist activities?

    Easily. Consider this quote from Frederic Bastiat, one of the great thinkers of individualist anarchy “Law is solely the organization of the individual right of self-defense which existed before law was formalized.” The problem with governments is not that they function as organized self-defense; it’s that they claim a monopoly on that function (and others) and coerce to enforce those monopolies. So there is no contradiction between endorsing a government’s actions when it acts in my defense and working towards the abolition of the monopoly.

  9. @Eric

    I suppose the question is, if you consider it necessary to fight terrorists overseas, who else could conduct such operations other than a state? In other words if there were no state (which I assume is what you want as an anarchist) how could the perceived need for a ‘war on terror’ be met?

    That is quite apart from the issue of whether a war against terrorism can justly be called self defence. Quite honestly I can’t see how Islamic terrorism is any material threat at all to the United States or any other countries in the West.

  10. Tom, the anarchist view is that if there were no states to battle the jihadists then private armies would arise to do the job, funded by the protection services that would provide crime suppression domestically and/or by donations, sponsorships, etc.

    As for how Islamic terrorism is a material threat to Americans or other Westerners, first of all, have you forgotten 11-Sep-2001? Second, why does that matter? As a not-very-attractive male, most rapists are no threat to me; does that mean that I have no business stopping them from raping women, if I can do so? The right to self-defense can and ought to be exercised not just by the victim but on his/her behalf by anyone who is able to.

  11. >Tom, the anarchist view is that if there were no states to battle the jihadists then private armies would arise to do the job, funded by the protection services that would provide crime suppression domestically and/or by donations, sponsorships, etc.

    Milhous is missing the most important funding mechanism – insurance companies, which is how we socialize risk in a free market. But his answer is otherwise both ethically and practically correct. I might make an anarchist of him yet. :-)

  12. @Millhouse

    Tom, the anarchist view is that if there were no states to battle the jihadists then private armies would arise to do the job, funded by the protection services that would provide crime suppression domestically and/or by donations, sponsorships, etc.

    To the tune of more than a trillion dollars? I don’t see how any profit-driven private company could afford to spend that much. The most valuable company in the world, Apple, has quarterly revenue of – what? – $30B, just to put this in perspective.

    As for how Islamic terrorism is a material threat to Americans or other Westerners, first of all, have you forgotten 11-Sep-2001?

    Which is the one and only really successful terrorist attack in history, and appears to be an aberration. Nothing remotely like it has happened before or since. And it killed maybe 3000 people. Now, that is no doubt a personal tragedy for each one of the families involved, but on the grand scale of things is pretty insignificant. There are far, far more road deaths every year in the US, and I don’t see a ‘war on cars’. Islamic terrorism must be the single most over-hyped threat ever.

  13. @ESR

    Milhous is missing the most important funding mechanism – insurance companies, which is how we socialize risk in a free market. But his answer is otherwise both ethically and practically correct. I might make an anarchist of him yet. :-)

    Actually, the war on terror is probably a pretty good argument for anarchism, if ever I saw one. There is no way that an insurance company would make the mistake of spending a trillion dollars on an ineffective war against an enemy that posed almost no threat to its customers. An insurance company would probably have responded to 9/11 far more rationally: by improving intelligence gathering on terrorist cells, and arresting those directly implicated in the attack or in planned future attacks. There would have been no useless and wasteful international war that dragged on for ten years.

  14. Eric, I’m sorry if this is taking us off your topic, but I am just curious; are you aware of any situation, recent or historical, where a society has come close to a true state of anarchy? In other words: has anarchism ever been tested?

  15. Tom, a private-enterprise response to 11-Sep-2001, if such a thing were possible, would certainly have been more efficient than the government response, for the same reason that private-enterprise everything is more efficient than government. But when government does something good, however inefficiently, it’s still a good thing; the waste involved doesn’t detract from the good done. Pointing out that the same good could have been done better doesn’t change the fact that it is good.

  16. Tom, the examples David Friedman likes to cite are Iceland before the Swedes and Ireland before the English.

  17. @Millhouse

    But when government does something good, however inefficiently, it’s still a good thing;

    But they haven’t done a good thing. What has this endless war actually achieved? We had very little terrorism before 9/11, and we have had very little terrorism after 9/11. All we have achieved is to further anger the people who attacked us. Great.

    the waste involved doesn’t detract from the good done

    Yes, it does, when the waste is human life. Far more people have been killed (American, British, and locals) in the wars that followed 9/11 than in 9/11 itself. Far more. Not to mention the colossal waste of money that has saddled future generations with an insurmountable debt.

  18. Given a proper free-enterprise anarchy a la L.Neil Smith, I suspect the insurance companies would have arranged a nuclear surprise party for Mecca the day after 7/11, thus eliminating the problem at the source.

  19. @esr
    I read what you wrote and wondered whether I was already an anarchist, based on my ethical principles.

    Basically I have a general idea of who has a right to do what (i.e. there is a universally agreed on ethical system). If you wish to control my actions or make me give you my property you must persuade me you have a right to do so (I must reciprocate and accept a convincing argument I cannot refute). If you attempt to coerce me without passing the above test then I will stop you using the minimal force necessary to prevent you from benefiting in any way and me from significant irreversible harm (or significant risk of significant irreversible harm).

    Is the conception of anarchists that people would apply those principles with some universally agreed system of ethics (presumably based on private property)? Does applying those principles in most everyday situations effectively make me an anarchist?

  20. Expensive as the war(s) have been, the total cost is but a fraction of government spending, certainly less than the debt run up by this administration alone.

  21. >Is the conception of anarchists that people would apply those principles with some universally agreed system of ethics (presumably based on private property)?

    Yes. The piece you may be missing is that in the theory of modern libertarian anarchism, “private property” is a bundle of rights which follow from your right not to have your self used without your consent; “property” is what you gain by trading your time and cooperation.

    >Does applying those principles in most everyday situations effectively make me an anarchist?

    An anarchist is one who proceeds from these principles to rejecting the legitimacy of state monopolies on organized self-defense and other so-called “public goods”.

  22. I thought some figures must be out there- http://www.kowaldesign.com/budget/index.html

    Outlays Current
    Department of State <1%
    Department of Defense 18%
    Environmental Protection Agency <1%
    Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 24%
    Social Security Administration 19%
    Interest on the Public Debt 10%
    Other 27%

    As I thought, defense, which includes the "war on terror" is less than a lot of the other sorts of expenses of government. I wonder how much of the "other" 27% is allotted to the "war on some drugs"?

    To get an Idea of how an anarchy might work, read Smith's "Probability Broach". Fun!

  23. @Hunt

    The amount spent by the US on the war on terror may be small in comparison with the total government budget, and it may be small compared with the US GDP, and with world GDP, but I am not really sure why any of those comparisons are relevant to what we’re talking about.

    The point I was making was the no private company could ever had afforded even a small fraction of what the US government (to say nothing of all the other countries in ISAF) has spent on the war. If you add up all the appropriations related to just the war in afghanistan for last year alone it comes to more than $120B.

  24. >The piece you may be missing is that in the theory of modern libertarian anarchism, “private property” is a bundle of rights which follow from your right not to have your self used without your consent; “property” is what you gain by trading your time and cooperation.

    I can’t seem to work out what this means. What exactly do you mean by “self”?

    I sometimes tend to think of private property as a dispute resolution mechanism for society, where society is group of individuals trying to achieve to best overall outcome. Anytime a dispute over what should be done occurs, the right to resolve that dispute can be traced to exactly one property right (creating private property rights in a way to make this always true seems incredibly difficult). The person who holds that right then makes the decision. Trade is a mechanism of exchanging these rights in Coasian bargains to make best overall outcome equivalent to best individual outcome for all individuals (actually without Coasian bargains “best overall outcome” isn’t even well defined).

  25. Game theory modeling strongly suggests that networking (of all sorts) is antithetical to the security of any surreptitious organization. False flag entrapment is being used routinely within the internet domain to infiltrate and reveal potential threats, and a vicious cycle often ensues that both creates and decimates participants. After a while, the game of pursuit may become more dangerous than the original threat.

  26. >I can’t seem to work out what this means. What exactly do you mean by “self”?

    Your body, your mind, your time, your effort.

    >Anytime a dispute over what should be done occurs, the right to resolve that dispute can be traced to exactly one property right (creating private property rights in a way to make this always true seems incredibly difficult).

    This parallels libertarian thinking. But we actually don’t think it’s very difficult. It just takes better analysis of incentives than is usually even attempted, let alone achieved.

  27. I suppose the question is, if you consider it necessary to fight terrorists overseas, who else could conduct such operations other than a state?

    Ross Perot?

  28. @ Tom I think the point of what Hunt was putting out there is that defense (read: offense) spending is actually a smaller amount of the budget than many other services we are forced to pay for.

    In response to your other point. How much was spent on sending that Seal team to kill Osama? That’s the kind of thing you’d see more often with private companies. Minimal risk, minimal cost, high return on investment. Why bother conquering a whole nation when you could just take the head off an organisation?

  29. Hi, I am Eric Raymond; let me tell you my insights on terrorism and counter-terrorism based on my experience as an open-source software guy. These thoughts impress me; no doubt you will find them as weighty as I do.

  30. Enh, sorry, that was mean. But, if you’d read his blog you’d have known he’s way beyond needing to hear that.

  31. My impression had been that ESR’s support for the state for collective self-defense was a “you go to war with the army you have” sort of thing.

  32. >But, if you’d read his blog you’d have known he’s way beyond needing to hear that.

    He claims to have built on my work, so I thought they’d be of interest. Remember this conversation would have happened 8 years ago if he’d responded.

  33. Chronologie, did you tell John Robb “Hi, I am John Robb; let me tell you my insights on open source software based on my experience as an Special Ops veteran. These thoughts impress me; no doubt you will find them as weighty as I do.”

  34. Interesting letter. The one point I find fault with is:

    3. The cost of failure is low

    Indeed, given your own example of blowback, the main problem for terrorists is that their cost of success is high, not that their cost of failure is high.

    And even that idea doesn’t really get to the heart and guts of it, to my mind. The biggest difference between open-source and terror networks is that for terror (particularly of the Islamic, eschatological variety), the authors don’t recognize failure modes in anything like a logical way. They may adapt sword methods to penetrate various shields, but beta testers who are willing to blow themselves up for the sake of the cause are almost the definition of cathedral dwellers to my mind. They are iPhone customers with exploding jackets. And since they get to go to heaven, even failure is a form of ultimate success.

  35. I might make an anarchist of him yet. :-)

    Speaking of which, did you ever get a chance to read Nozick? If so, any comments?

  36. >Speaking of which, did you ever get a chance to read Nozick? If so, any comments?

    Got about a third of the way in and stalled. Interesting ideas, terrible exposition – he spends huge amounts of time telling you what he’s going to tell you, and not so much on the actual demonstrations.

  37. I do not want to speak for Eric, but it seems this discussion is way off. One point is that I remember that Eric wrote somewhere that he is not a pure anarchists, but a minarchist (?) or state minimalist. Maybe someone can look that up?

    Second, if you really want to see and discuss counter-terror and security (theater), you might want to look around on Bruce Schneier’s blog. None of what is suggested here comes close in depth with what is present there.
    http://www.schneier.com/

  38. >I do not want to speak for Eric, but it seems this discussion is way off. One point is that I remember that Eric wrote somewhere that he is not a pure anarchists, but a minarchist (?) or state minimalist.

    That is incorrect. I am an anarchist, and have been for more than 25 years.

  39. @Tom:
    For some reason, I hardly think all of that money was _neccesary_ for the war. It was spent, but I think a private initiative would’ve been leaner, and gotten the same results more cheaply.

  40. Hello Eric.

    First, thank you very much for all of your great work. Also, thanks for the feedback (above).

    Second, I read in the above that you sent me an e-mail in 2004. I’m sorry but I didn’t see it. If I had, I would have responded.

    Since that 2004 post, I’ve completely reworked the bazaar model and added new elements like systems disruption, etc. to it. It now works well as a model for modern insurgency, protest, and terrorism. All of the feedback I’ve gotten from key folks in Iraq and other theaters is that this OSW model is spot on. It was also very useful in understanding the dynamics of Tunisia, Egypt, etc.

    Finally, it’s also been tested in scientific study which made the cover of Nature Magazine.

    Fortunately, the government won’t adopt it. Despite spending hundreds of billions on “defense” they don’t even have a single part of the vast bureaucracy dedicated to military theory. As a result, something this radically different (even if it is superior) is automatically rejected. The folks that have used it are in protest and guerrilla groups around the world.

    Hope this note finds you well.

    Sincerely,

    JOHN ROBB

  41. @John Robb
    “Finally, it’s also been tested in scientific study which made the cover of Nature Magazine. ”

    Very interesting, could you give us the reference/link?

  42. Tom:

    All we have achieved is to further anger the people who attacked us. Great.

    I only care about what a terrorist thinks insofar as it helps me wipe him from the face of the planet. It’s a given he doesn’t like me. Sitting around the campfire and singing Kumbaya at him won’t change that, no matter how much appeasing liberals may think otherwise.

    Not to mention the colossal waste of money that has saddled future generations with an insurmountable debt.

    Obama’s spendulus has done far more to achieve that than the entirety of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Hunt: Turning Mecca into the center of a disk of radioactive glass would be satisfying – and I have often felt it should be done – but I can’t see an insurance company doing it.

  43. >I only care about what a terrorist thinks insofar as it helps me wipe him from the face of the planet.

    Indeed. People as far gone in religious insanity as al-Qaeda cannot be appeased, bought off, or mollified. They can only be neutralized by being imprisoned or killed. Worrying about ‘angering them further’ is as pointless as trying to make nice at a rabid dog.

  44. @Tom
    “Hunt: Turning Mecca into the center of a disk of radioactive glass would be satisfying – and I have often felt it should be done – but I can’t see an insurance company doing it.”

    The world is safer now than it has ever been before. You might explain in more detail how you think that throwing nuclear bombs on the religious center of a billion people increases our security and safety.

    Actually, I suspect the world became a safer place despite the best (or worst?) efforts of people with ideas like yours.

  45. Winter, that was me, not Tom. I believe that the radioactive glass approach works for two reasons: a dead terrorist can’t hurt us, and, eventually, it would help convince those selfsame religious fanatics that all attacking us gets them is a pointless death.

  46. I have to say I’m not so impressed with the discussion on anarchism as is. It tends to be coming from a “right” (as in right-wing) perspective. Which does tend to seem, well, dare I say not the same anarchism that I know.

    Anyway, I would throw in the two cents, that an anarchist should surely reject the state’s “war on terror”, for the reason that it causes more damage, and kills more people than any “terrorist attack”. I scare-quote that, because surely anarchists wouldn’t be using the propagandised definition of terrorism “anything that the state doesn’t like”. (Which gets us “eco-terrorism” when elves burn SUV dealerships or under-construction condos, but don’t kill anyone; but explicitly says that Israeli air strikes that kill tens or hundreds of Palestinian civilians in response to rocket attacks that kill one, two or no Israeli civilians, are not terrorism.)

    Indeed, one of the biggest anarchist arguments against the state has always been that it causes more chaos, more deaths, more property damage, etc. than any gangs could dream of. The simple fact of World War One is a demonstration of that.

    Regarding Nozick (who, I believe stopped being a miniarchist before he died), and I assume Anarchy, State, and Utopia: I would certainly suggest finishing it if you can. Though, from a left-individualist anarchist perspective (not that I am an individualist anarchist), his ideas are bullshit. If you are from more of a right-anarchist perspective, you might be more convinced. I also suggest, if you do read Anarchy, State and Utopia, to have a look at Jonathan Wolff’s Robert Nozick – Property, Justice and the Minimal State (published by Stanford University Press, USA, 1991). Which should be available in any good academic library. (Wolff does a good job of putting some final nails into a coffin that was already nearly put to rest in 1991.)

    To answer Tom’s query about whether or not “anarchy” has existed or not. Left anarchists often point to the Ukraine during the Russian civil war, large parts of Spain during the Spanish civil war, and, well, that’s about it actually. Sometimes people talk about Korea, but I personally know very little about anarchism in Korea, so can’t comment. Whether or not the two examples are good examples of anarchism or not are debatable. (Of course, people will also point to various small social experiments, communes, etc. But I doubt they are what you are looking for.)

    And finally, so that I stay on topic ;), ah hell, I only posted because of the off-topic stuff, I’m not about to go on-topic.

  47. @esr

    Indeed. People as far gone in religious insanity as al-Qaeda cannot be appeased, bought off, or mollified. They can only be neutralized by being imprisoned or killed. Worrying about ‘angering them further’ is as pointless as trying to make nice at a rabid dog.

    Maybe so, but what we’re doing just makes it easier to recruit new people who might have been on the edge before. Stirring up the hornets nest is completely unproductive.

    @Jay Maynard

    Turning Mecca into the center of a disk of radioactive glass would be satisfying – and I have often felt it should be done – but I can’t see an insurance company doing it.

    You would find it satisfying to drop a nuclear dumb in the middle east and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent men women, and children? Really? If you truly feel this way, and are not just putting on macho swagger, then you might want to look in the mirror and ask yourself who the bigger monster is: you or the people you hate?

    @iajrz

    I think a private initiative would’ve been leaner, and gotten the same results more cheaply.

    What results? Have any American lives been saved by the war on terrorism? I see no evidence of this at all.

    Again, it has never been satisfactorily explained why people consider these Islamic terrorists to be such a threat. They are so completely pathetic and ineffective. The only reall damage they have managed to achieve is psychological, and that has only happened because we have let it happen.

  48. Er, that should have been nuclear bomb :) I think the spell checker intervened on my behalf there.

  49. @Jay Maynard and @Tom
    Sorry to have insulted both of you. That was unintentionally.

    @Jay Maynard
    “a dead terrorist can’t hurt us, and, eventually, it would help convince those selfsame religious fanatics that all attacking us gets them is a pointless death.”

    When did that ever worked? You might read up on the “Old Man of the Mountain”.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashid_ad-Din_Sinan

  50. Left anarchists often point to the Ukraine during the Russian civil war, large parts of Spain during the Spanish civil war, and, well, that’s about it actually.

    So. Two hells. In the Ukraine, the Greens were the most murderous army around, much worse than the Whites. And I understand Catalonia wasn’t a whole lot better. Any successful examples?

  51. @Milhouse
    “Any successful examples?”

    Sorry, but historically, “stateless” societies tend to be (very) violent. I hope they can turn up an example of a non-violent anarchist society, but I have set my expectations very low.

  52. “They are so completely pathetic and ineffective. The only real damage they have managed to achieve is psychological, and that has only happened because we have let it happen.”

    The 9/11 raid killed 3000 of our people directly, more of the rescue/cleanup people indirectly and caused billions of dollars in property damage. I suppose Pearl Harbor only happend because we let it happen, too…

  53. Sorry, but historically, “stateless” societies tend to be (very) violent. I hope they can turn up an example of a non-violent anarchist society, but I have set my expectations very low.

    Right anarchists tend to point to the Icelandic Commonwealth, but I have severe doubts as to whether such an arrangement can work a) at scale; or b) over mixed-ethnicity populations.

  54. @Jeff Read
    “Right anarchists tend to point to the Icelandic Commonwealth,”

    Maybe one should try to calculate the number of violent deaths in the Icelandic Commonwealth. The history of the Viking colony in North America does not point to a very peaceful society.

    Anyhow, they had a very low population density. They were also largely protected against outside raids. These two factors tend to promote peace.

  55. >I understand Catalonia wasn’t a whole lot better.

    Correct. The Spanish left-anarchists were so irredeemably vicious that wiping them out counts as one of Joseph Stalin’s few good deeds. They had a huge catalogue of resentments, but no clue about how to rebuild a functioning social order once they had smashed the old one. Thus, their militias became indistiguishable from bandit gangs by anything other than a penchant for torturing and murdering perceived political enemies.

    This is a common failure mode of “left” anarchy in general, also visible during the Russian Civil War. Left anarchy is emotional rather than rational and has ideological fixations that prevent its adherents from thinking about economics in any but the muddiest ways. Thus, they’re unable to even imagine sustainable institutions, much less build them.

  56. >The history of the Viking colony in North America does not point to a very peaceful society.

    No, but it’s also misleading. Most of the violence was externally directed, towards the Skraelings.

    In fact the Icelandic Commonwealth does not seem to have been a particularly violent society by period standards. It takes close reading of the sources to see this because it was more violent than societies of similar population density are today – firearms have since changed the risk/benefit tradeoffs in ways that discourage casual violence.

  57. @esr
    “The Spanish left-anarchists were so irredeemably vicious that wiping them out counts as one of Joseph Stalin’s few good deeds.”

    I understood that Stalin was active in stimulating them to be more vicious. His role seems to have been to fend the flames very high.

    It seems the behavior of Franco’s army then and later was not much better. You still get jailed in Spain if you try to investigate the fascist’s war crimes.

    In a civil war (or war sec), there seldom seems to be a good side. We might have to cherish the exceptions.

  58. @esr
    “It takes close reading of the sources to see this because it was more violent than societies of similar population density are today”

    I consider that very likely. As a relatively small society, with many formal and informal ties, strong interdependencies and a lot of room, they had all the prerequisites to make their society low on violence.

    What I find worrying is that “compared to their neighbors” is setting the bar pretty low. Even the Icelandic were well aware that any single clan could be wiped out by the others if one of their members committed unjustified murder. As has been described. Guns were not that necessary and I think do not explain it (fully).

  59. @LS

    The 9/11 raid killed 3000 of our people directly, more of the rescue/cleanup people indirectly and caused billions of dollars in property damage.

    But you have to put that in perspective.

    In the year before 9/11 almost 15,000 people in the US were killed in cars. Almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed. In total, more than 46,000 people were killed in transportation accidents of various kinds. More than 3,000 people were killed as a result of accidental drowning.

    Are we going crazy about unguarded bodies of water? Are there calls to nuke detroit to stop them making cars? Is there a ‘war on road traffic’?

    Of course not. But in response to only 3,000 people being killed in a single unprecedented and apparently one-off event the response has been a decade-long war in multiple countries at a cost of almost 6,000 US military personnel and tens or hundreds of thousands of local civilians in target nations.

    This is an insanely disproportionate response.

    In the almost 11 years since (and including) 9/11 Islamic terrorists have been about as much of a threat to Americans as accidental firearm discharge. And we all know how uncommon that is.

  60. Michael.:

    > Anyway, I would throw in the two cents, that an anarchist should surely reject the state’s “war
    > on terror”, for the reason that it causes more damage, and kills more people than any “terrorist
    > attack”.

    Though you may be numerically correct that the war on terror has caused more deaths than any terrorist attack, this is a false ethical equivalence. This simply implies that if some “other” group attacks you, you are somehow ethically limited to killing no more of them than they killed of you.
    This assumes that murder is ethically valid as long as it is proportional. I do not subscribe to that model of ideas for it is fundamentally suicidal. It allows fast-breeding groups of killers to keep killing.

    The more ethical approach is to respond with sufficient force that they can no longer readily hurt you. In a one-on-one situation, this may be a single non-fatal gunshot wound. To stand and fail to shoot somebody because all of the knife-wounds you’ve received haven’t been fatal is to let your attacker continue to stab you and give them additional opportunity to kill you. In the international arena this sometimes means forceably pacifying your enemies (much as the US did to Japan after WWII). However, for ideological non-state actors whos’ idiology requires them to continue to try to destroy you, the only response is to engage in large-scale destruction. In situations like this there is no way to separate the attackers personally from the greater population, either before or after. The local population protects the attackers based on this shared ideology. Were it not for this, the government of Pakistan could have simply put out a warrant for the arrest of Osama Bin Laden and done a standard criminal investigation in which people who knew him would have released information.

    Contrast this with other domestic terrorist groups in the US, such as abortion-clinic bombers. Though likely protected by their immediate families, even those groups in the US opposed to abortion would typically quickly condemn the attacker and attempt to identify them so that they might face criminal prosecution.

    In short – when you have tribal or ideological-based groups which are attacking you, the ethical solution frequently is to kill all of the members of the attacking group.

  61. “Though you may be numerically correct that the war on terror has caused more deaths than any terrorist attack, this is a false ethical equivalence. This simply implies that if some “other” group attacks you, you are somehow ethically limited to killing no more of them than they killed of you.”

    I didn’t read him as objecting to the war on terror causing more deaths _of terrorists_.

  62. One thing I’m wondering is if we’ve got the scale of right. For instance, what is the terror project’s actual development goal? If it was a typical project on sourceforge, what would its design summary read? Are blowing up vaious buildings and people really independent projects (i.e. “9/11 hijackings”)? Or are these all subroutines withing a much more ambitious and expansive architecture (i.e. “Reestablish the Caliphate”).

    I ask because I’m wondering if and how the tactics changes in the latter scenario. It seems that when large and initially promising projects become abandonware, its often because one or more of the originators or main contributors become bogged down in other work, lose interest or have a major life change or shift in incentives that limits their participation. When that happens the developers who weren’t contributing as much (either because of their own time constraints or because their interests/skills were limited to developing certain features) eventually drift on. Soon enough, the ReCaliphate v2.12 is just another buggy, incomplete masterpiece collecting dust on a shelf, even though it’s technically still “in development.”

    If that’s the case, how do we go about causing that to happen? I’m all for picking off the feature hackers whenever and wherever we identify them, but how can we get the big contributors to lose interest and move on to other things? Is it simply an attrition game? Or can we cause a shift in their incentives, or perhaps mire them in busy work that makes it impossible to devote a lot of serious effort to it. I realize we might be talking a civilization-level shift here.

  63. @Random832

    I didn’t read him as objecting to the war on terror causing more deaths _of terrorists_.

    Exactly. The response to 9/11 has caused twice as many American deaths as 9/11 itself. Not to mention the uncountable numbers of innocent middle-eastern civilians.

  64. >The response to 9/11 has caused twice as many American deaths as 9/11 itself.

    Again, false moral equivalence. If we still had conscription I might agree, but U.S. military personnel have chosen to put themselves in harm’s way. The random murder of innocent civilians in their home country is a far more serious matter.

  65. >The random murder of innocent civilians in their home country is a far more serious matter.

    I very much agree, but convincing people of this may be difficult, as we don’t know what Al-Qaeda would have attempted over the past 10 years (and, of that, what they would have managed) if we had made no military response to 9/11. It’s theoretically possible (but vanishingly unlikely) that they would have patted themselves on the back for a job well done and spent the past 10 years twiddling their thumbs, in which case it could be argued that it would have been better to do nothing.

  66. @esr

    Again, false moral equivalence. If we still had conscription I might agree, but U.S. military personnel have chosen to put themselves in harm’s way. The random murder of innocent civilians in their home country is a far more serious matter.

    But what’s the use of it? You kill 3,000 of our guys, so we’ll send 6,000 volunteers to their death. That’s absolutely fantastic. I’m sure everybody feels much better now.

    A death is still a death, no matter how it was caused. If there were tens of thousands of US citizens being killed by terrorists left and right, week in, week out, then fine, it might be worth sacrificing 6,000 troops in order to stop it. But that’s not the case. There was one event. ONE. It killed 3,000 people. Nothing like it before or since.

    I still don’t understand why we pay these jihadi guys so much attention. They are not a serious threat. We should find them and arrest them. That’s fine. But a huge multi-national war lasting more than a decade? It’s crazy.

  67. To me, the only ethical response to an attack is to return violence to the attacker sufficiently to convince, or force, him to choose another method to achieve his ends. Put another way, don’t start fights, but if you find yourself in one, finish it.

    The Palestinians who launch rockets from civilian areas, hoping to use the civilians as human shields for their fighters? The blame for those deaths lies with them, not the Israelis. The Geneva Conventions so beloved of the Guantanamo-bashing Left even say that.

    No, I don’t like the idea of killing innocents. However, I like the idea of the war dragging on and on and on and killing even more innocents along the way even less. Don’t start the fight but if you’re in one, finish it. As quickly and as humanely as possible, but with the emphasis on being quick, for prolonged conflicts kill far more than ones ended with one massive strike.

  68. Tom, arresting jihadis is exactly what they want. It does nothing more than give them access to our intelligence methods and sources and a protected platform from which to spew their hatred of us and all that we stand for. Yo complain about our enabling recruits, while ignoring that giving them civilian trials would let them do that even more effectively.

  69. @Jon Brase

    The punitive expedition is the classic response to barbarian raids. Disproportionality is a feature. There are limits, though.

    Al Quaeda’s objective was arguably to increase their status in the Arab/Islamic world. I suggest that each unanswered strike (I do not count Tomahawk cruise missiles) in the years before 9/11 boosted their prestige and motivated them to do more.

    Nuking Mecca would piss off everybody in the Islamic world, not just the Arabs.

  70. For those of you objecting to nuking Mecca: How do we get the so-called “peaceful Muslims” to clean their own houses? I’m prepared to accept that there are such people. How do we get them to take care of the problem? No, appeasing Al Qaeda and the Iranian mullahs doesn’t count as an answer.

  71. @Jay Maynard:

    Whose house? You are arguing that all Muslims have a special obligation to answer for the actions of those who commit terrorism in their god’s name, correct? Couldn’t one make the same argument (with only slightly lesser strength) that Christians have the same obligation, since it’s in the same family of religions?

  72. @Jay Maynard
    You sound word for word like OBL. In what way are you “better” in any meaningful sense?

  73. “The Palestinians who launch rockets from civilian areas”

    Where else would you have them launch them from? Are you advocating giving the Palestinians military bases?

  74. esr > Terrorists, on the other hand, rely on skills that are difficult to
    esr > replicate (such as bomb-making) and materiel that isn’t easy to get

    . . . and that of their most effective operations — suicide attacks — actively destroy. If you’re successful at hacking now, that will make you a more effective hacker in the future, in terms of both skill and influence. By contrast, if you’re ‘successful’ at suicide-bombing now, that will instantly make you dead-ineffective in the future. Only suicide-bomber screw-ups will survive to pass on their skills to their community — assuming the community is interested, which I imagine it won’t be.

  75. By contrast, if you’re ‘successful’ at suicide-bombing now, that will instantly make you dead-ineffective in the future. Only suicide-bomber screw-ups will survive to pass on their skills to their community — assuming the community is interested, which I imagine it won’t be.

    Now this is one endeavour that really does benefit from Taylor-style “all knowledge at the top” management techniques. Remember, the bombers themselves are dupes. If bombmakers and suicide bomber trainers achieve success without blowing themselves up then that is valuable knowledge that can be passed on.

  76. The earth has been a cauldron of social organization experimentation for hundreds of thousands of years. It could be argued that the absolute anarchy phase started dying out at least 5,000 years ago. If anarchy had proved to be an effective “survive and thrive” mechanism, wouldn’t there be numerous present-day examples resulting from social evolution? I am making no moral or ethical judgements here, just an observation.

  77. > Where else would you have them launch them from? Are you advocating giving the Palestinians military bases?

    The nearby, unpopulated desert would work.

    Yours,
    Tom

  78. A death is still a death, no matter how it was caused. If there were tens of thousands of US citizens being killed by terrorists left and right, week in, week out, then fine, it might be worth sacrificing 6,000 troops in order to stop it. But that’s not the case. There was one event. ONE. It killed 3,000 people. Nothing like it before or since.

    It wasn’t the first al-Qaeda attack against us. It wasn’t even the first al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center. That first attempt was hugely evil in intent (truck bomb designed to collapse the towers) but kind of sad in execution- it damaged an underground parking garage. So we ignored it. A few years later, they manage something a little better- they nearly manage to sink a major warship with a boat bomb, killing dozens of sailors. But it was just a relatively little thing, so we more or less ignored it. A few years later, the manage something better, toppling the main WTC towers and killing thousands. When do you stop ignoring it? In a world where WMD proliferation seems to be becoming inevitable, when do you stop ignoring attacks like these? Given time to organize, train and plan, al-Qaeda only got more bold and *much* more effective. 9/11 seems to have been a very good cut-off for when you should start to pay attention and do something about it. To claim otherwise smacks very strongly of the soft racism of low expectations.

    I still don’t understand why we pay these jihadi guys so much attention. They are not a serious threat. We should find them and arrest them. That’s fine. But a huge multi-national war lasting more than a decade? It’s crazy.

    And there you actually went and said it. Racism of low expectations rearing its condescending head. If it weren’t so pitiful…. Anyway, try arresting a terrorist when they’re residing inside a terrorism sponsoring state. War in that case is mandatory if you want to actually deal with the terrorists.

    Oddly enough, the war has taken so long precisely because we’ve been so restrained. We’ve been so restrained for a number of reasons, one of which is that we actually want to influence the Islamic world, or certain important/influential parts of it, rather than just leaving a path of destruction. The fact that Iraq is a democracy (an awful corrupt and nonfunctional one, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and Arab culture is a cesspool) is part of that.

  79. >If anarchy had proved to be an effective “survive and thrive” mechanism, wouldn’t there be numerous present-day examples resulting from social evolution?

    They keep trying to evolve and governments snuff them out. What hasn’t happened in 800 years is an anarchy that was capable of repelling predatory neighbors.

  80. > What hasn’t happened in 800 years is an anarchy that was capable of repelling predatory neighbors.

    Nor, in this age of asymmetric warfare, is the situation likely to change. IEDs are no substitute for drones.

  81. Maybe so, but what we’re doing just makes it easier to recruit new people who might have been on the edge before. Stirring up the hornets nest is completely unproductive.

    This is worth addressing separately. Several things:

    “Don’t defend yourself, it only makes it worse.” Eric, this is a classic example of one of those Soviet psy-ops memes. It’s quite taken hold here in the Left in the West, they’ve been quite adept at pushing it, and it’s proven quite destructive. Variations on that meme have cost the US several major cities (to go back a thread of two), the UK is rapidly approaching societal collapse because of it… It was a constant refrain all during the wave of “3rd world liberation movements” through the 60’s and 70’s.

    It’s never been true. But it’s very good at getting victims to submit.

    There’s NO better way to deal with a hornets nest than to burn the thing and kill the damn hornets. Anything else is either “managing the problem” (which in the short run only employs bureaucrats but in the long run is inevitable defeat) or outright admitting defeat.

    And in this case, despite it being contrary to the conventional wisdom, the US has been remarkably successful in killing hornets and scotching their nests. We slaughtered thousands of al-Qaeda in Iraq and humiliated them. AQ tried to fight us, and failed. Turns out the only people they could effectively kill were Muslims, which was enormously (words almost fail to describe the importance of this) bad PR for AQ and good PR for us. We were *stronger* and AQ was evil-killer-of-Muslims. There were parts of Iraq that were finally only pacified precisely because that was where AQ was active- AQ was so horrible to the locals.

    AQ was defeated and broken in Iraq, and they ran. Not good for recruiting. A few (very few) survivors slinking home telling tales of terrifying American killer magicians – not good for recruiting. In fact their losing streak is ongoing- they’re in the process of being humiliated in Somalia, too (not even by us).

  82. @esr
    “They keep trying to evolve and governments snuff them out.”

    Sorry, but enemy raids are part of human history from before the Neolithic. And the enemy will organize to the level needed to win.

    European nation building started in earnest with Otto defeating the Hungarians and Slavs, William the Conqueror and Francois the First defeating the Vikings, and assorted Spanish kings defeating North African Berbers.

    If your preferred form of political organization cannot protect you from raiding neighbors, you are in need of a different form of organization. One that allows you to prosper and multiply without fear of yet another looting band of brothers.

  83. @Jay Maynard

    For those of you objecting to nuking Mecca: How do we get the so-called “peaceful Muslims” to clean their own houses? I’m prepared to accept that there are such people. How do we get them to take care of the problem?

    Can you hear yourself? Innocent civilians in the middle-east are made responsible for ending terrorism, or we nuke you? ‘Nuking Mecca’ is a child’s response to this problem. I can scarcely imagine a more irresponsible course of action.

    @Greg

    It wasn’t the first al-Qaeda attack against us.

    No, it wasn’t. But it was their first – and only – truly successful attack.

    When do you stop ignoring it?

    I don’t advocate ignoring it at all. I advocate using intelligence to closely monitor and arrest those responsible for attacks, or for planning attacks. I do not see how a huge endless war helps at all.

    If necessary it may be reasonable to use surgical, restrained, and specifically-targeted force, such as the OBL raid. The broader war seems completely ineffective.

    @esr

    They keep trying to evolve and governments snuff them out. What hasn’t happened in 800 years is an anarchy that was capable of repelling predatory neighbours.

    Isn’t this the key argument against anarchy though? The moment you achieve a state of anarchy it starts to fall apart because governments naturally arise. It may well be that a governed state is the natural condition of man. Nature abhors a vacuum, and human life on earth seems to abhor an absence of government.

  84. >“Don’t defend yourself, it only makes it worse.” Eric, this is a classic example of one of those Soviet psy-ops memes. [...] It’s never been true. But it’s very good at getting victims to submit.

    Oh, I know this very well. I generally take utterance of the sentiment as a sign that the speaker is stuck deep inside Soviet-inspired sick-think. As you say, this describes the entire American left. And the entire European ruling class, too.

  85. >Isn’t this the key argument against anarchy though? The moment you achieve a state of anarchy it starts to fall apart because governments naturally arise

    No, that’s a different case. We have a number of examples of anarchies being internally stable against warlordism by their members. What we don’t have since the fall of the Icelandic Commonwealth is successful resistance to a foreign takeover.

  86. “No, that’s a different case. We have a number of examples of anarchies being internally stable against warlordism by their members. What we don’t have since the fall of the Icelandic Commonwealth is successful resistance to a foreign takeover.”

    Doesn’t this imply that, given a human-populated landmass larger than Iceland, a warlord will arise _somewhere_ who can overthrow the anarchic society?

  87. @esr

    No, that’s a different case. We have a number of examples of anarchies being internally stable against warlordism by their members. What we don’t have since the fall of the Icelandic Commonwealth is successful resistance to a foreign takeover.

    Is there a difference? Since an anarchy can have no concept of citizenship, isn’t any upstart government (whether foreign or domestic) simply an attempt to seize power over a previously-ungoverned group of people? Is there really a difference between somebody local trying to grab that power, and somebody from further away trying to do so?

    What is the anarchist answer to the problem of foreign takeover? Would you really be willing to take the risk of turning the US (or another country) into an anarchy, when the evidence we have suggests they would be hard-pressed to defend themselves, even if we can imagine theoretical methods of doing so?

  88. >Doesn’t this imply that, given a human-populated landmass larger than Iceland, a warlord will arise _somewhere_ who can overthrow the anarchic society?

    Maybe. Depends heavily on whether the dominant weapons systems favor mass armies. The trend over the last few centuries is for irregulars to become more effective relative to line troops rather than less; this at least moves in the right direction to make warlordism ineffective.

  89. >Since an anarchy can have no concept of citizenship,

    False premise. It is not at all difficult to imagine a society of anarchists bound together by customary law and a revulsion against governments and foreign interlopers. In fact exactly this sort of allergic reaction has kept Somalia anarchic since the last national government collapsed in 1992.

    >What is the anarchist answer to the problem of foreign takeover?

    Armed citizenry and nobody with the authority to surrender.

  90. @esr

    Armed citizenry and nobody with the authority to surrender.

    In your mind, is it worth the risk that the US would be overtaken by some foreign power, or the risk of a protracted and bloody civil war, in order to realise anarchy’s benefits?

    If the US federal, municipal, and state governments, and all the police and military apparatus that they run, were completely dismantled tomorrow, how would you rate the country’s chances of creating a successful anarchic society that was resistant to both internal and external power grabs?

  91. @Esr
    It its a pity, but the only contemporary examples are still Somalia and Afghanistan. There the armed “stateless” populace is able to withstand state invaders.

    If you heve a better example, please share it.

  92. >In your mind, is it worth the risk that the US would be overtaken by some foreign power, or the risk of a protracted and bloody civil war, in order to realise anarchy’s benefits?

    Yes. I think both those risks can be managed to a minimum. It helps that the U.S. is a difficult place to get a mass army into, if you’ve raised it outside the U.S. Canada and Mexico don’t have the economic or demographic base required to fight a serious war on U.S. soil, and anyone else would have to get here by ship.

    >If the US federal, municipal, and state governments, and all the police and military apparatus that they run, were completely dismantled tomorrow, how would you rate the country’s chances of creating a successful anarchic society that was resistant to both internal and external power grabs?

    Too many variables to forecast. We need to move the country closer to functioning anarchy – that is, in the direction of much smaller government with most services privatized – before figuring odds even begins to be reasonable. As a related note, I wouldn’t expect the police ever to be completely dismantled; there’s an obvious market niche for local police to survive as service agencies hired by crime-insurance pools.

  93. @esr

    I must admit that I am interested in anarchy. I have never found it convincing that an anarchy could be maintained permanently. It seems so easy for it to be taken over, either internally or externally. That’s just my feeling though, and I freely admit I could be wrong.

    One of the reasons I am suddenly rethinking all this is that I just read a great book about WW1 called ‘To End All Wars’, by Adam Hochschild. I found it to be a thoroughly depressing book. It really highlights the power of the state to waste unimaginable amounts of human life, for no real purpose at all. Literally hundreds of thousands of young men killed in battles that achieved absolutely nothing.

    Well, anyway, this book got me thinking about how best to organise society so as to minimise the potential for mass death. Maybe I need to look at anarchy more closely as an answer to this problem. For the moment, though, I remain rather sceptical about the practicality of such a society.

    I am trying to find a decent used copy of ‘The Machinery of Freedom’ as a starting point. Unfortunately it seems to be out of print.

  94. >As a related note, I wouldn’t expect the police ever to be completely dismantled; there’s an obvious market niche for local police to survive as service agencies hired by crime-insurance pools.

    There’s a more general point here. I think a lot of people have this unconscious assumption that ‘anarchy’ has to look like, or at least pass through, a stage that looks a lot like an out-take from a Mad Max movie.

    In fact, I expect a lot of the actual services governments provide would survive in a quite recognizable form; where there’s an actual demand, customers will rendezvous with buyers in pretty familiar ways. In Vernor Vinge’s The Ungoverned, one of the most respected private security agencies is the Michigan State Police – same traditions, only funded by subscriptions and insurance pools rather than taxes.

  95. It helps that the U.S. is a difficult place to get a mass army into, if you’ve raised it outside the U.S. Canada and Mexico don’t have the economic or demographic base required to fight a serious war on U.S. soil, and anyone else would have to get here by ship.

    What happens to our own blue water navy under anarcho-cap? Surely one of our biggest insulations against foreign invasion is our ability to project power (i.e. cut off their supply lines, attack their c&c, etc). Best defense is a good offense, and without that deterrent we could find ourselves fending off lots of predators at the same time. Enemy forces could land and base in Mexico, for example… I’m sure they wouldn’t be too tough to bribe. Apart from maybe Caribbean privateers, are there any useful models for an AC fleet?

  96. @ Tom As a personal recommendation, I would say to download “Practical Anarchy” by Stefan Molyneux for a good description of how a society could self-organize in the absence of state power, or “Everyday Anarchy” which makes a good case for Anarchy by showing how we are all Anarchists in our personal relationships. All of his books are available for free so it’ll only cost some of your time to check it out!

    I don’t know if esr has read these books but they hit all the major points and are written for an audience that may not already be familiar with Anarchy in general.

  97. As a related note, I wouldn’t expect the police ever to be completely dismantled; there’s an obvious market niche for local police to survive as service agencies hired by crime-insurance pools.

    We can’t even get the TSA to approve privatization beyond the original 5 test sites (SF, KC, Jackson Hole, Rochester, Tupelo) despite the fact that the law gives airports the right to opt out. Once a government agency has authoritah somewhere, it’s damned difficult to get it to let go of it.

  98. >Well, anyway, this book got me thinking about how best to organise society so as to minimise the potential for mass death.

    This is exactly the line of thought that turned me into an anarchist. The machinery of statism is the machinery of mass death, and not by accident.

  99. Okay, today is proving expensive. I managed to find a good copy of The Machinery of Freedom and ordered it. I also ordered a copy of The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, which includes The Ungoverned. I then found out the The Ungoverned is a follow-up to a novel called The Peace War, so I ordered that as well.

    Curse you Raymond!

  100. >What happens to our own blue water navy under anarcho-cap?

    Depends on how the numbers crunch out for the crime insurers’ actuaries. If enough people want to buy insurance with invasion coverage, or buy contracts with security agencies that have that kind of coverage baked in, then we’re going to get risk-pooling arrangements among the major security agencies to minimize everybody’s exposure. In this scenario, the “U.S. Navy” would be a specialist contractor answering to them.

    It’s not clear what fleet size such an arrangement would fund; maybe just coastal gunboats and subs, probably not eleven carrier battle groups. But one reason for optimism is that the U.S. actually spends an exceptionally low percentage of GDP on defense, and we could certainly build a navy less expensively than we do.

  101. @esr

    But one reason for optimism is that the U.S. actually spends an exceptionally low percentage of GDP on defense

    I wouldn’t say exceptionally low. The US spends just under 5% of GDP on ‘defence’ ( I think it’s about 4.7/4.8% depending on the year/source). That is actually quite a bit higher than most countries, which are in the 1, 2, 3% range. There are only a handful of countries, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, that are higher than the US.

  102. >That is actually quite a bit higher than most countries, which are in the 1, 2, 3% range.

    I omitted a qualifier I shouldn’t have. If you look at countries with lower military spending per capita, you’ll almost always find they’re under the U.S. security umbrella. I should have said our spending is exceptionally low for a country not in partial or full protectorate status.

    The right comparisons to look at are actually historical great powers. There’s no magic about the U.S.’s exceptionalism here, just the fact that our GDP is larger in proportion to population than historically normal and we have a large population to begin with.

  103. Also, regarding navies: there are actually very few nations in the world who operate true blue water navies. The US is one, the UK is another. France is the only other one I know of. I suspect that in a few years developing economies like China and India will be operating their own blue-water fleets.

    The point is, a blue-water navy probably isn’t as essential as you think to providing security. It’s a luxury few nations can afford.

  104. @esr

    If you look at countries with lower military spending per capita, you’ll almost always find they’re under the U.S. security umbrella. I should have said our spending is exceptionally low for a country not in partial or full protectorate status.

    China? Russia? India, Brazil, Japan…

    These countries are all spending less per capita than the US on defence.

  105. >It’s a luxury few nations can afford.

    If it were a luxury, nations wouldn’t bother. It isn’t. Blue-water navies are either instruments to maximize trade volume for mercantile nations (the British and American model) or power-projection instruments for imperialists (the pre-1945 German model). The first model might still be a necessity for a U.S. gone anarchist.

  106. What I think is ridiculous about our defense spending is that we have no enemy on our shores, nor have we fought a truly defensive engagement in a long time. And yeah, the US “only” spent 4.7% of GDP on offensive wars and overseas military bases last year. But that accounts for just over 40% of the entire world’s spending on military expenditures. It’s crazy to spend that much wealth when it could have been left in the hands of the people who created it.

  107. @esr

    The right comparisons to look at are actually historical great powers.

    Do you have some specific examples in mind?

    I looked up British defence spending for 1890 (probably around the height of her power), and the GDP for the same year, and did the calculation. It came out to 2.3%. A lot lower than US spending today.

  108. I have to admit that choosing 1890 was rather arbitrary. Technically, if you measure it in terms of land-mass and world population controlled, the Empire reached its height in 1922. However, I think by that time (after being fatally weakened by the great war) her actual power was considerably diminished.

  109. @esr

    If it were a luxury, nations wouldn’t bother. It isn’t. Blue-water navies are either instruments to maximize trade volume for mercantile nations

    Well, maximising trade volume is no doubt a nice thing to be able to do, but it’s certainly not essential for national defence. I was responding to @Grantham, who seemed concerned that without a blue-water navy the US would be vulnerable to foreign invasion.

  110. @ESR “The machinery of statism is the machinery of mass death”

    Governments tend to exist as a new kind of living entity. As such, their first imperative is for self-survival and then, secondarily, to grow as large as possible. The altruistic image of government obscures its core essence, and mass death is a byproduct of government desperation in pursuit of survival.

  111. >What is the anarchist answer to the problem of foreign takeover?

    Armed citizenry and nobody with the authority to surrender.

    The problem this creates is that if there’s nobody with the authority to surrender, then any invader has to occupy the territory and crack down hard in order to end the war. The English didn’t conquer Ireland because they wanted to; they did it because they had to do something about Irish pirates. Had there been Irish authorities able to stop the pirates from attacking the English coast, the English would have been happy to put that task on them and go home. But because the Irish kings had no such authority the English had no choice but to occupy Ireland and put a stop to the pirates themselves. Having done that, of course, they had no reason to leave.

  112. It really highlights the power of the state to waste unimaginable amounts of human life, for no real purpose at all. Literally hundreds of thousands of young men killed in battles that achieved absolutely nothing.

    Sounds like a fallacy. Just because WW1 didn’t achieve anything doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth fighting. First of all, preventing something bad from happening is also worth fighting for, even if you’re no better off after than you were before. Second, it’s a major logical fallacy to suppose that because something didn’t achieve any worthwhile, it therefore couldn’t have done so. This assumes — contrary to all logic and experience — that worthwhile efforts always succeed.

  113. What happens to our own blue water navy under anarcho-cap? Surely one of our biggest insulations against foreign invasion is our ability to project power (i.e. cut off their supply lines, attack their c&c, etc).

    And indeed the USA’s founders learned this lesson the hard way.

  114. Tom said:
    The point is, a blue-water navy probably isn’t as essential as you think to providing security. It’s a luxury few nations can afford.

    Actually, that points up another problem I foresee with AC long term survivability. There are a significant number of Americans who think like Tom, who wouldn’t see enough value in building and maintaining a navy capable of force projection to contribute to the insurance pools. So in addition to the usual problems of moral hazard, you’d have a large segment of the population bankrolling a defense industry, while non-contributors luxuriated under its umbrella and reaped its benefits — a situation not very different in outcome from from a progressive tax regime, or from the protectorate status of the Euro states. Worse, given what I’ve seen of this mindset the only thing that would convince the Toms that we needed a blue water navy (or navies, if multiple contractors are competing for c&c) is if we were actually invaded and could not force project in order to short-circuit the enemy lines, sink their subs and carriers, protect the shipping lanes, etc.

    In other words, non-contributors will reap rewards from a pool they don’t contribute too, and will only become contributors after it’s too late. I think maybe that is why I remain a minarchist — knowing what I do about human nature and the will to power, I want my neighbors to have a minimum amount of skin in the game, whether they like it or not. Otherwise, I see the whole shebang quickly turning into an Afghanistan of the West.

    As for the most likely candidate to fill the vacuum of global coast guard, it is obvious. The moment we dismantle our blue water navy, you can rest assured the Chinese will raise one very quickly. Nature hates a vaccuum, after all. They are probably going to do so anyway within the next decade, anyway. It’s the next logical step, as all signs point to Pax Americana crumbling under the weight of our own debt and unfunded liabilities. Once interest payments on the debt hit 40% of revenues (by my count around 2030), you can kiss your blue water navy goodbye… as well as a lot of other stuff.

    Not only that, but given the amount of our debt that China holds, current buying trends suggest that we will be buying China’s navy for them. At about $70 billion/yr, our current interest payments are already pretty close to funding the PRC’s entire yearly military apparatus, including all the new bombers and force projection toys they’ve been buying, their research into aircraft carriers, long range missiles, etc.

  115. I don’t know why so many people use the old Icelandic society as an example of anarchy. They had their own government. There was a limited number of priest-chieftains that anyone could associate themselves with. Those chieftains were expected to settle local disputes. They would give orders if necessary, and back them up with force. The chieftains rode to the Althing every year and gathered around the Law Rock to adjudicate complaints and disputes, that being the main purpose of the meeting. They had an elaborate code of laws that all recognized; if you violated them, you could be declared an outlaw, subject to the death penalty at the hands of anyone else. This does not sound like anarchy to me.

    Tom is right. ‘Anarchy’ is just another name for ‘power vacuum’. Power vacuums get filled. Pronto. Always. It isn’t that governments snuff them out…there’s *always* a government there to fill the vacuum. If there isn’t, the people make one themselves.

  116. If enough people want to buy insurance with invasion coverage,

    And here we reach one of the major arguments against anarchy, which is that “invasion coverage” is one of the rare instances of a true public good, and thus a perfect opportunity for market failure. It’s not possible to protect one person from invasion and not another. Either you protect the entire country or none of it. So those who choose not to buy invasion coverage are free riders, and thus everyone has an incentive to opt out of paying for it, on the assumption that there are enough suckers who will provide it for everyone.

  117. So those who choose not to buy invasion coverage are free riders, and thus everyone has an incentive to opt out of paying for it, on the assumption that there are enough suckers who will provide it for everyone.

    Exactly. They could even morally primp about it too, calling all the suckers who pay “warmongers” and “imperialists.” Actually, that’s not substantially different from where we are right now, I suppose.

  118. Actually, that’s not substantially different from where we are right now, I suppose.

    Well, with the obvious difference being that Michael Moore and his ilk can’t currently defund the navy by refusing to kick in. Under AC, I’m not so sure that’s the case — unless the bet is that the realities of AC will necessarily generate less Michael Moores. I’d even be willing to take that bet. I’m just worried that the system won’t be able to respond to sudden shocks and budget shortfalls, and that the free-riders will outnumber the contributors by such a huge degree that a government will naturally evolve to deal with those jive turkeys (hopefully a very limited, minarchist one).

  119. >These countries are all spending less per capita than the US on defence.

    Not according to the last statistics I saw. But these sorts of numbers are highly disputable – it would probably going down a rathole to argue about them.

  120. @Milhouse

    Had there been Irish authorities able to stop the pirates from attacking the English coast, the English would have been happy to put that task on them and go home. But because the Irish kings had no such authority the English had no choice but to occupy Ireland and put a stop to the pirates themselves. Having done that, of course, they had no reason to leave.

    What period of history are you talking about here exactly?

    Sounds like a fallacy. Just because WW1 didn’t achieve anything doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth fighting.

    I didn’t say that WW1 wasn’t worth fighting, although I think that’s certainly debatable. I said that particular battles in WW1 cost hundreds of thousands of men and achieved literally nothing. And yet Haig continued to throw lives away on the same tired and useless old tactics again and again. The fact of the British state was a key enabler in this slaughter.

  121. @Milhouse

    And here we reach one of the major arguments against anarchy, which is that “invasion coverage” is one of the rare instances of a true public good, and thus a perfect opportunity for market failure.

    This seems like a good argument. Eric, is there an answer?

  122. >What happens to our own blue water navy under anarcho-cap?

    Much of our first navy was created to deal with piracy. Given enough losses, it is worth it for a private company to simply set up a security division. Hell, it’s what armored cars are for (writ large) and few people blink an eye at them.

    The other thing is that it would give people who’ve made a boatload of money something to do other than funding really bad, expensive artwork. Make 5 billion dollars? Retire as the captain of an aircraft carrier or something. Instead of fighting malaria, you can defend the group from foreign invaders. There was a long history in the US of private, wealthy individuals owning cannons and other larger implements of war as an element of status. Surely that could be brought back easily enough.

  123. Doesn’t the ‘public goods’ argument also apply – although less absolutely – to policing?

    Granted, you can come up with easy examples that support the anarchist model, like a home invasion. The police would only respond if you were on their customer list. That’s fine. But there is a lot of police activity benefits everybody in a community, and not just a single person or household. For example, what about the policeman who patrols a street? What about long-term investigations into organised crime? What about prisons? Keeping criminals off the streets benefits everybody, not just those who pay.

  124. >They had their own government.

    No, they didn’t. There was nobody with a legal monopoly on the use of force and the enforcement of law.

    What they had was a horizontal network of competing enforcement authorities (godhar), all operating under a common law. There was a recorder of the laws but no chief executive.

  125. @Garrett

    Retire as the captain of an aircraft carrier or something

    Um. Isn’t running an aircraft carrier a pretty specialised and highly-skilled job that would require years of experience and training?

  126. >Doesn’t the ‘public goods’ argument also apply – although less absolutely – to policing?

    Yes. The thing is we already know that insurance funding can cover a certain level of public goodness. Sometimes it’s more costly to discriminate against free riders than it is to cover them and eat the overhead.

    Besides, there’s a funding model that beats the problem. You go to all the homeowners on a block (or whatever small district looks likely) and say “We’ll cover the block for this low, low rate, but only if everybody signs up.” If you set your pricing right, people will social-pressure their neighbors into joining. A similar model works for negotiating road and pipeline right-of-ways when there’s no eminent domain.

  127. > For example, what about the policeman who patrols a street?

    How is that a problem? That already happens. There are lots the privatlely contracted security forces that funded by private homeowners associations and the like, including ones that patrol streets. Paying someone to walk a beat isn’t any different from paying them to sit on their a$$es until you call them. People who live on the street being patrolled kick into the kitty, or they find another street to live on.

    The real question I have is this: in this prospective AC system, who owns the street?

  128. >his seems like a good argument. Eric, is there an answer?

    Not one that duplicates all the features of the present system, but a bunch of overlapping answers to sub-problems that may add up to good enough. We need to experiment and see. I pointed at some of them, Garrett at others.

  129. If it were a luxury, nations wouldn’t bother.

    That in itself certainly isn’t a valid argument. The essence of a “nation” is a few people spending others’ resources, and you might as well argue that Versailles and the Apollo program weren’t luxuries.

  130. @esr

    Besides, there’s a funding model that beats the problem. You go to all the homeowners on a block (or whatever small district looks likely) and say “We’ll cover the block for this low, low rate, but only if everybody signs up.” If you set your pricing right, people will social-pressure their neighbors into joining. A similar model works for negotiating road and pipeline right-of-ways when there’s no eminent domain.

    Interesting. I also like Grantham’s example of private or gated communities that *require* you to sign up, or else live somewhere else.

    We need to experiment and see.

    I wonder if a good medium for experimentation might be online massively multiplayer games and virtual worlds? I don’t really know of anything suitable that exists at the moment (although perhaps EVE comes close) but I could see some kind of metaverse type world cropping up in a few years that might prove a fertile ground for political experimentation.

  131. What period of history are you talking about here exactly?

    Thanks for asking me this. I’ve been looking for where I got this, and can’t find it. The part about the Irish not having a central authority that could make and enforce treaties, thus forcing the English to conquer and occupy the whole island, I got from Murray Rothbard. And of course the fact of Irish pirate raids on England in the first millennium is well-known (e.g., St Patrick). But I’m not sure where I got the idea that the English invasion, when it finally came in the 12th century, was for the purpose of suppressing these pirate raids.

  132. @Milhouse

    The part about the Irish not having a central authority that could make and enforce treaties, thus forcing the English to conquer and occupy the whole island

    If you’re referring to the Norman invasion, then I believe that was related to helping the local Irish king shore up a kingdom that he was losing control over. That was how it started, anyway.

    Mind you, my Irish history is sketchy at best.

  133. >If you’re referring to the Norman invasion, then I believe that was related to helping the local Irish king shore up a kingdom that he was losing control over. That was how it started, anyway.

    That is correct. Piracy wasn’t involved; IIRC the main pirate havens at the time were the western coast of Scotland and Brittany.

  134. “Interesting. I also like Grantham’s example of private or gated communities that *require* you to sign up, or else live somewhere else.” – Couldn’t this model be scaled up to larger geographic areas? At what point does it become statism?

  135. “What they had was a horizontal network of competing enforcement authorities (godhar), all operating under a common law. There was a recorder of the laws but no chief executive.”

    *That* is a government. You can be governed by a council without a king. Call it a ‘feudal oligarchy’.

  136. > Thus, raising the perceived risk from sponsoring terrorism will force terrorists to operate undercover, making their network less like a bazaar in both communication richness and action/reaction time.

    Among the most notable sponsors of terrorism against us are our “ally” indonesia, our “ally” Pakistan, and our “ally” Saudi Arabia. Osama was found next door to the Pakistani equivalent of the Pentagon.

    Now how do we make sponsoring terrorism “risky” for such nations?

    “Risk” surely means risk that those who do stuff that endangers us risk being blown up, that being the only kind of risk we can actually afford to supply in large amounts. Regime replacement requires state building which is costly, unlikely to succeed, and fails to deter. Observe how Libya calmed down and started playing nice after Reagan blew up Qaddafi’s children. Worked much better than regime replacement, and cost vastly less.

    This requires us to blow up people who tolerate terrorists in their midst, because if the terrorists blend in with people who tolerate them, they cannot be found. In the days of colonialism, this was standard strategy and highly effective. I endorse this procedure wholeheartedly, and can give examples of its tremendous success spanning over two thousand years, but it is today politically unthinkable, and if described in plain language, would unleash screams of “racist”.

    This tactic is a strategy of fighting terrorists with terrorism – which is what everyone used to do. It worked.

  137. I should comment here on the utter impracticality of insurance companies getting involved in military matters. Someone pointed to Ross Perot’s rescue of his employees years ago. I need to point out that his team was trained and experienced in what they did by the US military at great cost – much more than what an insurance company would be able to pay. Our defense needs the resources that only a government can provide.

  138. It is mostly our “allies” that sponsor terrorism: Pakistan, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia, probably because if our enemies sponsored terrorism, we might blow them up.

    What risk did you have in mind for our “allies”?

  139. I need to point out that his team was trained and experienced in what they did by the US military at great cost – much more than what an insurance company would be able to pay.

    You’re making that claim by fiat. In fact, private special forces have existed before, the Assassins being perhaps the most widely known. Additionally, of course, both regular land and naval forces have been operated by private companies from prehistoric times up until now, although the modern states are trying to stamp them out to ensure freedom from checks on their own power.

  140. I should comment here on the utter impracticality of insurance companies getting involved in military matters. Someone pointed to Ross Perot’s rescue of his employees years ago. I need to point out that his team was trained and experienced in what they did by the US military at great cost – much more than what an insurance company would be able to pay. Our defense needs the resources that only a government can provide.

    “Executive outcomes” does stuff governments cannot.

    Historically, in our wars with Islam, we have generally lost when we had only governmental forces fighting. Christendom would win in government to government wars with Islamic governments, but then lose to forces such as the Barbary pirates. Success only came when states were at war with Islam, licensed pirates and brigands were at war with Islam, merchant shipping companies were at war with Islam, and families were at war with Islam – when we fought them the way they fight us, then we win.

    Charles the Great adopted a policy of giving various Islamic ruled lands to various Christian adventures, licensing bandits and pirates to become legitimate Kings if they could take what they had been given from its current occupants and keep it. This worked much better than when he himself led armies against Islam. When he invaded his armies would wander about Muslim lands at great expense, but eventually go home, and pretty soon things would revert to the way they had been before he invaded.

  141. >*That* is a government. You can be governed by a council without a king. Call it a ‘feudal oligarchy’.

    It’s missing what anarchists consider an essential property of government: a monopoly of force with no recourse.

  142. In terms of the warfare thing, I find it curious that the most obvious solution is not tried. Basically these nut jobs want to kill people because they believe their wacky religion. Surely the solution is to do everything in our power to point out how wacky their religion is. Point out all the contradictions in the Quran, point out how Muhammad’s favorite wife was a six year old girl, point out that the origin stories they believe are really stupid and provably wrong. Point out how their crazy medieval belief system has left your people in dreadful poverty, and cultural and technological stagnation. And so forth.
    Unfortunately, as the saying goes, point one finger at me and you point three back at yourself. The problem is that most of these criticisms can readily be applied to Christianity and Judaism too, and we certainly can’t have that.

  143. > It’s missing what anarchists consider an essential property of government: a monopoly of force with no recourse.

    Reminds me of the old Nigel Rees quote: “How come there’s only one Monopolies Commission?”

    It’s still one hell of a pickle to solve, especially when you take into account the tendency towards mob rule and the historical power of demagogues to mobilize market losers. The wife and I have a certain motto that we find useful in a variety of situations: Average is stupid. Even the 95-105 IQ median includes a huge number of people who are prone to think and behave illogically, rationalize theft in the form of redistribution, don’t understand how money works and generally believe that 2+2 can equal 10.

  144. >Surely the solution is to do everything in our power to point out how wacky their religion is.

    If that were sufficient, there wouldn’t be any Christians, either.

    The problem is identical in both cases. Insane people edit whatever evidence they receive to conform to their insanity.

  145. @Grantham
    “Average is stupid. Even the 95-105 IQ median includes a huge number of people who are prone to think and behave illogically,”

    You obviously have not read The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity:
    Second law: The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

    As the Germans say: Bildung schüzt for Torheit nicht

  146. > Armed citizenry and nobody with the authority to surrender.

    Citizens armed with hand-held weapons and (at best) grenades are inefficient against an enemy that employs air forces, armored troops, massed artillery, etc unless they are led by a ruthless and competent leader, who is adept at guerilla warfare (you would call one a “warlord”). So choose – either you defeat warlordism, or foreign invasions.

    Oh, and if your anarchic state possesses significant oil deposits, nothing will save it.

    Btw, you seem to ignore the fact that warfare constantly evolves, and in a hypotetical anarchic society where everyone has to protect himself against everyone complete scientific, technological and, therefore, military stagnation is inevitable. So if your hypotetical anarchists will manage to defend themselves now, they will surely be conquered in a decade or two.

    The only solution to the foreign takeover is building anarchy in a land that has _no_ valuable natural resources, so no one will even try to conquer it.

  147. “Somalia, too (not even by us)”

    ITYM “Not entirely by us”.

  148. In Vernor Vinge’s “The Ungoverned”, one of the most respected private security agencies is the Michigan State Police – same traditions, only funded by subscriptions and insurance pools rather than taxes.

    SF&F is good at “thought experiments”, also wrt. possible governments. Another example, though minarchist rather than anarchist state is Michael Z. Williamson Freehold series.

    Any others?

  149. BTW. forget insurance against foreign invasion; I wonder if you can get sufficient vaccination coverage without state sponsored enforcement to get immunity of population as whole.

  150. Common Goods?

    I live on reclaimed land. Both the levies must be maintained and seeping water must be pumped out. When the pumps stop, the area gets flooded and we drown. We all pay our share in maintenance.

    I see only two solutions to deal with free-riders:
    Either people are forced to pay a tax, or people are forced to leave and desert their homes when they do not pay.

    I have asked before, but never got a decent suggestion for an alternative.

  151. “Osama was found next door to the Pakistani equivalent of the Pentagon.”

    You forgot to mention Pakistan was considering charging the guy who told us where he was with treason. Did anything ever happen with that, by the way?

  152. @Winter,

    Who said anything about education? Some of the biggest dopes I’ve ever met tote around Ivy League sheepskins. Of course you’ll never know if a certain person is going to be stupid (before they open their mouth, at least), but it is still obvious that there are teeming masses of stupid people in the world.

    Which calls to mind a different saying by the great Italian philosopher, Yogi Berra: You can see a lot by looking around.

  153. “In fact, private special forces have existed before, the Assassins being perhaps the most widely known. Additionally, of course, both regular land and naval forces have been operated by private companies from prehistoric times up until now”

    Well, now we need things like stealth aircraft, nuclear submarines and satellite communications, even for the cheapest operations. That’s asymmetrical warfare for you.

    You might argue, like Ron Paul, that you wouldn’t need that stuff if you just let other people live according to their customs, and look out for their interests. Unfortunately, those others seem to see things like atomic weapons as being in their interest. Stealth aircraft and submarines, ditto. This is not a job for the Geico gecko.

  154. @Grantham:
    “Average is stupid. Even the 95-105 IQ median includes a huge number of people who are prone to think and behave illogically,”

    To which I would add Ponella’s Law: People are smart and stupid at the same time.”

    Even smart people do stupid things.

  155. When smart people screw up they do it bigger and better than the rest of us. When “smart” people in government do it, they do it to the rest of us.

  156. @Jessica Boxer

    Surely the solution is to do everything in our power to point out how wacky their religion is.

    Remember how well that worked out when we were arguing with a certain Christian commenter on this blog?

    I do agree that we should constantly be criticising and indeed mocking absurd religious claims, but I don’t think it’s going to do much to convince the already-brainswashed.

    We should break the taboo on criticising religion because it’s the moderate believers (Christians, Muslims, Jews, and all the rest) who make the world safe for the fundamentalists. If it weren’t so bloody socially acceptable for people to go around spouting complete nonsense about magical sky gods, and indoctrinating their children with the same, then it might prevent a few of those children from growing up to become fundamentalists.

  157. @Tom: Ease up on those magical sky gods. Many people have a crying internal need for religion. If you deny the gods to the young, you’ll just make more with a magical belief in Marx, or Keynes, or Hayek.

  158. If you deny the gods to the young, you’ll just make more with a magical belief in Marx, or Keynes, or Hayek.

    Correct. Or they will simply stuff their heads with postmodernist nonsense like Derrida and Foucault, or lash themselves to pseudo-religions like environmentalism, multiculturalism, social justice, etc. In some sense, this is the story of post-war Europe, which exchanged Christianity for even more dangerous ideologies that have left them circling the demographic drain.

    Unfortunately, there is no readily apparent solution to this problem. Most people seem to need an irrational belief of to cling to. Either evolution will sort it out or it won’t.

  159. > If you deny the gods to the young, you’ll just make more with a magical belief in Marx, or Keynes, or Hayek.

    > Most people seem to need an irrational belief of to cling to.

    Maybe that would be a key moment to seize for an Erisian takeover. If you’re going to have an irrational belief, take it all the way, I say. Although I suppose it’s debatable whether Marxism or Discordianism is the more ridiculous…

  160. @LS/Grantham

    If you deny the gods to the young, you’ll just make more with a magical belief in Marx, or Keynes, or Hayek.

    Correct.

    I don’t accept that. I think it should be possible to create a culture that prizes rationality above all. I am not aware of any attempt to put this into practice on a large scale. If we were to institute a nation-wide curriculum that focused on critical thinking from an early age then we might get some good results. It’s worth trying anyway. Give rationality a chance!

  161. I started to learn about anarchism accidentally about three years ago, some time before discovering Eric’s essay on how to become a hacker. Do I need to say that that essay greatly influenced/is influencing my life?I was quite surprised with his other essay titled “Why I am an Anarchist”.

    I consider myself as an anarchist without adjectives but it seems I’m an leftist. Maybe that will change because in this discussion I read some very interesting thoughts that confirmed some of my feelings about non-pragmatic nature of Left Anarchist thought.

    Generally, anarchistic society would be easier to establish if the world citizens aren’t so dumbed down by religion, scarcity and ksenophobia. Real question that nobody answered (I think) is how to establish an anarchistic society within the shell of an capitalistic or pseudo-capitalistic country. More detailed, how to manage to block sofisticated American (Chinese, Russian, Klingon etc.) state-chopping machinery and preserve anarchistic nature within that society?

    Also, I’m currently watching this: http://www.weightofchains.com/ … It’s not a new movie and I can’t explain how I missed it. It’s so mind-blowingly direct that it just crashed the whole propaganda about my former homeland to which I was exposed from my birth (’90s where a bad times to be a kid). Because of this movie I can also proudly say: “That is why I am an anarchist”…

    You can now start mocking me because of my bad english (I did my best). ;)
    Greetings from one ex-Yugoslavian country.
    ????? (Marko).

  162. @Tom

    I don’t accept that. I think it should be possible to create a culture that prizes rationality above all. I am not aware of any attempt to put this into practice on a large scale. If we were to institute a nation-wide curriculum that focused on critical thinking from an early age then we might get some good results. It’s worth trying anyway. Give rationality a chance!

    I emphasized should because it’s a sign of your magical thinking. Don’t confuse the prescriptive with the descriptive. It’s bad that we use that word both ways.

    That how we get “It should be OK to launch in the cold” and “It should be OK to reenter with a hole in the wing.”

    Though our host reviles it, Christianity is probably the best of the world’s religions. It encourages thinking about the future. It posits an orderly universe. It has a sound philosophical basis for ethics.

    Remember I’m talking about the New Covenant, not the old Jewish Covenant, which is rather tribal and still causes all sorts of problems for us goyim.

    Also, Christianity has inspired some of the greatest music…

  163. > I don’t accept that. I think it should be possible to create a culture that prizes rationality above all

    Sorry, Tom, but have you visited an American college campus at any point in the past twenty five years? What about a city public school? There is not a shred of religious instruction in sight, but you would still be horrified. Anyone who thinks that irrationality is strictly (or even mainly) the province of the faithful hasn’t been paying enough attention.

    > If we were to institute a nation-wide curriculum…

    But who is this “we” you are imagining? Who “institutes” this curriculum? We have a generation of philosophy, history and literature graduate who are not conversant in the Western canon, but can quote breezily from such luminaries as Francis Fukuyama, Cornell West and Rigoberta Menchú?

    And that’s just the tiny segment that bothers to know anything at all. Everywhere amongst the accredited class, you see a cultural osmosis of stupidity and a ignorance of economics and history that is so profound it makes belief in Great Sky Kings look like a reductio ad absurdum proof by comparison.

    Yes, there is a real danger posed by Islam, but it pales in comparison to the what that bastard Nietzsche called, “the danger of dangers.” I’m afraid that Nietzsche is proving more right than even he could have predicted.

  164. @Bob

    I emphasized should because it’s a sign of your magical thinking. Don’t confuse the prescriptive with the descriptive. It’s bad that we use that word both ways.

    That how we get “It should be OK to launch in the cold” and “It should be OK to reenter with a hole in the wing.”

    Sorry I don’t really follow what you are saying here. Is this a reference to something you posted earlier? Did I miss something?

    Christianity is probably the best of the world’s religions. It encourages thinking about the future. It posits an orderly universe. It has a sound philosophical basis for ethics.

    How you can claim that Christianity provides a sound basis for ethics is beyond me. Any method of thinking that encourages you to abdicate responsibility for moral thinking is to my mind distinctly immoral. The Bible is an exceptionally disgusting book, including much of the New Testament.

    Remember I’m talking about the New Covenant, not the old Jewish Covenant, which is rather tribal and still causes all sorts of problems for us goyim.

    Christianity takes both testaments as its holy books. And the New Testament is perhaps even more disgusting than the Old. The very notion of vicarious redemption should be repulsive to any morally responsible person.

    Also, Christianity has inspired some of the greatest music…

    So what?

  165. >Christianity is probably the best of the world’s religions

    No. Buddhism. (I’m leaving out my own neopaganism because it only has about 60 years of history and arguably isn’t a “religion” at all, having no aim to be a total explanatory system.)

    I’m not a Buddhist (and someday I’ll explain why I’m not in detail on this blog), but the Buddhists have totted up the lowest massacre count of any of the major religions. That’s convincing evidence of superiority right there.

    On the positive side, Buddhist philosophy, art, and meditative practices are astonishingly subtle and rich.

  166. @Grantham

    Sorry, Tom, but have you visited an American college campus at any point in the past twenty five years? What about a city public school? There is not a shred of religious instruction in sight, but you would still be horrified. Anyone who thinks that irrationality is strictly (or even mainly) the province of the faithful hasn’t been paying enough attention.

    Oh, I certainly agree with that. Irrationality takes many forms. And, no, I haven’t ever been to an American college or school, so I certainly admit ignorance of the US education system. I don’t think that creating the culture I describe will be easy or quick. It could take generations. But I don’t think that means we shouldn’t try. And just because religion is not the only form of irrationality, it doesn’t mean that it ought not to be opposed.

    But who is this “we” you are imagining? Who “institutes” this curriculum? We have a generation of philosophy, history and literature graduate who are not conversant in the Western canon, but can quote breezily from such luminaries as Francis Fukuyama, Cornell West and Rigoberta Menchú?

    And that’s just the tiny segment that bothers to know anything at all.

    I agree with all that, but I take it as yet more reason to advance rationality wherever we can. Again, it won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

  167. In this context I expect few here to agree with Steven Pinker’s book on how and why the world became a safer place.

    Personally, I do think his book is the best I have seen yet.

  168. @esr

    but the Buddhists have totted up the lowest massacre count of any of the major religions

    Apart from, perhaps, Jainism. But whether you count that as a ‘major’ religion is probably doubtful.

    I am interested in certain cultural aspects of Buddhism, but it still contains too much that is irrational (for example, reincarnation) to take seriously as a belief system.

    It’s infinitely preferable to Christianity though, which is drenched in blood by comparison.

  169. I agree with Eric that Buddhism is probably the least dangerous overall, but Christianity comes in a close and easy second. Christianity hasn’t been a virulent problem for several centuries; this should be obvious from the fact that the Age of Reason arose in a Christian West that was far more constrictive and pervasive than the current version.

    Neither system has a modern equivalent to the recent rebirth of Salafist Islam — Christianity probably hasn’t had a historical equivalent for 600 years, and Buddhism has never had one, in my opinion. And while one could argue honestly and spiritedly over which is the “best” religion (or perhaps, the “least bad” one), the argument over which is the worst — the most backward, the most barbaric, the most totalitarian — is usually over before it started.

  170. @Grantham

    I agree with Eric that Buddhism is probably the least dangerous overall, but Christianity comes in a close and easy second.

    I’d easily take Jainism, Taoism, Shinto, Unitarianism, or even simple Deism (if you can call that a religion) long before I took Christianity. Christianity is absolutely up there among the most deadly religions in history.

    this should be obvious from the fact that the Age of Reason arose in a Christian West

    Whatever gains we have made in the West as a result of the enlightenment have come in spite of and at the expense of Christianity. We have had to fight tooth and nail against the church every inch of the way to free ourselves of their nonsense. The only reason that Christianity looks relatively benign now compared to Islam is that few people today practice anything resembling the Christianity of the Bible. It has been watered down slowly as a result of centuries of slow, painful, social change.

    But the real point is that, whatever the specific content of Christian belief today, it is still just as irrational as Islam. And that is what we want to avoid: a culture that accepts and even celebrates irrationality. Because that is what allows other dangerous belief systems to propagate.

  171. Hm… It seems that UTF-8 isn’t supported and that sucks, big time. Ken does not approve.

    The problem of Christianity is that it makes an person a slave which should obey authorities who are there because of the God’s will. Leo Tolstoy tried to fix this by implementing some anarchistic ideas but he failed. He just created another idealistic pacifist movement.

    Not sure about Buddhism but I think that Taoism was/is the least dangerous. Still, it’s a relligion (philosophical Taoism is a different thing). Maybe I’m wrong. After all, it is said that Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism are very simillar.

    Marko

  172. While you are right to point out differences, the fundamental similarities between OSS and OSW are striking.

    In traditional Software development, things are slowed down to at least some degree by the need to “protect” IP. As is the case in traditional warfare, where covering up how you did something makes it harder for “the enemy” to take future countermeasures.

    In OSS, on the other hand, there is an underlying assumption that whatever loss is sustained by loss of IP ownership, is more than compensated for by good coming from some “others” taking your development, running with it and expanding upon it. Similarly, OSW participants embrace publicity, on the theory that making attack knowledge available to some like minded but hitherto unknown “others”, outweigh the downside of “the enemy” gaining information that can be used to improve their defenses.

  173. Moses said “Obey”.
    Mohammed said “Submit”.
    Jesus said “Choose”.

  174. >Not sure about Buddhism but I think that Taoism was/is the least dangerous.

    Taoism is like Jainism – even less history of violence than Buddhism, but essentially unable to spread outside its original cultural hearth and thus not very interesting for this discussion.

    >After all, it is said that Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism are very simillar.

    Not really. They only look that way because (a) to Westerners they all exist primarily inside a Chinese cultural matrix that makes them look more similar than they are, and (b) there’s been some influence from philosophical Taoism to Buddhism. (Zen Buddhism is a Japanese version of Chinese fundamentalist Buddhism influenced by Taoist ideas.) But the differences are large, and increase as you move from elite intellectualized versions to folk and popular versions.

  175. @esr

    Safety is not all it’s cracked up to be. In your zeal to avoid genocide, which I suspect is futile, you forget to foster interstellar diaspora.

    We’re on our way to getting off this planet and making the long term survival of Humanity more likely. The Buddhists would never have gotten us to this point.

    Besides, while the Japanese are Shinto, many are also Buddhist.

    If all else fails, we’ve refined H-bomb technology to the point we could build Orion.

  176. >Christianity is absolutely up there among the most deadly religions in history.

    True. When evaluating such claims, it’s helpful to ignore all the rationalizations believers fling around and consider only the total body count. Christianity and Islam are in a class by themselves when it comes to lethal evil in religion. Only Marxism surpasses them.

  177. >We’re on our way to getting off this planet and making the long term survival of Humanity more likely. The Buddhists would never have gotten us to this point.

    And? None of the other major religions would have either. The praxeology of science and engineering is anti-religious, however much individual believers fool themselves otherwise.

  178. We drifted a bit off-topic…

    I don’t accept that. I think it should be possible to create a culture that prizes rationality above all. I am not aware of any attempt to put this into practice on a large scale. If we were to institute a nation-wide curriculum that focused on critical thinking from an early age then we might get some good results. It’s worth trying anyway. Give rationality a chance!

    Religion satisfies (or tries to satisfy) the emotional part of our “self”, rather than intellectual one. This part is as important.

    BTW. for all proponets of “pure reason” and mind over emotion, etc. There was a study of a person (or persons) which had the brain damage that prevented emotional thinking. This part that is responsible for most of prejudices. This person performed as good or slightly better in intellectual tasks… but was much worse in tasks with incomplete information.

    Unfortunately I don’t remember where I have seen it, so no references. Sorry.

  179. @Jakub

    I completely reject the idea that religion has a monopoly on satisfying ‘the emotional part of our “self”’. There is great joy and awe to be found in science, the arts, and philosophy. Not to mention the simple everyday pleasures of friends and family.

  180. @esr

    And? None of the other major religions would have either. The praxeology of science and engineering is anti-religious, however much individual believers fool themselves otherwise.

    Tell it to all the famous (also the anonymous) scientist/priests. The Catholic church has been a major driving force in the advancement of science.

    Look, a religion serves a number of different purposes. Individually other things could serve in their place, but a complete religion is a one-stop shop. We need the things religion, and we’re losing them. The evangelical atheists and aggressive hedonists are burning down the house to get rid of the cockroaches, or maybe just because they don’t like to put the lid down before they flush.

  181. >I completely reject the idea that religion has a monopoly on satisfying ‘the emotional part of our “self”’

    And even if it’s true, there are practices that will occupy those receptors without requiring you to buy a load of anti-rational garbage. That’s why I’m a neopagan. We aren’t the only such game, though we’re probably the most successful one in terms of numbers of adherents.

  182. >>Christianity is absolutely up there among the most deadly religions in history.

    >True. When evaluating such claims, it’s helpful to ignore all the rationalizations believers fling around and consider only the total body count. Christianity and Islam are in a class by themselves when it comes to lethal evil in religion. Only Marxism surpasses them.

    “Lies, damn lies and statistics”. “Total body count” ignores how widespread religion is, and how many believers it has.

    BTW “most deadly” != “lethal evil”. How ofter religion was used as tool, like nationalism later. Otherwise by this measure Christianilty is more “lethal evil” than Aztec religion with mass human sacrifice…

  183. @jakub

    How ofter religion was used as tool

    Christianity is a tool. It’s a tool specifically and deliberately designed for the oppression and control of the human species. Whatever true spiritual, mystical, or ethical content it may once briefly have contained has been completely crushed and buried beneath two millennia of accumulated dogma and bullshit.

  184. Jakub has a point about the Aztecs. If even a tenth of what we found is true, their religion was possibly the most brutal and bloody imperial faith in history.

    I think you need to unpack religion from other deme characteristics, to gauge the danger. With diasporic faiths like Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, you are going to get a lot of variety even on small timescales.

    That said, anyone who thinks 21st century Christianity registers even a tiny fraction of the murderous, existential threat of 21st century Islam hath partaken of the Holy Grail of P.C. Horseshit. It’s not comparable, and the sort of liars that claim it is are the same one who prosecute public criticism of Islam as “hate speech.”

  185. Re: Religion

    One way to help with irrational religion would be to try to ensure that as many people as possible learn how evolution works. Here in Alberta (you know, the state North of Montana), the only students that are (or at least, were) taught evolution were the ones taking grade 12 biology. This is ridiculous; it is so important and can be taught in half an hour.

    Without knowing how evolution works, you get a lot of people that just can’t see “that it all happened by chance/accident”. (Please note that this is off the top of my head; I don’t have statistics or anything.) This results in a lot of people who, when asked if they believe in God, say something about believing in “some force”; a lot of people believe in, and I quote, “something”. It is almost like a religion with all the irrationality, but without actually believing in anything in particular.

    I read about a classic example yesterday from a CNN story from a couple of days ago… I will quote only three sentences of this blog entry but I will markup the first sentence…

    Now [after her 5 year old son said they were kosher when they aren't] I light candles each week and say the blessings. I belong to a havurah – a cohort of local Jewish friends who get together for monthly potluck dinners – and also a synagogue.

    and

    In truth, I do not keep kosher and I don’t really want to. My husband is not Jewish, though we’re raising our family to be. So, yeah, we eat tacos for Shabbat dinner most weeks and usually skip Friday night services.

    I realize being Jewish is partly an ethnic thing and partly a tradition thing in addition to being a religion. But, people like this disgust me.

    I can have a very tiny amount of respect for someone who is sincerely religious and, believing in an all-powerful god, take the matter seriously. But people that half-heartedly believe in a god in a traditional religion, but don’t take it seriously…. are they nuts? Do they think the god that they sort of believe in doesn’t matter?

  186. My point about evolution is learning that complex things can develop without being designed, as opposed to “The Watch and the Human Eye”.

  187. @Grantham

    Jakub has a point about the Aztecs. If even a tenth of what we found is true, their religion was possibly the most brutal and bloody imperial faith in history.

    Aztec human sacrifice is no doubt another great example of the lunacy and violence of religion. Tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of people were sacrificed in their religious rituals. But does this come close to matching Christianity’s total? I think not. Estimates for deaths caused by the crusades alone range from a low of 1,000,000 up to 5,000,000 people.

    And if you think the Aztec religion must be worse than Christianity because they condone human sacrifice, need I remind you that practically the whole point of the Christian mythology is to celebrate human sacrifice as the means to achieve redemption for humankind?

  188. @Tom
    > Tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of people were sacrificed in their religious rituals.

    Are you kidding? The Aztecs sometimes butchered that many people in a single ceremony. You are greatly underestimating their savagery, I think.

  189. @Grantham

    There is one report of a particular event – I forget the details – where they apparently sacrificed between 10,000 and 80,000 people. However, that appears to be an exception. It used to be the case (back in the 70s, when we first started to investigate this phenomenon) that we thought as many as 250,000 people a year were sacrificed. But the field has moved on, and the upper bound is now thought to be closer to 20,000, with some reports indicating a possible low of as few as 300-600 annual sacrifices.

  190. “But, people like this disgust me.” (Referring to those who only seem to ‘play’ at their religion.)

    This sort of thing is extremely important. In many countries, there is no church/state separation, and so a large portion of the population just ‘plays along’ for social convenience. Most people don’t want to ‘rock the boat’. You don’t want a solid phalanx of terrorist fanatics; be happy that the fanatics are a minority.

    It’s also important in places like the US. It gives some people a more gradual route to assimilation. The supply of terrorists here will dry up as more and more young Muslims simply come to say, “You know, praying five times a day, wearing the hijab, not eating during Ramadan, not eating pork, etc…, is really inconvenient. I don’t think I want to do that any more…”

    Note: I’m a completely secular and nonobservant Jewish guy whose fall from grace started when I first tasted real bacon on a Boy Scout camping trip. Don’t underestimate that sort of thing.

  191. @Tom, even by the ludicrously lowball 20,000/yr figure, you destroy any moral relevance to the armed Christian/Muslim conflicts of the crusades. If you only took to heart that figure (i.e. not including armed conflicts with neighbors), you’ve got yourself a butcher of massive proportions during the period of the triple alliance. The amount of both physical and codice evidence we’ve collected of Aztec cannibalism isn’t especially pretty, either. To put it bluntly, they ate lots of kids.

  192. The only Jewish joke I know….

    A rabbi and a priest were talking. The priest asked the rabbi if he had ever eaten pork. The rabbi admitted that he had tried it, long ago, when he was a teenager. Then the rabbi asked the priest if he had ever had, uh, sexual congress with a woman. The priest said, “Well… once, back before I took my vows, of course.” The rabbi said, “It’s better than pork isn’t it?”

  193. All that said, the most important fact is that both the Aztec child-butchers and the feudal Christendom that sponsored the crusades are long gone. Meanwhile, 11th century Islam is back with a vengeance, and seeking to acquire a nuclear arsenal.

    (As an aside, I still think I might prefer living within range of Aztec cooking pots than Stalin’s meat grinder. Warmer climes suit me.)

  194. @Grantham

    even by the ludicrously lowball 20,000/yr figure, you destroy any moral relevance to the armed Christian/Muslim conflicts of the crusades.

    The Aztec civilisation was only around for about 300 years. That makes for about 6M deaths. Somewhat higher than the crusades, true, but still on the same order of magnitude. And the Crusades are just one chapter in the long history of Christian mass murder. You’ve then got the spanish inquisition, the catholic-run death camps of WW2, the KKK, untold thousands of Africans dying because their church denies them access to contraception, mass slaughter of pagans during the late Roman empire, the Protestant/Catholic troubles in Ireland, the endless religious persecution of heretics during the middle ages, and on and on and on.

    he amount of both physical and codice evidence we’ve collected of Aztec cannibalism isn’t especially pretty, either. To put it bluntly, they ate lots of kids.

    There is indeed evidence of cannibalism in the Aztec culture, but to say that ‘they ate a lot of kids’ is misleading. To my knowledge there is only one account of a child being eaten. The historical consensus on the subject is now that human flesh was not a regular part of the Aztec diet, but at most an occasional extra. Furthermore there is no evidence to my knowledge that their cannibalistic practices had any religious connection.

  195. By the way, these crazy-high estimates of 250,000/year don’t even make sense on their face, when you consider a total Aztec population (before decline set in due to colonialism and smallpox) of about 15M. If you assume population growth (before sacrifice) of about 1% (roughly what it is today) then you’re killing your population twice as fast as they are growing naturally. The numbers just don’t make any sense.

  196. > To my knowledge there is only one account of a child being eaten.

    Maybe you need more knowledge?

    In 2002, government archeologist Juan Alberto Roman Berrelleza announced the results of forensic testing on the bones of 42 children, mostly boys around age 6, sacrificed at Mexico City’s Templo Mayor, the Aztecs’ main religious site, during a drought.

    All shared one feature: serious cavities, abscesses or bone infections painful enough to make them cry.

    “It was considered a good omen if they cried a lot at the time of sacrifice,” which was probably done by slitting their throats, Roman Berrelleza said.

  197. @Grantham

    But what has this got to do with cannibalism? I don’t see it mentioned that these children were eaten. The evidence is that they were sacrificed, which is different.

    And you forgot to quote this part from the article:

    “It’s now a question of quantity,” said Lopez Lujan, who thinks the Spaniards — and Indian picture-book scribes working under their control — exaggerated the number of sacrifice victims, claiming in one case that 80,400 people were sacrificed at a temple inauguration in 1487.

    “We’re not finding anywhere near that … even if we added some zeros,” Lopez Lujan said.

  198. > By the way, these crazy-high estimates of 250,000/year

    I’ve never heard, nor claimed, 250,000/year for the Aztecs. I’ve heard that much for medieval Mexico combined (which includes the Mayans, who were also fans of mass ritual human sacrifice). Considering we’re talking about an estimated population of 25 million (and the Aztec special preference for young victims), this is not at all impossible. My own guess is that — horribly — it might have evolved as a method of ritualized birth control. considering the inhospitable growing climate and chance of drought.

    I understand that postmodern history only accounts for savagery after the Council of Trent and North of Sicily, but sadly the rest of the world was usually even more brutal… and continues to be so.

  199. @Grantham

    I understand that postmodern history only accounts for savagery after the Council of Trent and North of Sicily, but sadly the rest of the world was usually even more brutal… and continues to be so.

    I’m not denying the Aztec’s savagery at all!

    20,000/year sacrificed counts as savagery in my book. I just don’t think that the evidence for higher numbers is at all clear. And even at the 20,000 level there is uncertainty.

    We’re pretty far off course here. The Aztec’s no doubt had a brutal and insane religion. But if the best argument for Christianity is that it was (maybe) marginally less deadly than a medieval death cult that killed tens of thousands of its own people a year then I think that speaks for itself.

  200. > And you forgot to quote this part from the article:

    Tom, you are setting up a wonderful army of straw men now. These are all your own supplied figures you are attributing to me and then heroically batting aside. If you read the full article rather than scanning it for straw men, you would see that they discuss the butcher-like marks on the bodies. Ah well, I suppose that isn’t very politically correct, so it’s best to avoid it.

    Anyway, you’re welcome to your seemingly rosy ideas about Central Mexican civilization, and their barbarism relative to European Christendom during the Crusades (or Turkic Islam during the Crusades, for that matter). Granted they were ruthless, flesh-eating child-killing theocrats, but on the other hand I understand they had lovely singing voices.

    I think I’ve gone too far down the rabbit hole with this subject already. It’s clear your favorite historical bogeyman is not likely to change. Instead of beating the dead horse, I’ll refer you to my post above, where I mentioned our lost generation of “philosophy, history and literature graduates”, who can quote from Rigoberta Menchú. I’m sure Menchú would agree with you about the Aztecs.

  201. Anyway, an argument that the Aztecs were worse _controlled for size_ is only valid if that’s what we’re arguing about. As a very evil man once supposedly said, quantity has a quality all its own.

  202. “If you assume population growth (before sacrifice) of about 1% (roughly what it is today) then you’re killing your population twice as fast as they are growing naturally. The numbers just don’t make any sense.”

    They make more sense if you know that the Aztec victims were captives from the surrounding peoples. That’s why Hernan Cortez was able to ally himself with them against the Aztecs.

  203. @Religion
    The fundamental error made here is the assumption that religion is ever more than an excuse to do what you already wanted to.

    As all other people, the Aztecs created a religion to fit their hobbies.

  204. The Aztec civilisation was only around for about 300 years. That makes for about 6M deaths. Somewhat higher than the crusades, true, but still on the same order of magnitude. And the Crusades are just one chapter in the long history of Christian mass murder. You’ve then got the spanish inquisition, the catholic-run death camps of WW2, the KKK, untold thousands of Africans dying because their church denies them access to contraception, mass slaughter of pagans during the late Roman empire, the Protestant/Catholic troubles in Ireland, the endless religious persecution of heretics during the middle ages, and on and on and on.

    First, you are the person who says “Polish death camps of WW2″ because they happen to be located in current Poland, aren’t you? That is the on the same level as most of your examples…

    Second, please read carefully what I said, and not what you were thinking I said. I especially pointed the difference between “most deadly” (where the ‘total body count’ might be relevant) “lethal evil” (where it isn’t).

  205. [quote]
    And even if it’s true, there are practices that will occupy those receptors without requiring you to buy a load of anti-rational garbage. That’s why I’m a neopagan.
    [/quote]

    So you’re saying you don’t buy into the anti-rational garbage.

    And that you are a neopagan.

    I believe that there is a Mr. Foucault on the line for you.

  206. @William O. B’Livion
    > So you’re saying you don’t buy into the anti-rational garbage.
    > And that you are a neopagan.
    > I believe that there is a Mr. Foucault on the line for you.

    I’d say “You must be new here,” but I know you aren’t. This has been covered.

  207. John Robb said:

    I read in the above that you sent me an e-mail in 2004. I’m sorry but I didn’t see it. If I had, I would have responded.

    Eric, you should have ping-ed… :-P

    P.S. On unrelated note, are you planning on updating and finishing “Understanding Version Control”?

  208. >P.S. On unrelated note, are you planning on updating and finishing “Understanding Version Control”?

    Someday. It’s several projects down the stack, though.

  209. We’re on our way to getting off this planet and making the long term survival of Humanity more likely.

    No, we’re on our way to fucking up this planet and making the survival of humanity and other forms of life less likely, because the dominant culture has been “enacting the story” (to borrow the Daniel Quinn term) that this planet was put here for us to dispose of as we see fit.

    The Buddhists would never have gotten us to this point.

    That’s true…

  210. @Hunt Johnson
    If you look at the history of China, the population decimated whenever government collapsed and florished after a new government was reinstated.

  211. [esr]
    > It’s missing what anarchists consider an essential property of government: a monopoly of force with no recourse.

    What kind or degree of recourse qualifies a social system as anarchy? The ability to shoot the dictator? To shoot his tax collector? To shoot *at* his tax collector? Some framework for forming a posse to do or threaten to do any of the above?

    I’m trying to understand how your “no recourse” anti-criterion is meant to work. (References gladly accepted.)

    Cheers
    — perry

  212. > > It is mostly our “allies” that sponsor terrorism: Pakistan, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia, probably because if our enemies sponsored terrorism, we might blow them up.

    > What risk did you have in mind for our “allies”?

    I have frequently recommended placing the leading personalities of the “allied” government of Afghanistan in sacks and dropping them from ten thousand feet on the Pakistani presidential palace as a warning to the occupants of the presidential palace. I also recommended nailing Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud’s head to the Kaaba with nine inch nails.

    Since Indonesia is a democracy, I would probably recommend terrorism equally horrifying but more broadly directed. To avoid further cries of “racist” I will be less specific than with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

    I suppose that esr, to avoid cries of “racist” and “terrorist” would recommend bombing – like the bombing that killed Quaadafi’s children.

  213. esr on Tuesday, April 17 2012 at 3:32 pm said:
    > the Buddhists have totted up the lowest massacre count of any of the major religions. That’s convincing evidence of superiority right there.

    Recent and perhaps ongoing Buddhist genocide in Burma. Buddhist genocide in what is now Ceylon not so long ago. Possibly Buddhists have the lowest religiously motivated massacre count, though I suspect that they outweigh Christianity if you exclude wartime genocides and massacres, and only count religiously motivated massacres where one side has overwhelming military superiority. Christianity has a pretty high genocidal holy war count, massacres, not so much.

    If, however, you only count recent times, only count Christianity since the peace of Westphalia, Christianity has the lowest massacre count of them all.

  214. If you look at the history of China, the population decimated whenever government collapsed and florished after a new government was reinstated.

    Warlordism. China never lacks for government, or would-be government. Multiple competing despotisms seem to be worse than one more-or-less unified despotism, though there have been some pretty nasty unified despotisms too.

  215. @James A Donald

    Buddhist genocide in what is now Ceylon not so long ago

    Don’t you mean ‘what is now Sri Lanka’?

  216. Is the government in Sri Lanka Buddhist? The Tamil tigers were a terror group were they not?
    Once again, it’s government killing citizens and may not be related to the state religion, if any.

  217. Hunt Johnsen on Wednesday, April 18 2012 at 8:07 pm said:
    > Is the government in Sri Lanka Buddhist?
    >
    > The Tamil tigers were a terror group were they not?

    I had in mind the late Anuradhapura regime, which enforced Buddhism with a fair bit of spectacular bloodshed, not the Tamil Tigers.

    Further, the Tamil tigers, though terrorist, were a response to state terror against the non Buddhist minority, and were crushed using quite extraordinary and horrifying levels of state terror, but that was not the case I had in mind.

    The bible burning Burmese government is the best current example of Buddhist repression. There are no current examples of Christian repression, and have not been for hundreds of years.

  218. >I’m trying to understand how your “no recourse” anti-criterion is meant to work. (References gladly accepted.)

    Go read Vernor Vinge’s The Ungoverned, for a start.

  219. @esr that doesn’t really help to define the boundaries of the concept.

  220. >@esr that doesn’t really help to define the boundaries of the concept.

    No, and that’s because a proper definition of the boundaries won’t fit in a blog comment.

  221. Tom on Tuesday, April 17 2012 at 8:32 pm said:
    > It used to be the case (back in the 70s, when we first started to investigate this phenomenon) that we thought as many as 250,000 people a year were sacrificed. But the field has moved on, and the upper bound is now thought to be closer to 20,000,

    All the evidence about the scale of Aztec sacrifices consists of accounts written down shortly after Cortes conquered the place, and these showed that one hell of a lot more than twenty thousand were murdered every year. No new evidence has come to light, rather, the politically correct find old evidence distasteful and so decide to ignore it.

    What happened in the 1970s is not that new knowledge became available, but that old knowledge ceased to be politically correct.

  222. @JAD
    “What happened in the 1970s is not that new knowledge became available, but that old knowledge ceased to be politically correct.”

    Better forensics to evaluate the remains. And it took some time to realize that the reliefs on the ruins were not stylistic, but depicted the most gruesome of mass murders very realistically.

    The mass human sacrifice practices of the Aztecs were literally beyond belief like the practices in Nazi concentration camps were beyond belief before 1945, until you saw the movies. People require extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims.

  223. >Although I suppose it’s debatable whether Marxism or Discordianism is the more ridiculous…

    The difference is that Eris celebrates the ridiculous in Reality, where Marxism is ridiculous about Reality.

    >I’m trying to understand how your “no recourse” anti-criterion is meant to work.

    At the very least, the police doing the arresting, the prosecutor, the judge, and the prison system should not have the same paymaster.

  224. Someone mentioned Michael Z Williamson’s Freehold as a fictional minarchism, which it is a decent one. Here is his afterword to his short story, The Brute Force Approach, from Baen’s 2011 free short story collection:

    I read a lot.

    This house has several thousand books, mostly nonfiction, on a plethora of subjects. Somewhere in the section on ships is a story about a ferry in New York Harbor sometime in the 1890s, I recall.

    This small vessel, in winter, was full of people traveling from island to island or mainland. Most of them were immigrant laborers.

    This boat did have a boiler explode, rupturing one side, causing it to founder and sink. There were lifeboats, bought cast-off from some better vessel, not seaworthy. There were kapok life jackets, but the rubber had dry-rotted, the kapok mildewed, and they weren’t in usable condition even if the water wasn’t barely warmer than the freezing air.

    Every craft in the harbor did respond, in a frenzy not seen again until Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson river more than a century later. I can’t recall how many survived, but most did. The owner was held in very poor regard, and if I recall correctly, sued into poverty, as he should be.

    From there, I wondered how such a story would work in the Freehold universe, which, despite some parties alleging it to be a “utopia,” bears several significant resemblances to the era of robber barons and exploitative management. There are many things done better by the free market. However, some things actually do require government infrastructure to effect properly. Whether or not quality standards for spaceship inspections are among the latter probably depends in part on who’s arguing the point, and if they intend to be aboard. Even if one can settle up economically afterward, duel or seek vengeance, it’s probably better to have the intact ship in the first place.

    He actually cost himself a lot of credibility with this silliness. The decrease in accidents is more strongly correlated with wealth, which made safety more financially practical for the operators than with government regulation which generally lagged increased safety.

    Also calling industrialists “robber barons” is straight out of socialist propaganda; if someone has actually read much real history that it is only propaganda is apparent.

  225. As all other people, the Aztecs created a religion to fit their hobbies.

    If this is true, then it implies that religion has not been the primary problem all this time.

  226. My gut reaction to “Buddhism is the best of the world religions, including Christianity” is that Christianity has at least one evolutionary advantage over Buddhism: Christian philosophy more strongly encourages expansionism. I’m not sure how deeply I could defend this postulate, however. But I’ll note that this point struck me immediately after Eric’s mention of Buddhism, and before I read comments by Bob and others along the exact same line. (Bob, in particular, nailed exactly what I was thinking.)

    As Grantham noted later, Christianity became the primary parent of Western enlightenment culture. Whether that was inevitable, I’m not equipped to debate much, and thus the chance it isn’t could be quite high, as far as I know. However, that’s the way it turned out in this universe.

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that Christianity is not excused by this progeny, that Enlightenment came about only by fighting Christian philosophy “tooth and nail”. This implies that some Force for Reason came from outer space and cast dispel evil on it, and that the various Christians that contributed to this enlightenment, such as Aquinas, Mendel, and Newton, were really interlopers from some incognito external order of Knights Rationale. I consider it much fairer to say that Christianity planted the seeds for its own improvement – or if you must, nurtured the seeds planted by Greek antiquity (although that suggests we should all have been hellenic polytheists). In short, I don’t know how anyone can justify reason as coming wholly from outside religion.

    Back to Christianity vs. Buddhism. Supposing it’s true that Christian diaspora is an advantage over anything in Buddhist philosophy, I’m inclined to wonder whether it could be possible to “breed” the philosophies together, arriving at a hybrid that somehow fostered going forth and/or multiplying, while at the same time seeking inner wisdom. (It may be that expansion without aggression would always be dominated by expansion with aggression, but I’m not 100% sure I could prove that.)

    While I’m at it, I may as well ponder the general case: suppose certain nodes of irrationality are simply innate to the average human condition, and suppose a person with sufficient grip on rationality also had access to a wondrous laboratory where he could completely engineer a religion that could take root as well as any of the world’s great religions, and also impose on that innate human irrationality a set of values approaching those of rationality as closely as possible. What would he put in it? In short, for a given set of stable human behavioral tendencies, what would be the “ideal religion”?

  227. @Paul Brinkley
    “If this is true, then it implies that religion has not been the primary problem all this time.”

    Ideologies don’t kill, people do.

    I admit that ideologies can make people even more brutal and cruel than they are already. But both the torturers and slavers, and the abolitionists and human rights activists are motivated by the same religion and the same scriptures.

    In every social debate and in every war, both sides were supported by the same religion: For and Against witch-burning, slavery, and torture. Soldiers from both sides in every war were blessed by priests of the same religion. Priests were murdered by the Nazis, and priest helped Nazi war criminals flee.

    People will adopt and adapt a religion to suit them. If they want human sacrifice, their religion will demand it from them. If the people start to abhor human sacrifice, their religion will change and condemn the death penalty.

  228. I just watched an interesting talk by David Friedman (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YfgKOnYx5A&feature=player_embedded) in which he describes how the open source model of producing software might be used as a template for how to satisfy other public goods (such as national defence) in an anarcho-capitalist system.

    I think that in the case of national defence, as opposed to terrorist activity, ESR’s critiques of ‘open source warfare’ are – in some cases – reversed:

    1. “Visibility is safe”

    The activity of defending one’s country is not something that needs to be kept underground. Therefore communication between members of a militia is not a problem.

    2. “Outcomes are easy to measure”

    Your country is either defended or it is not. Unlike with terrorism there are no nebulous long-term social goals. You’re just ensuring that your homeland is safe.

    3. “The cost of failure is low”

    The cost of failing to defend your country definitely is not low, but unlike terrorists defenders are not mounting attacks as their primary activity. The usual-case activities for members of a militia will be practicing war. The cost of failing at that is low, because you are just training and playing war games. Therefore a militia can continue to improve itself and refine tactics and strategy in a safe environment.

    4. “Attack methods are perfectly transmissible”

    The model falls down a bit here. Solutions for national defence are not as easily replicated as solutions to computational problems. Some types of solutions are. For example, tactics and strategy are cheaply replicable. However, the cost of arming oneself is still much higher than the cost of downloading an algorithm.

    I’m just thinking out loud after watching that Friedman video though, so sorry if this doesn’t really make sense.

  229. As Grantham noted later, Christianity became the primary parent of Western enlightenment culture.

    And it will be the primary parent of the dark ages to come. Christian fundamentalists were a minority concentrated in the South during the 1960s. Today, they’re nearly half the country.

    Reason did come back to Christendom from outside Christianity. Aquinas, Mendel, Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, etc. were human beings living in the real world, and found themselves forced to acknowledge reality in the face of what their Church taught them. Inasmuch as they disbelieved Christian teaching they were not Christians. Sometimes they went to Herculean lengths to justify calling themselves Christians despite believing that the Church was wrong.

    Oh, and by the way, who was it that preserved all those classical works from antiquity for Great Christian Society to rediscover?

    It was the Muslims.

  230. For those who think religions breed violence io the other way round.

    Did Turks and Mongols become more violent after they converted to the Islam?

    Did Romans and Germans become more cruel or violent after they converted to Christianity?

  231. I admit that ideologies can make people even more brutal and cruel than they are already. But both the torturers and slavers, and the abolitionists and human rights activists are motivated by the same religion and the same scriptures.

    Hmmm:

    “I admit that guns can make people even more brutal and cruel than they are already. But both the serial killers and mass murderers, and the hunters and neighborhood defenders are motivated by the same guns and the same gun culture.”

    If you put ideology in the same equivalence class as guns (“ideologies don’t kill; people do”), your quote looks like something I can’t get behind. You do have an out by claiming ideology is different, in that it changes the user in a way guns don’t. (I’ve gotten so used to stepping outside of ideologies to examine them that it’s perhaps harder than it should be for me to see that.) But again: ideologies are either tools, or they aren’t.

  232. “Visibility is safe” – The activity of defending one’s country is not something that needs to be kept underground. Therefore communication between members of a militia is not a problem.

    Uhhh. Does Friedman actually attempt to apply this to collective defense? If so, I shall have to see exactly what he says about this, for I find it very hard to believe. There is simply too much leverage available when employing secrecy. One does not tell the enemy where one’s troops are, and since the enemy can send spies, one often does not even tell one’s own troops where all the other troops are. I have to believe Friedman is aware of this, which makes me think he’s talking about something else.

  233. And it will be the primary parent of the dark ages to come. Christian fundamentalists were a minority concentrated in the South during the 1960s. Today, they’re nearly half the country.

    The first sentence is mere arguendo ad prophetia, and the second sentence doesn’t justify it; it just begs the question.

    The rest is even worse. Even if these great minds brought about the Enlightenment despite being Christians, it just proves the argument I made before: that it is not the case that Christian ideology necessarily shut down all reason forever. It may have been that ideology postponed the Enlightenment, but I could just easily assert that reality was lazy. And to claim that the Muslims did all the preservation? Ha! That only suggests humanity just hitched its wagons to the wrong religion, rather than that it was wrong to go to any religion whatsoever.

    In short: you’re not helping.

  234. @Paul Brinkley

    Uhhh. Does Friedman actually attempt to apply this to collective defense? If so, I shall have to see exactly what he says about this, for I find it very hard to believe. There is simply too much leverage available when employing secrecy. One does not tell the enemy where one’s troops are, and since the enemy can send spies, one often does not even tell one’s own troops where all the other troops are. I have to believe Friedman is aware of this, which makes me think he’s talking about something else.

    No, Friedman just suggests that the open source model might be used to satisfy public goods. The rest is me.

    I’m not suggesting that secrecy isn’t useful in wartime, but I think what Eric was arguing was that merely being open about being a terrorist is a dangerous thing. They have to hide all the time. I’m just saying that this isn’t so for a militia. They can quite happily be out in the open, in society, practicing and communicating (during peacetime). They don’t have to be underground.

  235. So to paraphrase: a militia still has to hide, sometimes; just nowhere nearly as often. …That makes all the difference then.

    In other news, I’m in a bit of a sour mood after having to argue with one of my more rabid liberal friends, so I’ll have to save watching that Friedman video for later. (Caught the first couple minutes; looks sharp…)

    …I will note that terrorists do not have to hide, in a few notable cases. I’m speaking of Hamas and Hezbollah, and I suppose I could put the Taliban in the same equivalence class. They get away with this by providing various services via other wings of their organizations. Indeed, some of the population among which they hide are semi-openly supportive of them – they’ll say they think the terrorists are doing the right thing, even if they won’t openly engage in the same violence.

    Not sure that really conflicts with Eric’s point, though. If the population openly supports terrorists, are they really still terrorists? Or are they revolutionaries nearing the point of victory, their activities having been successfully “open-sourced”? A sobering thought, if we’re used to thinking of terrorists as coercing political change via fear via initiation of violence. If that’s success, I should hope it’s only a short-term, unstable one. On the other hand, there’s an easy case that the world’s currently visible terrorists are only visible physically, but hiding behind a smokescreen of propaganda. So the limited visibility principle may still hold.

    Annnnd my coffee just ran out, so I’ll stop here rather than delving further into babble.

  236. @Paul Brinkley
    Gun make people more lethal. Ideologies make people more lethal. The former is a tool, the latter is a social tool people use to organize.

    What is your problem?

  237. Guns and ideologies make people more powerful, not necessarily more lethal. But at any rate, an argument to avoid using something because it makes us more powerful simply won’t work on me.

  238. @Paul Brinkley
    “But at any rate, an argument to avoid using something because it makes us more powerful simply won’t work on me.”

    I never said people should avoid ideologies. This blog is all about an ideologies like Libertarianism, Anarchism, Minarchism, and their opponents.

    My point is simply that people are responsible for the weapons they chose and how they use them. In the same way, people are responsible for the ideologies they chose and how they use them.

    Anyone who says “My religion told me to do X” is actually no better than someone who says “I was following orders to do X”.

    If you want to kill people, eg, Americans, Women, Homosexuals, or Abortionists, you look for a religion that tells you you should do that and convert.

  239. Winter: Sure, but if the preexisting dominant religion of everyone in your area says quite emphatically that you must always kill group X, then desires to kill group X are rather more likely to start up in the general population. Saying that religion doesn’t contribute is disingenuous–just like saying that even if Hitler hadn’t taken power, the German citizenry would still have spontaneously self-organized into death camps.

  240. More like saying that the background level of anti-semitism (which was in part religious in origin) in Europe didn’t contribute to Hitler being able to get power.

  241. @Tom
    Interesting suggestion. Historians claim “Without Hitler, no holocaust”. They support this partly by pointing out that relatively view Germans participated or even knew about the death camps. At least until despotism was too well established too protest.

    I know too little about the inner workings of WWII to argue them.

  242. I believe “no Hitler => no Holocaust” is false, although that’s a weak belief. It’s also largely independent of German history. On the one hand, if there’s enough cultural pressure to do X, sooner or later someone involved with that culture will act to bring it about. Going back in time and taking that person out of the picture would be like going back in time and snuffing the one influenza virus that started an epidemic, but leaving all the population otherwise intact; another virus is simply too likely to come along. On the other hand, systematic democratically-driven genocide is an extraordinarily rare event, as events go, and while I also don’t have enough history knowledge to run statistics, I suspect that if it backfires or draws the wrong attention too soon, it destabilizes and then makes that culture much less likely to repeat the attempt, like the virus killing too visibly and spurring a vaccination campaign.

    I should note here that while my belief that cultural pressure to do X makes X more likely to happen sounds just like what Tom Dickson-Hunt is saying above, it’s not quite that simple, because cultural pressure to do X is (IMO) a subtly strong phenomenon with specific innate characteristics – in particular, it justifies X through a combination of environmental conditions (scarcity or surplus of resources, climate, etc.) and an intuitive argument promoting X. It’s quite easy to make irrational but intuitive arguments, but making them so that they work properly from long-held beliefs is hard. It’d be like persuading a Steelers fan that he must become an Eagles fan. There’d have to be a tangible wedge in reality – a star coach switches teams, or one’s job is lost to a member of another ethnic group. Occasionally, it’s easier to stop fighting an irrational ideology and just attack the underlying environmental conditions instead.

  243. Pingback: ESR Takes on John Robb | Daily Pundit

  244. @Paul Brinkley
    Possibly. It is a fact that genocides tend to stop when the leader disappears. Eg, after the death of Stalin and Mao, or the ousting of Pol Pot a Idi amin

  245. @Paul Brinkley,
    “I believe “no Hitler => no Holocaust” is false, although that’s a weak belief. It’s also largely independent of German history.”

    We will never know for sure. However, the Nazi leadership did go to some lengths to keep the information about what happened to Jews and others restricted to a “Need to know” basis. This is an indication that they did not trust the support in the general population.

    @Paul Brinkley,
    “On the one hand, if there’s enough cultural pressure to do X, sooner or later someone involved with that culture will act to bring it about.”

    Some more examples. The Democides of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane are top of the list in percentages of humanity killed. Both of these murderous campaigns were cut back an order of magnitude, or even stopped, when these leaders died.

    The Rwandan genocide might be a point in your case. The situation in Rwanda and Burundi has been tense since the 1970s, when there was a genocide campaign in Burundi. The Rwanda genocide was a kind of revenge of that Burundi genocide. The genocide moved to the east Congo when the Rwandan Hutu leadership was driven there. But a revenge genocide in Burundi has been avoided by political leadership and (maybe) foreign pressure.

    Another example, which I am not sure of which position it proves.

    When Gaddafi compared his Libyan opponents to cockroaches, like the Hutu leadership did with Tutsi’s, it was a red flag that he would try to exterminate them all. That was a trigger for NATO to intervene immediately and decisively. There is no doubt that Gaddafi would have annihilated the two opposing tribes in Libya, half the population, had he not been stopped. After he died, no retributive democide has been attempted.

    It is telling that in international politics, both Russia and China seem to consider it right for a government to get rid of it’s people. As if they want to keep the option open for themselves. Or maybe it is to save face for the mass murders in their past. Both Stalin and Mao are still the most popular leaders in these countries.

  246. Winter on Monday, April 23 2012 at 2:56 am said:
    > The situation in Rwanda and Burundi has been tense since the 1970s, when there was a genocide campaign in Burundi. The Rwanda genocide was a kind of revenge of that Burundi genocide. The genocide moved to the east Congo when the Rwandan Hutu leadership was driven there. But a revenge genocide in Burundi has been avoided by political leadership and (maybe) foreign pressure.

    You history, is as usual, left wing to the point of madness. International pressure forced democracy on Burundi in 1993, thus rule by the inferior hutus over the superior tutsi, which of course promptly resulted in hutu genocide against the tutsi. The tutsi immediately dumped political correctness, dumped democracy, and easily regained control, as soon as they had the will to do so, despite being outnumbered, outgunned, and facing severe international opposition.

    But the left apt to overlook and ignore crimes by the inferior against the superior, while spotting crimes by the superior, regardless of whether the crimes exist or not, though in practice, crimes by the inferior are vastly more common.

    Hence you have heard of the “genocide” committed by the tutsi in Burundi, when they put down a pro democracy uprising with an iron fist, but did not attempt to kill everyone, merely everyone who had engaged in armed rebellion, whereas you were blissfully unaware of the genocide committed by the hutus, when, armed with the power of the state that the international community had given them, they really did try to kill every single tutsi.

  247. Winter
    > But a revenge genocide in Burundi has been avoided by political leadership and (maybe) foreign pressure.

    Whenever the Tutsi have paid attention to foreign pressure, they have been massacred. If the Israelis paid attention to foreign pressure, there would not be one Jew left alive in the middle east, nor one orthodox Jew left alive in the world. If the Tutsi paid attention to foreign pressure, there would not be one Tutsi left in Africa.

  248. Paul Brinkley on Friday, April 20 2012 at 8:06 pm said:
    > If the population openly supports terrorists, are they really still terrorists? Or are they revolutionaries nearing the point of victory, their activities having been successfully “open-sourced”?

    Salafists are a minority among Muslims, but pretty obviously, they are the correct and true interpretation of Mohammed and the Koran, thus all Muslims are somewhat guilty about their failure to support them, and seldom forcefully oppose them. Any Muslim who does not support terror and murder is a bad Muslim, and in practice, Muslims do act as if they feel they are bad Muslims should they fail to support terror and murder. In practice, a Muslim can no more be genuinely anti terrorist than a leftist can be genuinely anti communist. He will feel bad about it, and his community will cast him out in outrage, just as a genuinely anti communist leftist will feel bad about it and lose his job.

    The solution to Islamic terrorism is that applied by the East India company and the French in what is now Tripoli: Kill Muslims (Christian terrorism against Islam) and settle their land with non Muslims until Islamic terrorism stops and stays stopped. Nothing else has ever worked. When the Israeli government pulled the settlers out of Gaza, it became obvious that the Israeli government had not been protecting the settlers, but the settlers had been protecting Israel. Settlement backed by terrorism works at stopping Islamic terrorism. It is the only thing that ever has in the past thirteen hundred years. Winter will doubtless argue that in the civilized modern era, we should find something better. No doubt we should, but we have not found it yet, despite searching for it for several centuries.

    We can now see that the Israeli settlers in Gaza were the most successful and effective anti terrorist force since 1963. Similarly, to fix Hezbollah, need at least begin on a population adjustment (ethnic cleansing) in Lebanon. It would not need to run to completion, just look as if, should terrorism persist, it would run to completion.

  249. @Paul Brinkley
    Instead of talking about far flung places in deep history, it is easier to look at an example of Ideology at work close to home.

    @Jay Maynard
    “Turning Mecca into the center of a disk of radioactive glass would be satisfying – and I have often felt it should be done – but I can’t see an insurance company doing it.”
    @JAD
    “Kill Muslims (Christian terrorism against Islam) and settle their land with non Muslims until Islamic terrorism stops and stays stopped.”

    So, the question is, how did the ideology of “Utopian Libertarianism” change Jay Maynard and James A Donald from boy scouts who help Arab and African old ladies cross the street into staunch supporters of genocides who advocate mass murdering civilians by the millions, Stalin style?

    The prevailing hypothesis here seems to be that we must blame their ideology, and that would be, Utopian Libertarianism or maybe Anarchism in this case.

    I think this is wrong. My hypothesis is that these two men already were bigots with Anders Breivik like phantasies about ethnic cleansing. They were just looking for an ideology that gave them an excuse for their phantasies. They just happen to stumble onto a mix of nationalism, anarchism, libertarianism, and racism as the closest call.

    Now, bigots are from all times and all cultures. Every ideology and religion has a special section for murderous bigots with utopian phantasies involving ethnic or ideological cleansing. And these sections get populated on the one hand by old men hating women in particular and other people’s freedom in general, and on the other hand by young men in search of a case to kill for.

  250. Winter on Tuesday, April 24 2012 at 3:12 am said:
    > My hypothesis is that these two men already were bigots with Anders Breivik like phantasies about ethnic cleansing. They were just looking for an ideology that gave them an excuse for their phantasies. They just happen to stumble onto a mix of nationalism, anarchism, libertarianism, and racism as the closest call.

    Instead of arguments, abuse.

    Yet I am not the one full of pleasant rationalizations and justifications for the two attempted Hutu genocides against the Tutsi. (The attempted genocide in Burundi, enabled by international pressure installing genocidaires in power, preceded the attempted and partially successful genocide in Rwanda, enabled by international pressure installing genocidaires in power.

    You pinkos are so full of the milk of human kindness, so eager to make your omelette, that to make your omelette, you overlook the fact that you are breaking one hell of a lot of eggs, and yet no omelette has eventuated.

    In the real world, full of bad people, it is necessary to do bad things, in order to make those bad people afraid. You are shocked, shocked, that I would urge terror against populations in which terrorists are comfortably and safely embedded, and yet you were decidedly unshocked by the Burundi genocide committed by the Hutus against the Tutsi, a genocide that you progressives full of good intentions are largely responsible for.

  251. >The prevailing hypothesis here seems to be that we must blame their ideology, and that would be, Utopian Libertarianism or maybe Anarchism in this case.

    Jay is neither a racist nor a libertarian. JAD claims to be the latter and denies the former. I am a libertarian, and I don’t advocate nuking Mecca. (Yet. The Islamofascists could change my mind about that if they act out some of their more loudly-proclaimed fantasies.) Libertarianism, whether “utopian” or not, isn’t the driver here – nor is racism.

    (In any case, shame on you for confusing racism with culturism. Hatred of Muslims, whether merited or not, is not racist. Your thinking is sloppy.)

    I will also note that I have known Jay for decades and he does not have the psychology of a bigot. So “bigotry” is not the driving variable here either, though given JAD’s ranting that is at least a reasonable mistake.

    I think you have to deal with the possibility that what is driving Jay is neither ideology nor bigotry but reality. I won’t say that about JAD, who I consider both bigoted and nutty. The nuttiness is not redeemed by the fact that he is sometimes right about unpleasant realities – even a stopped clock can be right twice a day.

  252. @esr
    “I think you have to deal with the possibility that what is driving Jay is neither ideology nor bigotry but reality. I won’t say that about JAD, who I consider both bigoted and nutty.”

    Jay is advocating genocide on a historical scale, as is JAD. I might be chastised for lumping two people advocating mass murdering millions of unarmed men, women, and children into a single category. But I have little compassion for the subtleties of their believes.

    What makes these people different from Stalin and Mao, except that they will never be in a position to act out their believes?

    You might appreciate that I was particularly explicit in saying I never blamed Anarchism nor Libertarianism for their democidal phantasies. And I did not extend their mass murder advocacy to anyone else holding the same “ideological believes”. But the generalization is exactly the same one as many here make from some murderers having Muslim believes or being communists to all Muslims and all communists.

    Blaming communism for having produced a Stalin and a Mao, and then advocating outclassing them an order of magnitude by murdering a billion Muslims is hypocrisy in the extreme.

  253. @esr
    “In any case, shame on you for confusing racism with culturism. Hatred of Muslims, whether merited or not, is not racist. Your thinking is sloppy.”

    Racism is pseudo-science trying to link despised cultural traits to biology. Purely biological racism is so rare, I am not going to make the distinction. In practice, racism is always ethnic and I consider the distinction just a bunch of euphemisms.

    But you can have it your way, we will call it ethnocentrism or culturism. The victims will be equally dead, one way or another.

  254. @ESR “(Yet. The Islamofascists could change my mind about that if they act out some of their more loudly-proclaimed fantasies.)” Jay at least rationalizes this by imagining that muslims unconnected with the ‘Islamofascists’ have a special responsibility to stop them (and yet christians do not despite worshipping the same god). Is this your belief as well, or do you have some other reason for believing that nuking a city of two million people is _ever_ an appropriate response?

  255. >Jay is advocating genocide on a historical scale, as is JAD.

    Sloppy thinking again. First, the entire population of Mecca is only 1.7m (excluding the surge from the season of Hajj); equating this with a supposed desire to kill a billion Muslims demonstrates that your brain has shut off. Second, it’s actually quite difficult to kill 1.7m people at one shot even with a nuke, and the only point of a strike on that particular city would be to slag the pilgrimage grounds (making them no-go zones) rather than inflicting civilian casualties. Achievably precise targeting with a tactical nuke wouldn’t necessarily kill more people than died at the World Trade Center.

    >What makes these people different from Stalin and Mao, except that they will never be in a position to act out their believes?

    Um, the fact that no religious fanatics flew airliners into the Kremlin or Imperial Palace?

    Stalin and Mao killed for ideological fantasies. Jay may be wrong and JAD may be crazy, but they at least their outrage and sense of violation responds to an actual crime – an actual mass-murder of innocents in their country. Slagging the Kaabah would be something resembling a proportionate response, which is why the idea is symbolically appealing. Kill for your religion? Fine, we’ll destroy your most sacred place and make one of Islam’s central obligations impossible. And if Islamic terrorists were to successfully nuke a major city, slagging Mecca in reaction would begin to look downright restrained.

  256. >In practice, racism is always ethnic and I consider the distinction just a bunch of euphemisms.

    No, the distinction is important. Except at minor edge cases, culture is something you choose and can discard; race is not. The moral weight of hating someone for their choices is different than that of hating them for their biology. It can be quite appropriate to hate people for their choices. Hating Aztecs for having copper skin, not OK; hating them for religiously motivated mass slaughter of innocents, on the other hand, is not only OK but nearly required of anyone not too callous to live. I am not a racist, but I am unapologetically a culturist.

  257. @Esr
    Every mass murder of civilians had excuses like these. The inhabitants of Mecca nor those in occupied teritories were involved in 9/11. It actually is exactly the twisted reasoning of OBL.

    And JAD was talking about ethnic cleansinf without set borders.

  258. @esr
    The Spanish inquisition also told jews and muslims they could convert. And killed them anyhow.

    The same with burgoise converters to communism.

  259. >It actually is exactly the twisted reasoning of OBL.

    Yes, you’re right. Which is an important reason it would be reciprocal. You want to play with apocalyptic religious tribalism, do you? Fine – we’ll show you how the big boys do it.

    Your counterarguments are so weak that they make nuking Mecca look like a better idea, not a worse one.

  260. >The Spanish inquisition also told jews and muslims they could convert. And killed them anyhow. The same with burgoise converters to communism.

    Again you are correct. This is one way we know that the Inquisition and Communism were evil, while the secular, non-communist culture of the modern West is good.

  261. @Esr
    Revenging the death of 3000 innocents with the murder of a million or so innocents is good? According to what standards?

    Indeed, you are just repeating the morals of OBL. I hope this is not the official line of the Libertarians (that is a sick joke, I know)

  262. >Revenging the death of 3000 innocents with the murder of a million or so innocents is good?

    Re-engage your brain. I am not advocating this. I am merely pointing out that the moral-equivalence-with-Communists argument you were making is specious. Jay Maynard (and, yes, even JAD) have an ethical and consequential case for nuking Mecca that Stalin and Mao had no analogue of.

  263. “You want to play with apocalyptic religious tribalism, do you? Fine – we’ll show you how the big boys do it.” — what is the referent of “you” here?

  264. >“You want to play with apocalyptic religious tribalism, do you? Fine – we’ll show you how the big boys do it.” — what is the referent of “you” here?

    Any random fanatic resembling Osama bin Laden.

  265. Winter on Thursday, April 19 2012 at 3:36 am said:

    @JAD
    > > “What happened in the 1970s is not that new knowledge became available, but that old knowledge ceased to be politically correct.”

    > Better forensics to evaluate the remains.

    Liar.

    The reduction of estimates of Aztec mass murder is based on ignoring old evidence, not on any new evidence.

    The remains were eaten, not dumped in mass graves. There are no mass graves associated with Aztec sacrifice, hence no possibility of forensics. There are some Incan mass graves, but these appear to be war related, not human sacrifice related.

  266. esr on Tuesday, April 24 2012 at 11:04 am said:
    > Hating Aztecs for having copper skin, not OK; hating them for religiously motivated mass slaughter of innocents, on the other hand, is not only OK but nearly required of anyone not too callous to live. I am not a racist, but I am unapologetically a culturist.

    I observe that Winter is politically correct on Burundi and Rwanda. He is in favor of democracy and political equality between Tutsi and Hutu, and in favor of international pressure that has installed genocidal regimes in both countries and led to entirely predictable and much predicted genocidal mass murder in both countries. “Racists” accurately predicted what would happen in Burundi and Rwanda, just as they accurately predicted what would happen to Rhodesia and what is beginning to happen to South Africa, while you lot endlessly and piously declare yourselves surprised.

    Do you have balls enough to condemn democracy and political equality between the racescultures in Rwanda and Burundi, or are you going to protect yourself by piously saying that I am a nut and a racist.

    Or are you going to admit to being a “culturist”, but then piously and politically correctly say that members of all “cultures”, even Hutus, deserve political equality, legal equality, and a vote? And James Donald is a crazy racist.

    You can be politically correct by saying James Donald is a crazy racist thus supporting western sponsored mass murder and genocide, or you can agree with another horrible thing I said, and thus be horribly politically incorrect by opposing western sponsored mass murder and genocide.

  267. >Do you have balls enough to condemn democracy and political equality between the racescultures in Rwanda and Burundi, or are you going to protect yourself by piously saying that I am a nut and a racist.

    I don’t see why I can’t do both. You have loudly asserted that democracy and equality were what created the preconditions for the genocide there, but you have yet to produce either evidence or a plausible generative theory supporting this claim. And if they did it would be a remarkable deviation from what is historically normal – genocides are normally a feature of collectivist and absolutist societies, not democratic ones.

  268. “Any random fanatic resembling Osama bin Laden.” You think nuking Mecca would make OBL so much as blink?

    “The remains were eaten, not dumped in mass graves.” They ate the bones?

  269. >You think nuking Mecca would make OBL so much as blink?

    Yes, I do. You attack a religious fanatic (actually, a fanatic of any kind) most effectively through his attachments. They’re his strength and his weakness; they give him drive, but make him brittle.

  270. @esr
    “I am merely pointing out that the moral-equivalence-with-Communists argument you were making is specious. Jay Maynard (and, yes, even JAD) have an ethical and consequential case for nuking Mecca that Stalin and Mao had no analogue of.”

    Nuts. Just lame excuses.

    I cannot even see why annihilating the odd million of innocent people to make a point, actually, to shut up the opposition, has a better “ethical and consequential case” than murdering the odd millions for having a different view on economic development.

    It smacks of “The end justifies the means”. Which was exactly the “ideology” of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. And of the US when they killed the odd million of Vietnamese, and the Chinese Nationalist predecessors of Mao when they killed some 10 million Chinese.

    Neither Stalin nor Mao had an ideology that demanded murdering tens of millions of people. Both despots made up reasons on the spot when they were expedient to stay in power. Hitler and Pol Pot had such ideologies, for completely different reasons.

    In all cases, the ideology was shared by relatively few, not even all the henchmen murdered for ideological reasons. The murders stopped when the despot was ousted/dead. The murdering of communist Pol Pot stopped when he was ousted by communist Vietnam. The communist successors of Stalin and Mao murdered orders of magnitude less people.

    So, the people did not seem to be very convinced their ideology needed the mass murders.

    Human history is littered with one village or tribe trying to exterminate the other, for no other reason that they are not felt related (even Chimps do it). The Tutsi-Hutu genocides were clearly inter-tribal warfare, with a lot of intra-tribal “reckonings”. Which was obvious when it spilled over to a full blown inter-tribal warfare in Eastern Congo. Any ideology behind it was made up to justify the mass murders.

    Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Jay, and JAD or not different from Tutsi-Hutu fights. There are just more people and better means to kill in modern day states.

  271. @JAD
    ““Racists” accurately predicted what would happen in Burundi and Rwanda, just as they accurately predicted what would happen to Rhodesia and what is beginning to happen to South Africa, while you lot endlessly and piously declare yourselves surprised. ”

    Oliver Sacks had a brilliant story about Anosognosia. It was about a man whose visual cortex had been destroyed by a stroke. It left him completely blind. But due to the brain damage, he could not be convinced that he was blind.

    The story is funny, because the man was very good at arguing that the evidence to prove his blindness was inadequate. He always “won” the argument. The fun was in the counter arguments the man would present to prove the evidence was invalid. He stayed blind as a mole, obviously, but he never knew it.

    Arguing with you has the same fun.

    The arguments you bring up to prove that all the written evidence is inadequate, that the logic is false, and all the “No True Scotsman” defenses, with the occasional “liar” when you are lost for arguments. Your attempts to make us mad by non-sequiturs about our “holy” values and so divert attention from your very weak positions. Priceless.

    However, at a certain moment, reality kicks in and I have to stop the fun and do some work and put attention to other, neglected, interests. So I have to pass this one over, sorry.

    Next time I am it again, promised.

  272. esr on Tuesday, April 24 2012 at 6:51 pm said:
    > You have loudly asserted that democracy and equality were what created the preconditions for the genocide there,

    Oh come on.

    That democracy and political equality produced genocide in in Burundi and Rwanda is so obvious, that the only reason to deny it is that you lack the balls to say what is politically incorrect.

    Hutus have repeatedly demonstrated that they are incapable of governing themselves, and will murder anyone else that they govern, and therefore need to be ruled by their betters. Africans suck at governance. Tutsis are better than most, and Hutus worse than most, and have repeatedly demonstrated just how bad they are from the earliest recorded history.

  273. I cannot even see why annihilating the odd million of innocent people to make a point, actually, to shut up the opposition, has a better “ethical and consequential case” than murdering the odd millions for having a different view on economic development.

    It’s not so much killing a million people as it is threatening to kill a million people. In fact, it’s not even killing a million people; it’s only going after Mecca. (Dunno about Eric in this specific instance, but I could see giving a, say, 3-day warning to clear out. I’d look for every other option in the book first, but these terror-clowns aren’t giving us much choice; it’s either this or lose billions of dollars and thousands of lives on a periodic basis.)

    Why do so many people in America and Europe seem to have such an ethical crisis around negative incentives these days? Sheesh.

  274. @Paul Brinkley
    “Why do so many people in America and Europe seem to have such an ethical crisis around negative incentives these days?”

    Dropping nuclear bombs == Many people killed. Sounds rather simple. The negation of this requires some fairly elaborate planning and execution. Bound to fail spectacularly.

    As for Europe. WWI started with thess “We can do” cheers. Then we got WWII and the occupation of half of Europe by Stalin. It gives you a different perspective about “war” as a means to solve problems.

    @Paul Brinkley
    “but these terror-clowns aren’t giving us much choice; ”

    Are there still sane people who believe all those evil-witch stories about terrorism? Grow up!

    Must be different circles than where I live in. Beyond the scared home bound pensioner, I meet few who do not break out in hysterical laughter when anyone tries to play the “terrorism” card. You should read some more Bruce Schneier columns.

    We have had terrorist attacks and bombings for most of the 1970’s and 1980’s on a regular basis. Solved it without nuking or bombing civilians.

  275. @Winter: Er, I am very much on the “anti-nuking-of-Mecca” side of this argument, but even so… What is the referent of the word “it” in the phrase “Solved it”?

  276. I rather suspect that (even if you could magically ensure no deaths) you wouldn’t be half so eager to nuke the Kaaba were it in Jerusalem. Or, rather more to the point, if Islam didn’t have holy sites that were conveniently far away from the holy sites of other religions. If your stated reasoning were honest, that wouldn’t be an issue, since you’d consider the collateral damage to other religions as acceptable as the collateral damage to non-radical Muslims.

    (“you” above is mainly Jay Maynard and anyone else in the pro-nuking-of-Mecca faction)

  277. Are there still sane people who believe all those evil-witch stories about terrorism? Grow up!

    *blink* *blink*

    I don’t know what’s worse: a race baiter, or a 9/11 denier…

  278. “9/11 denier…” – Er, he’s not denying that terrorists exist – that’d be idiotic. My guess is that “evil-witch stories about terrorism” was meant to refer to the idea that terrorists do what they do because they were born with a chaotic evil alignment, rather than because they’re normal humans in situations (“situations” broadly defined – may include the religious beliefs they grew up with or may include factually false beliefs about the actions of western countries) that make them think that what they are doing is the right course of action.

  279. Oh. Sure. That’s fine. Other than “they’re born CE” being nowhere close to what I think about terrorists, that is.

  280. I would ask the ‘nuke the Kaaba’ brigade, “OK, after we destroy Mecca, what then?” What would you do when the jihadis kept up their attacks? (After many thousands of enraged Muslims join them seeking revenge.)

    I’ll remind you that the Romans tried the very thing in 70 AD. They thought to teach the rebellious Jews a real lesson by destroying the temple in Jerusalem. The Jews were at it again soon after.

  281. @Paul Brinkley
    “I don’t know what’s worse: a race baiter, or a 9/11 denier…”

    Nope, neither. I fully share the view of South Park on 9/11 conspiracies
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystery_of_the_Urinal_Deuce

    @Random832
    “the idea that terrorists do what they do because they were born with a chaotic evil alignment, rather than because they’re normal humans in situations”

    I do think that. But it was not the reason I used “evil-witch stories”.

    Terrorists are real people doing very evil things for reasons that are unclear even to themselves. But they are not the evil-witches from fairy tales able to destroy complete countries. In history, all terrorist organizations failed.

    Redefine them as the “criminals” they are, and put their actions in perspective. In the global scale of things, cars, cigarets, and burglars kill many more people.

    Getting people to wear safety belts and helmets more often and stop DUI will save more American lives than nuking Mecca to deter “terrorists”. And the costs will be way lower.

  282. @Random832:
    > @Winter: What is the referent of the word “it” in the phrase “Solved it”?

    If you refer to:
    “It gives you a different perspective about “war” as a means to solve problems. ”

    It” refers to the history of Europe in the 20th century, WWI, WWII, Stalin, the Iron Curtain and all the interwoven fighting and ethnic cleansings.

    The “problems” refer to using war to solve the problems of diplomacy
    .

  283. @Winter I was referring to “We have had terrorist attacks and bombings for most of the 1970?s and 1980?s on a regular basis. Solved it without nuking or bombing civilians.” What is the “it” that was “solved”?

  284. And if they did it would be a remarkable deviation from what is historically normal – genocides are normally a feature of collectivist and absolutist societies, not democratic ones.

    I think you’re a little too focused on genocide associated with ideological fantasy. Absolutist cultures in heterogeneous settings (where the absolutist culture’s position is threatened) seems as likely to produce genocide. In that case, removing the hand of a strong overlord (like decolonialization) or introducing democracy could make an absolutist culture either feel threatened, or in a position to do something about their existing genocidal inclinations.

    An existing democracy probably doesn’t want to accept too many immigrants from an absolutist culture, particularly if it’s toying with multiculturalism. Don’t be a white woman in Malmo….

  285. I was referring to “We have had terrorist attacks and bombings for most of the 1970?s and 1980?s on a regular basis. Solved it without nuking or bombing civilians.” What is the “it” that was “solved”?

    We sucked it up and waited for the sponsor to implode, as opposed to going to war with the sponsor to get them to cut it out (because they had too many tanks, and too many nukes). But that’s probably not what he means.

  286. Thought of something to add- ethnic spoils systems in democracies are as likely to lead to genocide as anything.

  287. @Random832
    “Solved it without nuking or bombing civilians.” What is the “it” that was “solved”?”

    Oh, the support bases of the terrorists were “talked away”, most of the social questions “solved” or contained, and the terrorists were mostly jailed as criminals. Some died due to their own violence or stupidity.

    Some, who could argue they did not kill people became politicians, eg, some IRA people.

    Look at the ETA. All but a few rank and file are in jail. All of the RAF were in jail.

  288. The Spanish inquisition also told jews and muslims they could convert. And killed them anyhow.

    This is not true. The Spanish Inquisition didn’t even bother anyone unless they converted. Its job was to hunt down Christian heretics, not non-Christians. So long as you were not and did not pretend to be a Xian, the Inquisition had no power over you. But if you were a Xian, and were suspected of heresy such as being a secret Protestant or Jew then the Inquisition would torture you to see whether the suspicion was true. And if you angered the wrong people, or aroused their envy, then you might find yourself accused of heresy whether it was true or not.

    Of course after 1492 it was illegal to be a Jew in Spain, so if you didn’t convert and thus subject yourself to the Inquisition then the King’s men would get you; but that had nothing to do with the Inquisition.

  289. The remains were eaten, not dumped in mass graves. There are no mass graves associated with Aztec sacrifice, hence no possibility of forensics.

    Um, did they eat the bones too?!

  290. LS on Wednesday, April 25 2012 at 5:21 pm said:
    > I would ask the ‘nuke the Kaaba’ brigade, “OK, after we destroy Mecca, what then?” What would you do when the jihadis kept up their attacks?

    From 1830 to 1960, Islamic terrorism pretty much stopped, the longest pause in Islamic terrorism in the past thirteen hundred years.

    What did we start doing in 1830? Christian colonialist settlers settled the lands of Muslims who had particularly difficult and stubborn terrorists embedded among them, slaughtering or expelling the locals to the extent necessary to make themselves safe. Muslim populations that were sources of terrorism faced a substantial risk of ethnic cleansing.

    What did we start doing 1960? We started retreating, and pulling out those evil white racist colonialist settlers.

    Muslim doctrine is that Muslims should make peace when facing a superior power that can and will force them to retreat, but should make war if the only cost is casualties.

    So, nuking Mecca would not halt terrorism, since it would merely kill Muslims, which has not proven effective in the past. Over the past thirteen hundred years Christians have frequently killed quite extraordinary numbers of Muslims without gaining any lasting benefit. The holy Muslim texts prescribe stubborn warfare in response to such problems.. Taking away Muslim territory, deislamizing it, settling it, privileging non Islamic faiths over Islam within that territory, has proven effective, perhaps because the holy texts prescribe peace for that eventuality.

    When the Israelis pulled the settlers out of the Gaza strip, it was revealed how effective the settlers had been in deterring terrorism. The obvious solution for Israel is to resettle the Gaza strip, and settle the corresponding parts of Lebanon.

  291. @Milhouse
    “Of course after 1492 it was illegal to be a Jew in Spain, so if you didn’t convert and thus subject yourself to the Inquisition then the King’s men would get you; but that had nothing to do with the Inquisition.”

    The point of the argument was whether there was a difference between racism and culturalism. It was argued that while you could never change sides in racism, you could “convert” in culturalism.

    I do not agree. I used the Inquisition as an example. Muslims and Jews were persecuted when they did not convert, and when they converted. The same held for “bourgeois” in the Soviet Union under Stalin and in China during Mao.

    As a side note. The Spanish were bent on exterminating all protestants during the 80 years war in the low countries. They actually killed of the complete (male) populations of several cities. Tried to do it in more. In modern terms that does count as genocide. Their opponents were not really much better. The same during the 30 years war in Germany.

  292. As for Europe. WWI started with thess “We can do” cheers. Then we got WWII and the occupation of half of Europe by Stalin. It gives you a different perspective about “war” as a means to solve problems.

    The great take-away from WWII, for Europe and Japan, is that war is almost wholly destructive, the suffering and devastation it wreaks being too costly to justify.

    The great take-away for the U.S. was “Fuck yeah! We won!”

  293. @Jeff Read


    The great take-away for the U.S. was “Fuck yeah! We won!”

    Maybe for the civilians. The military got a different set of lessons, reinforced by Korea and Vietnam.

  294. What has this endless war actually achieved?

    What it was meant to achieve: continued justification for the existence of the military-industrial complex and expansion of police powers and surveillance capabilities.

    “Terrorist” is a loaded word, out of necessity; considerable semantic gerrymandering is done in order to define “terrorists” as those TPTB don’t like or perceive as a threat. And even if you hold a threatening ideology but intend to harm no one, the government will find a way to make you into a terrorist.

  295. Back to the original post…Robb addresses some of this in his book. Not all terrorists follow his methods, though some do.

    You lower the cost of failure by attacking low-risk infrastructure targets, such as pipelines.

    You transmit your methods via anonymous postings on the internet, skipping the training camps. “Hey everybody, we built an IED like this and it bypassed their countermeasures.”

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