The psychology behind Iranian support for the country’s nuclear program
Newsweek, Sharon Bagley, 8 January 2010
With sacred values, this cost-benefit calculus is turned on its head, explains anthropologist Scott Atran of the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, who has studied Islamic terrorist groups. When Atran asked Palestinians if they would be willing to give up their claims to Jerusalem (a sacred value) in return for their own state, most said no, and—here is where the topsy-turvy thinking caused by sacred values came in—when he then asked if they would give up Jerusalem if the U.S. and Europe also gave every Palestinian family substantial financial assistance for a year, even fewer said yes. That is in sharp contrast to the rational-actor perspective that has long dominated diplomacy (and economics).
Research and teaching interests are centered in the following areas: Cognitive and linguistic anthropology, ethnobiology, environmental decision making, categorization and reasoning, evolutionary psychology, anthropology of science (history and philosophy of natural history and natural philosophy); Middle East ethnography and political economy; natural history of Lowland Maya, cognitive and commitment theories of religion, terrorism and foreign affairs.
Scott Atran, an anthropologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, John Jay College and the University of Michigan, is the author of the forthcoming ‘Listen to the Devil.’
Confidence is important, but we also have to recognize that the decision to commit 30,000 more troops to a counterinsurgency effort against a good segment of the Afghan population, with the focus on converting a deeply unpopular and corrupt regime into a unified, centralized state for the first time in that country’s history, is far from a slam dunk. In the worst case, the surge may push General McChrystal’s ”core goal of defeating Al Qaeda” further away.
What binds these groups together? First is friendship forged through fighting: the Indonesian volunteers who fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan styled themselves the Afghan Alumni, and many kept in contact when they returned home after the war. The second is school ties and discipleship: many leading operatives in Southeast Asia come from a handful of religious schools affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah. Out of some 30,000 religious schools in Indonesia, only about 50 have a deadly legacy of producing violent extremists. Third is family ties; as anyone who has watched the opening scene from ”The Godfather” knows, weddings can be terrific opportunities for networking and plotting.
Understanding these three aspects of terrorist networking has given law enforcement a leg up on the jihadists.