[Link] A rational response to the Paris attacks and ISIS

by Gleb_Tsipursky1 min read23rd Nov 2015275 comments

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Here's my op-ed that uses long-term orientation, probabilistic thinking, numeracy, consider the alternative, reaching our actual goals, avoiding intuitive emotional reactions and attention bias, and other rationality techniques to suggest more rational responses to the Paris attacks and the ISIS threat. It's published in the Sunday edition of The Plain Dealer​, a major newspaper (16th in the US). This is part of my broader project, Intentional Insights, of conveying rational thinking, including about politics, to a broad audience to raise the sanity waterline.

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What terrorists want is irrelevant. "Don't play into enemy hands" is irrelevant. The entire discussion is irrelevant.

The correct response to enemy action is the response that furthers your own ends. It doesn't matter what effect this has on your enemy, good, neutral, or positive; your long-term ends matter.

"The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy's cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this." A particularly relevant quote from Musashi, used by Eliezer on at least one occasion in the sequences.

Avoiding doing what the enemy wants is mere parrying. Stop mere parrying, and cut.

The correct response to enemy action is the response that furthers your own ends.

If you are a rational player, then you were already doing that before the enemy action. So the correct response is to keep doing what you were already doing.

(Of course you also update on the enemy action, and maybe this could change your strategy. However, I don't think there is much to update on now. The fact that ISIS has a few suicidal volunteers is not new.)

4James_Miller5yWe should update on ISIS having an increased desire to attack Western cities.
1Lumifer5y...and do what?
4James_Miller5yPut more resources into fighting ISIS.
5Lumifer5yOh, you mean the, ahem, leaders of the free world should update. I s'pose. I'm not used to thinking of "we" as "me and Obama".
1Gleb_Tsipursky5yYes, this, exactly this!
1OrphanWilde5yThis makes me want a super-upvote, that subtracts four karma to award five. Yes, this, exactly.
8gjm5yI have just given you 25% of what you want by upvoting Viliam's comment and downvoting yours. [EDITED to add:] I would not otherwise have voted either comment up or down.
0OrphanWilde5yI appreciate it! (No, seriously.)
4Gleb_Tsipursky5yYup, very much agreed with OrphanWilde on this one.
6Lumifer5yThere is an interesting argument that the Western countries have lost the capability. Europe leads the way and the US is now following it.
3Val5yNot the capability in a technical sense, but the will. Not offending the Muslims who arrived in the last few decades seems to be of much higher importance to many politicians, than anything else.
6Lumifer5yYes. Notice the important part in the quote in the grandparent post: "the primary thing is ... your intention to cut the enemy".
2VoiceOfRa5ySo, figure out why that is and fix it. I suspect a large part of the problem is pseudo-rationalists like Gleb arguing that "fighting terrorists is playing into their hands".
8Lumifer5yLOL. How about this: you go tell Cthulhu he's swimming the wrong way, and I stay here and watch X-)
2Gleb_Tsipursky5yVery much agreed. As I say in the op-ed:
1artemium5yWe would first have to agree on what "cutting the enemy" would actually mean. I think liberal response would be keeping our society inclusive, secular and multicultural at all costs. If that is the case than avoiding certain failure modes like becoming intolerant militaristic societies and starting unnecessary wars could be considered as successful cuts against potential worse world-states. Now that is liberal perspective, there are alternatives [http://www.socialmatter.net/2015/11/14/a-letter-to-france/], off course.
7RichardKennaway5yNobody who says "at all costs" means "at all costs". It's a way of avoiding a discussion of what costs are worth paying and what paying them will look like.
0SanguineEmpiricist5yThank god I've seen someone else that thinks this! I was so infuriated by people saying "stop playing into their hands" as if this is supposed to be some silver bullet in this discussion.

It's an interesting article, but I feel the analysis is very one sided. For example, "here are the costs of putting boots on the ground against ISIS: look there are costs, we shouldn't do it!"

But what about the benefits?

In rational analysis one has to be very careful to not construct these kinds of one-sided analyses because they are a fully general counterargument. Everything has costs. By just pointing at the costs and not even mentioning the benefits you can make anything look bad.

The point about being overly emotional in the immediate wake of a major disaster is a good one though. What do you think we could have done differently and better after 9/11 by being more rational and less emotional?

7Gleb_Tsipursky5yI hear you about the analysis. Unfortunately, the word length restrictions of 700 words made it impossible for me to write a nuanced piece. I wanted to make the large point about avoiding being overly emotional, and that meant going against the specific emotional tonality and saber-rattling and attention bias. After 9/11? I think we could have done much more to make a plan and get support from other countries on actually rebuilding Afghanistan after we conquered it. The current mess there is a testament to our poorly-planned entry into that war. I'm not going to go into details of how to do it, but that's my short answer.
2The_Jaded_One5yMaybe, though I strongly suspect that lack of "buildings" is not the main constraint on Afghanistan - more like lack of civil culture. To fix Afghanistan, you would have to replace the culture, which is not really a feasible option.
1Gleb_Tsipursky5yYup, I was using "rebuilding" in the broader sense of socioeconomic/cultural infrastructure.
0The_Jaded_One5yYeah, very tough. Britain in roughly the year 600 AD is probably socioculturally comparable to Afghanistan today. It took us 1400 years of civil wars and bloodshed to get to where we are now. Probably magical brain-altering nanobots for 90% of the population would be the only way to get there quickly - suddenly everyone wakes up one morning feeling that they are atheists or moderate Muslims and their primary loyalty is to their country and to humanity as a whole, rather than to the local warlord/sect, that they love freedom and democracy, etc. Maybe I'm being pessimistic.
0Lumifer5yOn that time scale WW2 was yesterday. So tell me, where did it take you 1400 years to get to?
0AmagicalFishy5yIt took me a minute or two to figure out what you were trying to say. For anyone else who didn't get it first-read, I believe Lumifer's saying something like: "World War II was 60 years ago. On a 1,400 year timescale, that's not getting somewhere, that's just a random blip of time where no gigantic wars happened; those blips have happened before. What do you mean 'to get to where we are now'?" Now, to answer that, I think he means "to get to a society where fear of being killed or kidnapped (then killed) isn't a normal part of every day life, and women can wear whatever they want."
2Lumifer5yMore specifically, if you are operating on the time scale of a millenium and a half and setting up the contemporary Western society as the one to emulate, that contemporary Western society includes, say, the entire XX century. So you're going to emulate attempts at genocide, concentration camps, massive slaughter of civilians through nukes and firebombings, etc.? That's you normal hunter-gatherer tribe, Pharaonic Egypt, Ancient Rome -- pretty much any successful society. Of course if you're treating "women can wear whatever they want" literally, it's not true for contemporary West as well. See the public obscenity laws.
-3HungryHobo5yI'm having trouble thinking of many benefits beyond slightly more control over local events. Unless it's the very general benefits like "helps workers in states with lots of defense contractors"
1The_Jaded_One5yI would say that a ground campaign would defeat IS in Syria and Iraq. I cannot be bothered to dig for a definite source for that, but USA, EU military is vastly better than IS and I don't want to waste my time arguing with anyone who thinks that an America/EU/Russian alliance would lose a ground war against IS in Iraq and Syria. So IS would be left as a guerilla operation in that part of the world, rather than a fully fledged state. They would still kill people, but guerilla methods are less effective than what you can do with full control. The downside is that the civilized world is bad at nationbuilding - we failed in Afghanistan and to some extent in Iraq. Obviously that would leave an opening for IS to come back again in 25 years, like the Taliban are probably going to in Afghanistan. But this debate has already progressed beyond the article in the OP.
2HungryHobo5yYes US/EU troops are superior but as afghanistan and iraq showed, simply having those troops in the country does not solve your problems. Military victory, in the sense that a nominally friendly government ends up in control can be achieved without boots on the ground, it's far easier for friendly groups to win with air support and supplies but you have to avoid public perception that the new state is just a puppet.
1ChristianKl5yThen why didn't the US win against the groups that are precursors to daesh when they had boots on the ground in Iraq?
2tsathoggua5yDid the Allies win WW I? I think it is pretty obvious that by most measures that the central powers did not win the war, but did that victory create a lasting peace? It obviously didn't. The way the "victory" in WW I was handled pretty much set the stage for WW II. It is the same way in the middle east, you can have a "victory" or "win" but that does not mean long lasting peace.
0ChristianKl5yThey didn't beat Germans in Germany. They beat the German army outside of it and the Germans admitted defeat. The Sunni groups that are precursors of deash and that were active before the US left Iraq were never beaten to defeat.
0entirelyuseless5yThe question is what you mean by "win". It would not be very reasonable to describe reality with the statement that the US lost a war against some group or groups in Iraq. But they didn't wipe those people out, and consequently those people can still do things. The US would win in Syria if they did the same thing, and in the same sense, and with the same sort of consequences. Tacitus said that the Romans were accustomed to "make a desert and call it peace." If the US wanted to win a war in that sense, they could. But they don't want to, and won't, basically because pretty much everyone considers it to be immoral. But as long as you don't do that, there will still be people there with the same ideas and intentions, and some of those people will act on those ideas and intentions.
0Riothamus5yAccording to historical analysis of every resolved insurgency since 1944, conducted by RAND, the best predictor of success in defeating one is achieving conventional military superiority. Details here: http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR291z1.html [http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR291z1.html]
0bogus5yUm, most folks who have looked into this matter with any kind of effort/depth argue that putting boots on the ground is pretty much the only way of successfully challenging daesh. Air campaigns are showy and all, but they're inherently limited even for something like short-term containment. Doing nothing but air campaigns (the current approach) amounts to leaving the existing situation in place.
0HungryHobo5yIt's far far harder for a faction to defend itself when their enemies have massive air support and they do not. Isis lose with or without boots on the ground if their current enemies in the region are simply given heavy air support and supplies. Putting boots on the ground, Benefits: More local control. Better trained soldiers. Cons: Expense cash. Expense lives. Needing to run an occupation. Difficulty of nation building due to resentment against your new state from local peoples about foreign occupiers.
0The_Jaded_One5yHas anyone ever won a war with air power alone? Arguably the 1999 bombing campaign of Serbia - but then you could argue that that is notable specifically as an exception, and had some special circumstances surrounding it which don't seem to be present with IS. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO_bombing_of_Yugoslavia#Arguments_for_strategic_air_power [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO_bombing_of_Yugoslavia#Arguments_for_strategic_air_power]
4Lumifer5yThere are boots on the ground, it's just that they are not Western. Having Assad, the Kurds, and the Iraqi government finish off ISIS weakened by air strikes looks like an acceptable solution to me.
2Viliam5yMost likely, Assad (with Russian help) will finish everyone else first. Russia's goal is to have Assad as the winner, and they will optimize for that. Fighting against ISIS would be a waste of resources for them -- other countries will do that for them, so they can focus on the remaining Assad's enemies. And the other big players know that. This is why the situation is so difficult to solve, although in theory it should work just as proposed (weaken ISIS by bombing, and let their enemies do the rest).
-1Lumifer5yUm, ISIS controls large chunks of Syria and their capital, Raqqa, is a Syrian town which, I assume, Assad would like to have back. Moreover, as far as I understand, ISIS wants to have a major battle with the Western/Christian/Crusader army by the Syrian town of Dabiq (to kick-start the Apocalypse) and will, presumably, commit all its forces to it.
2Viliam5ySure. Maybe I didn't express myself clearly. Assad has multiple goals. Destroying ISIS (and getting the capital back) is one of them. Destroying the rebels is another. Destroying Kurds is yet another. If you have three goals, A, B, C, and you know that most of the world will support you with A, it makes sense to spend your resources (such as the army) on B and C first. Scenario 1: Assad destroys ISIS first. Other countries will help him, but he will still pay a significant part of the cost. After ISIS is gone, most countries are no longer interested in helping Assad. Some of them may even object against his fight against the rebels and Kurds. Some of them may even start supporting the rebels again. Scenario 2: Assad destroys the rebels and Kurds first. Then he looks at the rest of the world and says: "You guys are still interested in helping me destroy ISIS, right?"
2Lumifer5yYes, and the first and most important goal is to survive. I don't think Assad has that much latitude in choosing which enemies to go after and which to ignore for the time being. He has been amazingly tenacious, but it's far from a foregone conclusion that he'll be the only one left standing at the end.
2ChristianKl5yYes, and that means he won't focus on ISIS as ISIS mostly doesn't fight against him but against rebel groups that fight him.
2Lumifer5yI suspect who is fighting who at the moment is mostly driven by tactical considerations and just plain physical proximity. ISIS, basically, fights everyone it comes into contact with. If there are rebels between it and Assad, it will fight the rebels. If Assad pushes the rebels back and comes into direct contact with ISIS, it will fight Assad.
1The_Jaded_One5yBut IS seems to be winning or at least surviving, presumably because its opponents are not really that powerful and/or not motivated [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and_the_Levant#Allegations_of_Syrian_support] to finish the job. Whatever you think is really going on, one cannot deny that It has been a few years now. To me, that seems unacceptably long.
3Lumifer5ySo, what are you willing to pay to accomplish the goal? Technically, it's not hard -- just repeat either of the Iraq wars. But if you take just a slightly wider view, those wars were not successful in making the region West-friendly and stable, and the overall cost, in both lives and money, was very high. What makes you think another military excursion into the region will fare any better?
1The_Jaded_One5yI think it depends on the quality of the nation-building that happens afterwards. IMO merely defeating IS shouldn't be that expensive, but I can imagine the nationbuilding bit being very expensive and I can imagine IS going underground and executing a suicide bombing campaign, just like Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, militarily defeating IS counts under the "benefits" column of the analysis - as a pure point of rationality - even if the cost is too great.
4Lumifer5yWhy would the answer be any different from "the usual"..? True. And just as true for North Korea.
2The_Jaded_One5yThe neoconservative attempt at nationbuilding in Iraq may, in fact, count as "worse than usual" for this purpose...
1Lumifer5yActually, are there any positive examples of Western nationbuilding after the poster children of post-WW2 Japan and Germany? I don't know if South Korea would count, but for clarity let's take the last 50 years. Is there anything?
0The_Jaded_One5yThe French intervention in Mali comes to mind. Sierra Leone also. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_military_intervention_in_the_Sierra_Leone_Civil_War#Impact [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_military_intervention_in_the_Sierra_Leone_Civil_War#Impact]
3Lumifer5yThat's not nationbuilding. That's just old Western powers keeping their former colonies from disintegrating into failed states. You can also read it as picking a side and propping it up with military force. If Mali is a successful example of nationbuilding, thank you, I'll pass.
1The_Jaded_One5yThey both look better than Afghanistan though. Still, I think you are correct to be pessimistic here. Nation building is a task which we really are pretty clueless about, sometimes because political correctness forces bad epistemological habits onto us.
0bogus5yUm, "not disintegrating into a failed state" is a pretty clear prerequisite to any sort of sustained social/economic development (what you apparently mean by 'nation building'). This may be somewhat sobering for a few advocates of pure anarcho-capitalism, but is not really a surprise to anyone else.
0Lumifer5yNope. Try again.
-2VoiceOfRa5yIf France and the UK do that to their former colonies in Syria and Iraq, it'll be a significant improvement over the status quo.
1Lumifer5yMaybe yes, maybe no, but they are probably not able and certainly not willing.
-1VoiceOfRa5yHow about a rationalist article encouraging them to become willing rather than the "let's not alienate muslims" idiocy Gleb wrote?
0Lumifer5yEncourage who? M.Hollande? X-)
0VoiceOfRa5yISIS doesn't have nukes and isn't being implicitly backed by a neighboring superpower.
-2VoiceOfRa5yThe second was until Obama decided to unilaterally pull out prematurely for no particularly good reason.
-1Viliam5yHe promised that to his voters, if I remember correctly. May be not a good reasons strategically, but still a good reason politically.
4hairyfigment5yYou're going along with a blatant and partisan lie. GW Bush accepted a deadline for withdrawal after the Iraqi government made noise about Iraqi sovereignty. Obama technically tried to negotiate a new deal to keep troops there, but could not reach agreement about legal immunity. If you squint and turn your head you could try to see this as Obama choosing to withdraw, but to say he did it "unilaterally" is a bald-faced lie.
0VoiceOfRa5yOnly in the most technical sense, as soon as the Iraqi's made a counter-offer different from his first one he called of negotiations.
0Lumifer5yWho are these "most folks", what are their incentives, and what alternatives have they considered?

One of the things that annoys me about lesswrong is the spectacle of rationalization in the clothing of rationality.

Because any of these changes in government policy would radicalize more Muslims.

Where is the evidence for this claim? It's entirely possible that the opposite is true; that if the radicals are perceived to be accomplishing something without pushback, it will attract more support for their cause and more recruits.

For instance, consider what happens when Muslim media report an airstrike by Western forces that kills civilians. At any po

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5Gleb_Tsipursky5yThere is a great deal of evidence about radicalization as a result of western actions, for example this account [http://www.thenation.com/article/what-i-discovered-from-interviewing-isis-prisoners/] . As a historian of modern European history, I can attest that archival evidence shows such slaughter did make it more difficulty to de-Nazify Germany.
2brazil845yWould you care to summarize the evidence? Is it mainly anecdotal observations of peoples' claims about their own motivations? Or is it something else? I am looking for specific, reliable evidence that Western military activities which resulted in the deaths of civilians had a significant "rage" effect you described (and had recruitment effects significantly above the baseline). Please note that peoples' accounts of their own motivations are generally unreliable. Again, would you care to summarize the evidence?
3Gleb_Tsipursky5yI accept that you perceive that people's account of their own motivations is unreliable, but that is the kind of evidence available. Can you present evidence for the counter-claim? I can't really summarize whole books. Please check out Biddiscombe, Perry (2006). The Denazification of Germany 1945–48. The History Press Ltd if you wish to read more on this topic.
3RichardKennaway5yEr, what? [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/mzt/link_less_wrong_wiki_article_with_very_long/]
3brazil845yFor what it may be worth, I have read thousands of books in my life and I have never encountered a book which is impossible to summarize in a few paragraphs or even less.
2Good_Burning_Plastic5yI could use a summary of Statistical Physics by L.D. Landau and E.M. Lifshitz in a few paragraphs if you have one to sell me. :-)
0gjm5yI think you and brazil84 may have different notions of summarizing in mind. If summarizing a book means describing what's in it then most books can be summarized in a few paragraphs. If it means conveying a large fraction of the useful or interesting content then many books can't. (A dictionary or encyclopaedia might be an even better example than a physics textbook.)
2brazil845yYes, I think so. Here is how I would summarize an unabridged dictionary: This is a book which contains entries for most of the words in the English language; each entry sets forth the typical pronunciation as well as definitions for the word. Here are a few examples: Example 1: Example 2: Example 3.
2Gleb_Tsipursky5yLol, fair enough. You caught me well on that one. Let me update my statement to being unwilling to summarize whole books.
2brazil845yYou disagree with this? I might be able to if I put some time into it, but you have the burden of proof and I do not want to spend time on it. I'm not asking for you to summarize whole books. Let's do this: What's the strongest piece of evidence that the deaths of civilians as a result of Western military action against Germany during World War 2 caused a "rage" effect which made de-Nazification significantly more difficult?
1Gleb_Tsipursky5yThere are many pieces of evidence, it's not helpful to speak of the strongest one. Here's one typical example [https://books.google.com/books?id=GwJFP1MxqCkC&pg=PA52&lpg=PA52&dq=denazification+more+difficult+due+to+bombings&source=bl&ots=HwwH1YbSt3&sig=dh2uNdhs18ZMLejk6fsiWZHRZhM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiz4I3f4LPJAhXF2B4KHVJWCaoQ6AEIPjAF#v=onepage&q=denazification%20more%20difficult%20due%20to%20bombings&f=false] , a link from a prominent book that shows that there were a number of newspaper articles expressing outrage over the bombings that made de-nazification more difficult. Newspaper articles are representative of a segment of public opinion, so this is direct evidence of public opinion on this topic. Moreover, such events remain very controversial [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Dresden_in_World_War_II] right now, giving continued support to radical German groups over 70 years after the end of the war.
2brazil845yThen please summarize the best evidence for your claim. Also, please answer my question: Do you dispute that peoples' accounts of their own motivations are generally unreliable? Can you please quote the relevant part of your source? I did not see what you were talking about.
1Gleb_Tsipursky5yYes, I dispute the statement that peoples' accounts of their own motivations are generally unreliable. It's the sentence ending in footnote 22.
2brazil845yThen I suggest you educate yourself about social desirability bias. It's well known -- and obvious just from general observation -- that people have a strong tendency to self-report information which puts them in a more flattering light. If you have not taken this into account in your assessments, then it's fair to say that any conclusions you have drawn are suspect. Ok, so apparently a typical example of the best evidence of your claim is a polemic in which someone cites the Dresden bombing as a rationale to criticize Western attempts to purge Nazis from post-WW2 Germany. There is no evidence as to how much such events actually motivated anyone; it's just an argument someone is making. Your evidence for Sipursky Rage is quite weak as to Nazi Germany and extremely weak as to the situation in Syria: A few anecdotal reports of terrorists who make the self-serving and unverifiable claims that they were motivated by Western misdeeds is so weak as to be ridiculous.
-1Gleb_Tsipursky5yAnecdotal reports by terrorists is the best data we have available. Weak evidence is still evidence. We should update on whatever evidence we have, and avoid dismissing it out of hand and calling it ridiculous. As aspiring rationalists, we need to orient toward the truth, and avoid confirmation bias.
1VoiceOfRa5yWhich explains why you ignored all the reports that didn't fit your conclusion, e.g., the ones about how ISIS is planning to conquer Europe and considers this a war. You don't win a war by worrying about not offending the other side.
0brazil845yIf you had said that Western activities "risk" radicalizing more Muslims, you might have a point. Instead you came to a firm conclusion based on spectacularly weak evidence. Unfortunately, it seems you have fallen into exactly that trap. It looks like you gave a few self-serving anecdotal reports far far more weight than they deserved because it fit your pre-determined Leftist conclusion. Not only that, but it seems that, having been informed about social desirability bias, you are not updating your confidence in your conclusion. You still believe that generally speaking we can trust terrorists to accurately report their motivations. If you were serious about investigating your hypothesis, you would compare measures of radicalization in Iraq to other countries like Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, etc. If the Sipursky Rage hypothesis has any validity, one would expect lots of radicalization in Iraq and far less in Syria. But I doubt it ever occurred to you to do that, since you seem mainly interested in finding evidence to support your pre-determined Leftist beliefs than in actually investigating them.
-1Gleb_Tsipursky5yMy statements were informed by evidence, and making a statement that it "risks" radicalizing more Muslims would be factually incorrect, since evidence that we do have shows that it does radicalize. We might talk about how many would be radicalized, but it would be false to state that aggressive western activities do not radicalize Muslims. I see from the latter part of your comment now that you have come to a firm conclusion about my views, and were arguing from that perspective all along. I'm disappointed to learn of that. Not interested in engaging further with ou around this topic.
2brazil845yThat's not true at all, and it's easy to demonstrate with a thought experiment. Suppose I read a post on an internet by someone who says he spoke to a terrorist and the terrorist told him he was radicalized by reading Tsipursky's posts on less wrong. To be sure, this is weak evidence that Tsipursky's post are radicalizing people, but by your standards, it would be legitimate to say "Further posts by Tsipursky WILL radicalize more people." Which is ridiculous, of course, but by your standard it would be correct. There is another possibility, which is that it is not known whether Western activities radicalize anyone. In other words, that the evidence is inconclusive. Surely you are aware of this possibility? Pretty firm yeah -- based on your complete failure to provide satisfactory evidence for your position; your dodging and weaving; and your failure to look for legitimate evidence. If you had come up with evidence which stood up to scrutiny, then of course I would have revised my views. For example if anti-American terrorists were disproportionately from towns in Iraq as opposed to Syria, it would actually bolster your argument. So it looks to me like you are again rationalizing -- the fact is that your evidence has completely failed to stand up to scrutiny; you failed to take well-known biases into account; and rather than just admit it, you need a face-saving out.
0ChristianKl5yWhy? You started to speak about Nazi Germany as an example of bombings haven't lead to problems.
0brazil845yI would like an answer to my question: Do you really not see why Sipursky has the burden of proof and I do not have the burden of proof?
0brazil845yAre you joking? DId you actually read what I said? Here's what I said: By contrast, here's what Tsipursky said: He also said this: Do you really not see why Sipursky has the burden of proof and I do not have the burden of proof? Really?
1polymathwannabe5yYou're forgetting that one of the reasons why ISIS exists in the first place was the chaos the U.S. invasion created in Iraq (along with the already existing motivations of Al Qaeda, which ISIS split off from). Going about purposely making enemies is hardly "productive."
0brazil845yLet's assume that's true. How does it follow that in terms of dealing with ISIS (or any other enemy or adversary for that matter) avoiding anger is more productive than creating fear and despair? I will certainly concede that creating power vacuums is dangerous policy. It depends what you get in return. But anyway, the issue on the table is the Sipursky Rage hypothesis. Sipursky seems to believe that air strikes in retaliation for the Paris attacks will be counter-productive since they will make people angry and more likely to support ISIS. My position is that insufficient evidence has been presented to reach such a conclusion. Do you have a position on this issue? Or do you just want to change the subject?
1polymathwannabe5yThe U.S. response to 9/11 serves as a didactic example of the most counter-productive way imaginable to respond to terrorism. If France follows the U.S. example after these attacks (and the recent news about their military cooperation with Russia seems to indicate so), the potential for stupid mistakes escalates manyfold. Especially considering that the West and Russia have opposite opinions on what the future of Syria should be, adding more guns to the situation can only make it worse.
0brazil845yUmm, do you have a position on the Sipursky Rage hypothesis? Or do you want to change the subject? It's a simple enough question.
0polymathwannabe5yMy position was explicit in my comment. Short version: Yes, to respond to violence with more violence is counterproductive, to create more enemies is a stupid idea, and the aftermath of 9/11 gives ample evidence of it.
0brazil845yI think you mean "implicit" not "explicit." Ok, and what's your evidence in favor of the Sipursky Rage hypothesis? Can you be specific about the evidence? And are you saying that it's always a bad idea for a state to respond violently to a violent attack?
0polymathwannabe5yIn this [http://lesswrong.com/lw/mzw/link_a_rational_response_to_the_paris_attacks_and/cx8j] branch of the thread I have already elaborated on the 9/11 example and why should we take it as a warning of what not to do about ISIS. Yes, I'm a pacifist.
0brazil845ySo you have no evidence for the Sipursky Rage hypothesis besides what you posted about 9/11?
-1polymathwannabe5yThat's a peculiar choice of wording. The aftermath of 9/11 is by itself overwhelmingly sufficient evidence for the hypothesis that enraging your enemies is a terrible idea.
2gjm5yWhat do you mean by"sufficient"? If you mean enough evidence to cause any reasonable person to accept the hypothesis, I'm not sure that anysingle historical example can do that. (I think the invasion of Iraq was a really bad idea and was "sold" to coalition countries' people on the basis of cynical lies, and I do think enraging your enemies is generally unwise, so I'm not saying this out of general ideological opposition. But I think you're way overstating your case here.) [EDITED to fix a really bad typo: I had "engaging" where I meant "enraging" in the previous paragraph.]
0brazil845yYour evidence is pretty vague and flimsy. Actually that's not the issue under discussion. Sipursky's claim seems to be that airstrikes would "radicalize" people who were not necessarily enemies beforehand. In any event, do you care to cite any specific post 9/11 events which characterize this "aftermath" you refer to?
0polymathwannabe5yThe implosion of Iraq, which paved the way for the emergence of ISIS. The implosion of Libya, which ended up worsening the conflict in Mali. The radicalization of the U.S. right wing, as illustrated in the Patriot Act, paranoid TSA procedures, and the Tea Party. By all measures, every response by the U.S. to 9/11 has ended up harming U.S. interests even more.
0brazil845yThe most obvious weakness with this evidence is that there exist numerous plausible reasons -- other than Tsipusrky Rage -- for the "implosion of Iraq" as you put it. For example, the obvious explanation for the "implosion of Iraq" is that the American invasion destabilized the area and left something of a power vacuum. Your evidence provides no way of distinguishing between this factor and Tsipursky Rage. The same is true of the situation in Libya. In short, your evidence does not stand up to scrutiny.
-4VoiceOfRa5yThe Tea Party wasn't in response to the TSA procedures so much as the government's increased interference with people's economic livelihood.
3gjm5ypolymathwannabe wasn't saying it was, s/he was saying that all three of those things (Patriot Act, TSA paranoia, Tea Party) were consequences of the radicalization of the US right, which was part of the aftermath of 9/11.
-4VoiceOfRa5yWhich occurred because the US wasn't willing to be sufficiently brutal in clamping down on it.
3gjm5yHow do you know? (The most obvious example of US willingness to be sufficiently brutal seems like Vietnam, which wasn't a responding success.)
0polymathwannabe5yLet's steelman VoiceOfRa's argument and choose the nuking of Japan as an example of the U.S. using sufficient brutality. While it is true that the threat of the Japanese Empire was successfully ended, it inevitably spawned a dozen other problems in other scenarios. Most notably, it paved the way for the Cold War. The madness that was the latter half of the 20th century could have been avoided if neither part had felt scared enough to engage in a spiraling arms race by building up their nuclear arsenals. The same logic has been repeated elsewhere: Pakistan only started developing nuclear weapons because India did, and India only did so because they were afraid of China, and China only developed nukes because they were afraid the Americans would defend Taiwan with their own bombs. As soon as you use "sufficient brutality" and prove yourself to be dangerous, you will prompt everyone else to become more dangerous. It's the same stupid logic by which everyone buys a big, fuel-thirsty car because they're afraid to be crushed by all the other big, fuel-thirsty cars already in the streets. In the case of ISIS, let's say the U.S. gets fed up with the situation and drops nukes on strategic Iraqi and Syrian cities. ISIS is wiped off the map. Good! Next thing you know, Iran will panic and get its own nukes, the Saudis will respond by getting their own, Russia will defend the Assad regime with everything they've got, and who knows what the remaining jihadi groups will do. It's just not worth it. Edited to add: Moreover, as soon as Iran and Saudi Arabia openly display their new nuclear capability, Israel is bound to do something very stupid.
1Jiro5yBy these standards, pretty much everything one does of any consequence in international relations spawns a dozen other problems. Everyone else is quite capable and willing to become more dangerous without any prompting from us. Becoming dangerous is useful for its own sake, not just as a response to others being dangerous.
-1VoiceOfRa5yIn the sense that Communism and the Free World wound up crashing once the common enemy was removed, yes. Your argument about nuclear weapons seems to boil down to arguing that if the US hadn't developed them, no one else would have. I'll let you clarify in case it's something not quite this silly. You don't have to go that far. How about having the government not treat rumors that an interrogator may have flushed a Koran down the toilet as a moral crisis. Um, Iran is already developing nukes as fast as it can, despite the US not being very brutal.
-3polymathwannabe5yFirst, "Free World" my ass [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covert_United_States_foreign_regime_change_actions] . I admit we were too lucky that the Nazi nuclear program didn't succeed. But the fact that the "good guys" were the first to get the bomb is no more reassurance than the "good guy with a gun" cliché. If the Koran-in-the-toilet remark is meant as an argument for enhanced interrogation, we live in separate moral universes. When the Iranians say they're not currently developing nukes, I find them believable. Experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency whose job it is to get their nose in places and ask questions and get paid to get this answer right and who understand that the future of the world depends on their findings agree with me on this.
1VoiceOfRa5ySo your argument is that therefore good guys shouldn't develop atomic weapons or carry guns? I was making factual (not moral) claims about the effects of various levels of brutality on the chances of retaliation. We can talk about moral claims once we've established what the effects of various policies are likely to be. Also, if you can't imagine there being valid arguments for policies you disagree with [https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Policy_debates_should_not_appear_one-sided], you're going to have a very hard time being rational about policy. Would those be the same experts that are outsourcing inspecting Iranian nuclear sites to the Iranians themselves [https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2015/08/19/the-latest-iran-revelation-is-utterly-humiliating/] ?
-8VoiceOfRa5y
1ChristianKl5yDo you consider the account of a man who says: "I have to revenge a blood debt because they killed my cousin" to be a unreliable description of someone's self-motivations?
0brazil845yAbsolutely.
3Viliam5yAre you looking for [http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/14/beware-isolated-demands-for-rigor/] a double-blind experiment where in hundreds of randomly selected countries the civilians were slaughtered, in other hundreds they were not, and this was all conducted in a way that neither the people in the attacking countries nor the people in the attacked countries knew which was which?
2brazil845yNo. I am looking for specific, reliable evidence which backs up Tsipursky's claim. It is up to him what form that evidence might take. Is that a problem for you?
0Jiro5yMiddle Eastern cultures are heavily based on clan/kinship relations and honor. I would expect that just accurately killing guilty people would lead to a rage effect as bad as killing innocent ones, because of the enormous number of people in the guilty person's kinship group whose honor you have just besmirched.
3brazil845yI would guess you are probably right, but the bigger question here is how strong is any "rage effect" compared to other factors which might influence human decision-making. For example, lets suppose ISIS rolls into your town, throws a few gay dudes of off roofs, blows up the local church or mosque, and publicly tortures to death a few suspected informants. One can imagine that perhaps this will create a large Tsipursky Rage. At the same time, it will probably result in a lot of fear and despair; these emotions might actually discourage people from working against ISIS. Which is stronger in the short or long term? What other factors might be in play? These are not easy questions to answer. For Tsipursky to claim that he knows the answer with reasonable certainty based on a few magazine articles in which a few captured terrorists cite "rage" as their motivation is the height of the worst kind of irrationality. That said, your point does illustrate how silly Tsipursky's position is if taken to its logical conclusion. i.e. that we should not even kill actual ISIS operatives in Syria or Iraq because that will make people angry and result in more attacks.
2ChristianKl5yIt's not really silly. Focusing on cutting funding sources might be better than focusing on killing ISIS operatives, As long as a NATO country buys their oil for money, weapons and hospital care killing individual ISIS operatives won't go very far.
0brazil845yThe two are not mutually exclusive, agreed?
0ChristianKl5yIf you want to use certain NATO bases to do your bombing, then you will be less likely to criticize the policy of the countries that host the bases.
0brazil845yUmm, does that mean "yes" or "no"?
2ChristianKl5yTruth is more complex than binary values. It means that in practice doing one thing means that you can do the other less well.
0brazil845yLet's assume that's true. So what? The argument under discussion was not whether the West should avoid focusing on killing people because it will undermine the West's ability to focus on cutting funding for ISIS. The issue under discussion is whether the West should avoid killing people because it will make other people angry. Please don't try to change the subject without openly acknowledging that's what you are doing.
0ChristianKl5yYou don't do things like bombing or not bombing for a single reason. At the same time it's okay for an article in a mainstream venue to focus on a single reason because the medium doesn't allow for a deep analysis of all factors that matter.
0brazil845yAgain, assuming that is true, so what? If one of those reasons doesn't stand up to scrutiny, and you want to change the subject and discuss a different reason, then please be open and honest about what you are doing.
2ChristianKl5yWith charity the topic is whether resentment produced through bombing is a significant factor. Conclusions based on the argument that we shouldn't bomb can be true if you look at additional arguments and therefore they certainly aren't "ridiculous". I think the factor of bombings producing resentments from the local population should factor into the calculation. You need further arguments to actually decide against bombing and a single argument isn't enough.
0brazil845yCharity as to whose statements? Mine or Sipursky's? Can you please quote or summarize the statement you are interpreting charitably. TIA.
0ChristianKl5yTsipursky's article. The article only provides one reason. There no reason to see it as arguing that the reason alone is sufficient.
0brazil845y:shrug: Then you should have made that clear when you responded to my point, i.e. that you would respond to a different version of the article than the one I was responding to. And you should have also applied the same principle of charity to my point and made it clear that you were changing the subject.
1ChristianKl5ySaying someone is making a "ridiculous statement" is not something that I read charitably.
-2brazil845yActually what I said is this: So let's see if I have this straight. You use the principle of charity to reinterpret Tsipursky's position so that my statement becomes less reasonable; then you refuse to offer any such charity to my statement based on your general principles. And you don't disclose any of this until pressed onit, instead you just pretend to be responding to my point. Please stop being so dishonest. Also, for future reference please tell me what types of statements you refuse to read charitably.
2Vaniver5yNote that this dynamic can be profitably used in the opposite direction. Suppose in retaliation for someone committing a terror attack, the government exiles their entire family (out to, say, first cousins) in response. Now the family dynamics are recruited to cut things off early on, and local patriarchs face serious penalties if they fail to keep their kin in line. (Compare to the frankpledge [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankpledge], wherein people were clustered into joint responsibility units, where if any person in the unit committed a crime everyone in the unit had to pay for it (if they couldn't deliver the criminal to justice).)
1VoiceOfRa5yThere was a lot less general slaughter after WWI, so it should have caused Germany to be demilitarized a lot better then after WWII, oh wait.
4brazil845yWhat's interesting to me is that as an American, if you visit Japan, there does not seem to be a lot of Tsipursky Rage in evidence. Even though we bombed the hell out of them and nuked two of their cities. And you don't see many Japanese people plotting to launch terrorist attacks in the United States. Of course Japanese culture is probably different from that of the Arabic-speaking peoples in the Middle East. But anger at perceived injustice is a pretty universal human emotion (based on my general observations).
0VoiceOfRa5yMy looking at history is that this isn't quite correct. It is the most restrained aggressor/tyrant who winds up getting targeted. To use an example I'm familiar with most of the Russian Tsars were rather despotic; however, two did make major liberal reforms, Alexander II freed the serfs, and Nicholas II make strides towards modernizing the country including introducing an elected parliament. Not-so-coincidentally, they were also the only tsars to be assassinated by revolutionaries.
2AstraSequi5yCausality could go the other way here - the reforms might have been (ultimately ineffective) attempts to address dissatisfaction among the people.
2VoiceOfRa5yProbably not. Consider why there was an increasing amount of dissatisfaction among the people, after all the Tsars had always been brutal, it was only when the Tsar was less brutal that dissatisfaction seemed to manifest.
2AstraSequi5yThe main problem with that argument is that it assumes dissatisfaction is determined by the amount of repression. It's a factor, but there are others, like food, wars, and technical innovations. This kind of question needs complex analysis and can't be answered that easily. You could plot a measurement of repression against a measure of dissatisfaction (assume the measurements are accurate), show that they corresponded perfectly from regime to regime, and even if you ignore confounders it still wouldn't show causality because you still wouldn't know which one came first.
0VoiceOfRa5yThat's sort of my point. That repression done right doesn't cause rebellions. Well for starters if you look at them chronologically, you can see which one actually changed first.
2Lumifer5yLOL. The dead and the broken don't rebel much...
0VoiceOfRa5yGood, now analyse what you mean by "broken" and we're getting somewhere.
0Lumifer5yIn this context "broken" = "internalised the slave mentality".
0VoiceOfRa5ySo would you say the Germans and Japanese internalised the slave mentality after WWII?
0Lumifer5yNo, I would not classify Germany and Japan post-WW2 as "dead and broken". Temporary occupation by a foreign power is something a bit different, anyway.
-1VoiceOfRa5yWell, since the OP was about how to deal with ISIS, "breaking" them in the sense that Germany and Japan were seems to be a desirable result.
3Lumifer5yISIS is an idea. It's not a particular ethnic group or population of a particular piece of land. Ideas are notoriously hard to repress successfully.
-1VoiceOfRa5ySo was fascism.
1Lumifer5yAnd do you imagine it disappeared..?
-1Good_Burning_Plastic5yNot completely, but sure it is a few orders of magnitude less prevalent than if the Allies hadn't defeated the Axis in WW2, isn't it?
-5VoiceOfRa5y
-1Good_Burning_Plastic5yMost instances of fascism were somewhat closer to being "a particular ethnic group" than ISIS is, and anyway he said "notoriously hard", not "impossible", and the defeat of fascism was not exactly painless and effortless.
-1VoiceOfRa5yAnd attempting to avoid offending them, as Gleb is arguing for, was obviously counterproductive in retrospect.
0polymathwannabe5yHow is there such a thing as "repression done right"?
0Lumifer5yWhat's the problem? Repression done right just means that a particular political system/approach/technique produces the desired results without the costs (including secondary effects and externalities) being too high. Moral outrage is not a particularly useful analysis tool. Just like the best war is the one your enemy has lost before even realizing he's at war, the best repression is the one where the repressed population believes itself to be happy and in control :-/
0polymathwannabe5yMy point was that "right" is a problematic term in this case. Using less loaded terms, you're describing "effective" or "successful" repression. So, back to the original argument: VoiceOfRa claims that [effective] repression doesn't cause rebellions. You seem to agree with me that it's mostly because the dead don't complain. Indeed, it's not very effective; if removing dissenters is your solution to everything, you'll end up a lonely tyrant.
2Lumifer5y"done right" is a sufficiently neutral expression often used in engineering context, I don't read moral overtones here. That's just a tautology. Not necessarily "mostly", but historically it has been a very popular way for a "successful" repression. It's a bit more difficult to pull off nowadays, though. It depends on who you are repressing -- e.g. if it's an (ethnic, religious, cultural) minority, killing them all is very effective. Because traditionally you kill the males and enslave the women, you can empirically find defeated populations in the genetic code of the descendants of the winners: they would have some matrilinear admixture, but none (or almost none) of the patrilinear admixture of the losers.
0polymathwannabe5yYou lost me there. Why is that relevant?
1Lumifer5yThis allows you to find empirical examples of ethnic groups that were successfully repressed by killing all the males -- even if you don't have e.g. literary sources. This has bearings on how popular and how successful repressions by kill-them-all methods were.
0polymathwannabe5yIf we Latinos are mainly descended from male Spaniards and female Natives, and still we fought wars to kick the Spanish out, what does it indicate, according to your thesis?
1Lumifer5yI don't have a thesis, just a few comments. I think that it's very possible to have a successful (from the repressor's point of view) repression and that historically one of the main ways it has been achieved was by making the repressed dead and broken. That indicates that local elites desire wealth and power, often more than the metropoly is willing to let them have.
0VoiceOfRa5yNo, Lumifer said that the dead and broken don't complain. History does not agree with you there.
2brazil845yThat may very well be the case, and if so, it's positive evidence that Tsipursky Rage is not a relatively important factor in motivating peoples' behavior. Which is consistent with my instincts.

Nearly the same could have been written after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor if you replace Muslims with Asians. My view is that political correctness stops westerners from considering certain weaknesses, and the big danger is that ISIS realizes and seeks to exploit this willful blindness.

3HungryHobo5yThe Japanese empire wasn't primarily using Perl Harbor as a PR tool. They were already powerful with lots of people and lots of resources. That was one empire attempting to deliver a crippling blow to a competing power. They didn't need to recruit Japanese from around the globe or elicit donations to their cause.
2indexador25yI don't think the comparison is valid, if anything it's the opposite; the Pearl Harbor attack was intended as a devastating blow, to crush the American naval capability on the Pacific. The United States then did the opposite of what the Japanese intended, rebuilt the fleet and committed fully to the war.
2Gleb_Tsipursky5yIf we're drawing comparisons, it's been widely recognized that the internment of Japanese Americans was a bad idea [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_Japanese_Americans].
4VoiceOfRa5yAnd what about the subsequent war against Japan?
1polymathwannabe5yYou mean the part where the U.S. commits the most horrendous and indefensible act of needless overkill on an enemy who was already brought to the point of surrender?
4James_Miller5yLet's assume that given what people knew at the time, it was a good idea. Don't you still think that today it would still be "widely recognized" as a bad idea?
2Gleb_Tsipursky5yActually, historians, including some of my colleagues at the Ohio State history department, have found that the internment was not based on credible information, but an rampant anti-Asian racism [http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1695162]. By comparison, Germans were left alone, with no restrictions of any sort on their civil liberties, not to speak of internment.
5James_Miller5y"Actually, historians, including some of my colleagues at the Ohio State history department, have found that the internment was not based on credible information, but an rampant anti-Asian racism." I would expect most historians to conclude this regardless of evidence. I don't trust academia on matters of political correctness. Imagine a non-Asian history grad student tells you that he has found evidence that FDR had based his internment policy on credible evidence, and this grad student asks you if political correctness would make it difficult for him to get a job if he publishes a paper on this topic. What would you tell him?
0Gleb_Tsipursky5yYou are welcome to mistrust academia, but it doesn't mean you can dismiss the evidence with simply saying you mistrust academia. Peer review is peer review, in all cases and contexts. I would tell him he has a great shot, as he would then gain a great deal of attention if he actually had credible evidence and countered the previous evidence convincingly. EDIT: Now how much have you updated based on my response, to both questions? Do you consider evidence to be evidence? Do you consider my credibility as an academic historian to be evidence? If so, how much have you updated? If you have not updated, I would urge you to reconsider your level or rationality.
4James_Miller5y"Peer review is peer review, in all cases and contexts" I trust you really don't mean this. If a woman studies journal publishes a peer reviewed article saying that 25% of women on college campuses have been raped, I trust you would give this statistic almost no weight. I don't mistrust academia on all topics, just on issues related to political correctness. Lots of women studies professors say that gender is a social construct. This sends a strong signal about the value of truth in some areas of academia I update a little in your favor, but I'm an academic myself (an economist at Smith College) so my priors are fairly strongly held. "I would tell him he has a great shot, as he would then gain a great deal of attention if he actually had credible evidence and countered the previous evidence convincingly." Yes, just like Larry Summers received when he suggested that genetics MIGHT play a role in why so few women are in sciences. When I mentioned at a panel on free speech at Smith College that I thought Larry Summers was probably right about this, another professor on the panel said I didn't belong at Smith.
5brazil845yThe key weasel phrase is "credible evidence." And yeah, it would be tantamount to career suicide for any humanities PhD student to argue in his dissertation that the internment of Japanese Americans was a good idea. (Maybe he could get away with it if he were Japanese.) Many, perhaps most cultures and subcultures have taboos. In Thailand, you don't insult the King. In Saudi Arabia, you don't insult Islam. And in the American Academy, you don't say anything which might be construed as racist.
3Gleb_Tsipursky5yPeer review is peer review, correct. I don't say all peer review processes are made equal. If a woman's studies journal published it, I would consider it very weak evidence if the journal published similar things before. If it did not, I would consider it moderately weak evidence. Also depends on who is on the masthead of the journal. Yeah, I hear you about Summers, that was a witch-hunting campaign. A grad student offering a credible evidence would make a nice career out of it. I have a high probability estimate of this, and have seen plenty of examples in my field to provide support for it. Paradigm-shifting claims, credibly presented, are powerful makers of careers.
4James_Miller5y"have seen plenty of examples in my field to provide support for it." Are these examples of where the thesis was politically incorrect? "Yeah, I hear you about Summers, that was a witch-hunting campaign." Doesn't this provide strong evidence that you can't trust many academics on issues relating to race and gender?
4Gleb_Tsipursky5yYup, the examples were where the thesis was politically incorrect. For instance, there were a number of graduate students in Soviet history who made careers claiming that the Soviet Union was more violent than the politically correct, leftist historical mainstream narrative depicted. Similarly, I know a graduate student who made a career out of showing that the Amish were actually much more tolerant and respectful toward women than the historical mainstream narrative depicted. There's a large gap between saying that the hounding of Summers was a witch-hunting campaign, and that one can't trust many academics on issues relating to race and gender. The latter is a categorical and absolutist statement, one that does not nuance then situation in any significant way. It doesn't acknowledge that weak evidence is still evidence, or that plenty of academics - such as myself and apparently you - have more complex and nuanced takes on women and gender and race.
5James_Miller5yThat is evidence that historians can be trusted, although the Amish are clearly "others" and so defending them isn't really that politically incorrect. "There's a large gap between saying that the hounding of Summers was a witch-hunting campaign, and that one can't trust many academics on issues relating to race and gender." I don't agree. The hounding was widespread and sent a clear message that you risk a lot if you take a politically incorrect position on issues of race or gender. If there is a group of 1,000 scholars and I believe that 100 of them will lie concerning issue X, and that another 600 would only write about issue X if they found evidence favoring a particular side, and I can't differentiate among the scholars then it's reasonable for me to give almost no weight to what any of these scholars say about issue X. My personal story might be biasing me. I was initially denied tenure, but won an internal appeal when five professors on a grievance committee held that two members of my department had violated my academic freedom in my tenure review, one for being upset that I had criticized women studies departments in a National Review Online article.
2Gleb_Tsipursky5yThanks for sharing your story. I'm having some challenges of my own with tenure due to my mental health challenges [http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/09/coming_out_of_the_mental_healt.html] . It's a powerful driver that's leading me to be quite discontent with many aspects of academia.
-2VoiceOfRa5yYou haven't presented any actual evidence. What credibility? Your ridiculous response to James Miller's second question, shredded whatever credibility, you still had left.
-5Gleb_Tsipursky5y

The comments on that article don't seem to responding to anything in the article itself. Many are just ad hominem followed by a strongly stated opinion. From what I can tell the Plain Dealer is a relatively liberal newspaper, but the comments don't seem to reflect that.

Anyways, probabilistic thinking has become a reverse dogwhistle for me and I think part of your argument illustrates why:

For instance, consider what happens when Muslim media report an airstrike by Western forces that kills civilians. At any point, myriad Muslim youths are angry at the We

... (read more)
5Gleb_Tsipursky5yActually, I would love it if politicians and analysts used actual numbers. Then, we can check the accuracy [http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/opinion/the-power-of-precise-predictions.html] of their forecasts. The hard part is getting them pinned down on some numbers. If we can get numeracy and probabilistic thinking into the political system, it seems that we would be much better off as it would allow us to gather real data. What do you think?
5entirelyuseless5yThat may be desirable but it doesn't make unrealistic numbers any more realistic. The US has made over 3,000 airstrikes in Syria, and ISIS does not have anywhere near 300,000 people with them. Of course, you said "report of an airstrike," and not "airstrike," but presumably most attacks have been reported at least in local media there.
2Gleb_Tsipursky5yWhat I said was report of an airstrike that killed civilians - not a simple airstrike. An airstrike killing civilians reported in prominent Muslim media is a great recruiting tool
4pianoforte6115yNumeracy and consequence based thinking, sure. But as far as probability thinking goes, I quite disagree for roughly the reasons stated here [http://last-conformer.net/2015/08/31/the-problem-with-probabililities-without-models/] *. I tried to illustrate the following but let me try to make it more explicit. In using any sort of mathematical model there are a few steps: The first is to determine relevant parameters that you can try to assign numbers to (such as probability of events). The second is to create a model for how those parameters interact. The third is experiment with different inputs to see the different outcomes so you can optimize your model. Fourth you can make predictions with error bounds as determined by your model. The first two steps are incredibly important, but I often see naive bayesians jumping straight to the third or even fourth step. But with complex systems subject to uncertainty and unknown factors, almost all of the work lies in the first and second steps. Getting back to one of my early comments if you construct a model in which only considers the ways in which an aggressive military intervention can increase the number of suicide bombings, then you'll of course show that such an intervention will increase the number of suicide bombings. But this is modeling failure at the first step, by choosing only those parameters you've assumed your conclusion. It's not the math that is the problem, it is lack of understanding of the phenomenon being described (and I think this is at the heart of many or even most instances of failed models). *I know that post is long but I highly recommend reading at least section I on what probabilities are and section V on why/when you can use them.
3Gleb_Tsipursky5yI hear you about using mathematical modeling. However, I'm talking about quick, intuitive, System 1 probabilistic estimates here, more Fermi style [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h5e/fermi_estimates/] than anything else. Remember, the goal is to convey to a broad audience that they can do probabilistic estimates, too. Let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
0Lumifer5yBut can they do good probabilistic estimates? A little knowledge is a dangerous thing...
3Gleb_Tsipursky5yI'd prefer they do some than not at all. Then, they would improve over time, as research [http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/books/review/mindware-and-superforecasting.html] by Tetlock and others shows.
0Lumifer5yI'd prefer they first figure out the limits of their competence before starting to act on their Fermi estimates. And Tetlock's sample is not quite general public.
3Gleb_Tsipursky5yI guess we have different preferences. I'd rather that people experiment and learn by doing.
2Lumifer5yWhether experimenting is a good thing depends on the cost of failure.
0VoiceOfRa5yAlso, on whether you can distinguish success from failure [http://thedailywtf.com/articles/What_Could_Possibly_Be_Worse_Than_Failure_0x3f_] .

(Disclaimer: politics is the mind-killer.)

I think it should be a requirement that anyone who wants to write about Da'esh should at the very least have travelled to present-day Syria or Iraq at least once, and communicated with people involved in the war. I'm not necessarily saying that your argument is wrong, just that the actual situation seems far more nuanced.

For instance, can you provide an argument that increased committment of troops is "exactly what ISIS wants."? It seems like something oft-mentioned on "pundit" blogs but rarely ... (read more)

8VoiceOfRa5yWhy is "what ISIS wants" relevant here. ISIS is a bunch of fanatics who have a rather distorted model of reality. It may be that they want an increased commitment of troops because they believe it will lead to the prophesied climactic battle that ends with Allah destroying the unbelievers.
6passive_fist5yWhy isn't it a relevant question to understand the motivations of your enemy? Unless you're saying that Da'esh has no motivation and is just doing things randomly. It may be, sure, but it may also be that they want everyone to think that about them, in order to produce fear. Appearing totally crazy [http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-keep-parties-in-negotiation.html] is often a good strategy in warfare.
6VoiceOfRa5yIt's not directly relevant to the argument you were making.
3Gleb_Tsipursky5yUnfortunately, op-eds are limited to 700 words, so no way to make that sort of analysis possible. By definition, with this word count, the analysis has to be simplified and clear messages conveyed. Believe me, as an academic I am used to writing 20,000-word essays or 140,000 word books. This is a different genre that serves a different purpose.
3passive_fist5yWell, there's no word limit on LW, so you're quite welcome to write out your thoughts.

Why People Keep Saying, “That’s What the Terrorists Want”

When President George W. Bush later responded by occupying Iraq in 2003, millions of Americans insisted that doing so was exactly what al Qaeda wanted. When, in 2004, Spain had the opposite reaction after the Madrid train bombings, and pulled back from that conflict, Americans told me that withdrawing from Iraq was actually what al-Qaeda wanted.

Today, a similar thing is happening with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, as politicians and pundits accuse one another of “playing into the terrorist

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3bogus5yMuch of the article is quite on point, but this portion is just restating the same thing in different terms. The whole reason 'alienated moderates' are at risk of being 'receptive to extremism' is that France was unsuccessful in its attempt to assimilate its Muslim population. --Not for lack of trying, mind you, and they even had a pretty sensible policy stance - quite far from the spineless multiculti ideology that seems to be ubiquitous in 'Anglo' countries. One critical problem is that the 'ethnic' population bears the brunt of the failing French economy and labor market, because their lack of social capital effectively makes them marginal participants in the best of cases; the end result is that these folks are now pretty much excluded from any sort of productive activity and become structurally unemployed. Young male idle hands being the devil's workshop, and all that.

This is part of my broader project, Intentional Insights, of conveying rational thinking, including about politics, to a broad audience to raise the sanity waterline.

Given that your idea of "rational thinking" appears to consist of the kind of Straw-Vulcanism that gives "rational thinking" a bad name, I'd appreciate it if you would stop trying to "help" the movement.

3Gleb_Tsipursky5y1) Please clarify how this article conveys Straw-Vulcanism. 2) How are you currently helping the movement?

I would say again that there's a lot of one sided analysis i.e. counting costs but not benefits, exemplar numbers plucked out of thin air without any sensitivity analysis or justification from base rates, suggested actions ("use covert operations to defeat ISIS") without any indication of whether they are feasible or worse than than the alternative you rejeced.

IMO you need to imagine a smart, rational person arguing against each point you make. In my head I use CarlShulman because he ferrets out fallacies like a bloodhound. Then you need to check whether their best argument is stronger than the original point you made, and in any case you need to anticipate that objection and put out the counterargument.

Space is limited in a 700 word op-ed, but if space is so limited that you can't really do a rational analysis then don't advertise it as such.

3Gleb_Tsipursky5yI hear you about not advertising it as a rational analysis, and that's not what I think I did. Instead, I stated I am writing about a rational response to the Paris attacks, as set against a specific narrative of saber-rattling. I was not attempting to give a full analysis of the situation. I'm updating, though, on the need to give a more clear title and description. Thanks!
3The_Jaded_One5yI suppose the problem is that LW is a more sophisticated audience than the general public. We have heard every common position on most big debates. We don't need to hear yet another article proclaiming that war iz bad. We want an article that says why war is bad, and why everyone on the other side got it wrong and how their specific arguments are flawed. That necessarily involves addressing the strongest arguments the other side has, the downsides of your own suggestions, etc.
0Gleb_Tsipursky5yYeah, I understand about LW. This is why I just had a link, and not the article itself - the article is not directed at the LW audience, I was making a meta-point about promoting rational thinking in politics using this kind of article.
-21VoiceOfRa5y

I'm glad to see rationalists getting published in mainstream media outlets. And I appreciated your reference to attentional bias.

However, the article seemed too simplistic overall. For example, the idea that attacking Islam is playing into terrorists' hands is almost a cliche. And the policy conclusions seem extremely bland and also not particularly rationalist.

For an idea of what an explicitly rationalist and non-obvious policy conclusion might look like, imagine a counterterrorism foreign policy that is actually randomized: in 90% of situations we do n... (read more)

2Gleb_Tsipursky5yThanks for the good words about publishing in media venues! The article is meant to be simplistic, as it's talking in a language oriented for a broad audience, and has a 700-word limit. I don't have a value of non-obviousness, just of rational decision making. To me, rational decision-making implies using a process that involves determining our goals, weighing the best ways of getting there without letting our emotions tip the scale, and making the best decisions to reach our goals. This is what I conveyed in the article, I hope :-)
0Lumifer5ySo, you suggested two clearly bad ideas which "build on rationalist concepts". Is that supposed to promote these "rationalist concepts"? Because the obvious conclusion would be that you should build on something else.

As I mentioned below, the "What would ISIS not want us to do?" is not a good heuristic, because by asking it you implicitly accept their world view. I'm reminded of a (probably apocryphal quote from a WWII general), something like "Every Japanese soldier you encounter believes it is his duty to die for his country, your duty is to assist him in the performance of his duty in whatever way is most practical."

5James_Miller5yAsking "what does my enemy want me to do" is very useful when you are trying to predict how the enemy will respond to your possible future moves.
2OrphanWilde5yYes. It's completely useless, however, as the basis for making your future moves. Reversed stupidity isn't intelligence. Counterstrategy isn't strategy.
4James_Miller5yThe Mongol Calvary under the command of Genghis Khan unexpectedly runs away. The enemy can't figure out why but doesn't worry about the Mongol's motivation and starts pursuing . An hour later, at a spot carefully prepared last night, the Mongol cavalry turns around and catches the enemy on ground that maximizes the Mongol advantage over its enemy.
0OrphanWilde5yTheir fundamental mistake wasn't pursuing; that was merely a symptom. Their fundamental mistake is that they either had no plan of their own, or abandoned that plan. Because had they not pursued, the Mongols would have harried them with regular raiding skirmishes, a tactic they excelled at. Pursuing-or-not-pursuing is playing the game according to the rules your opponent has set. Your first act should always be to change the rules.
2James_Miller5yIf the Mongols are running away in panic you should pursue since pursuers normally have a big advantage, if they are running away as part of planned strategy you should not.
0OrphanWilde5yWhat you should or should not do is better determined by whether or not it helps win the war than whether it helps win a battle. If pursuing causes your unit to leave the territory you should have been defending, the mere accident of another of their units stumbling across the undefended territory could lose you the war, without any planned strategy on their part. It is insufficient to know their plans. You have to know your own.
3Gleb_Tsipursky5yI used the statement "What would ISIS not want us to do?" for rhetorical force, the actual heuristic I emphasized was to figure out our actual goals and then the best means of achieving them.
2ChristianKl5yFor better or worse Gleb doesn't go into the ISIS worldview about the importance of Muslims immigrating to the caliphate and Western armies coming to fight ISIS in Dabiq.
1VoiceOfRa5yBut he nevertheless makes conclusions as if he has.
2ChristianKl5yNo, he makes conclusions based on imaging what would be good for ISIS to do to expand it's powerbase.
0brazil845yI think part of the problem here is that it is difficult to discern how rational ISIS is as an organization. It is some combination of militia group; millennialist cult; and breakaway state. (It's interesting that it has changed its name a couple times.) As best I can tell, the overall game plan of ISIS is -- generally speaking -- to follow in the footsteps of the most fundamental religious doctrine it can, and have faith that this will result in their eventual success. Under such circumstances, I don't think it's very useful to "avoid playing into ISIS's hands." This may be a more useful consideration if the enemy was some kind of James Bond super-villain who was carefully scheming at every stage. Even then, you never know if the other fellow really wants something or if he is only pretending to as some kind of ruse or feint.
2entirelyuseless5yThe problem is that their game plan is likely to be something more or less along the lines of, "Start a war between Islam and the rest of the world. Since our religion basically teaches that we are inevitably going to conquer the world by force, we will be guaranteed victory in such a war." The religion is false, so they would not win such a war. But it would be an extremely bad thing if it happened at all, regardless of whether they win. So playing into their hands is probably not a good idea anyway, even though they are wrong.
-1brazil845yI agree with this to a large extent. Assuming that's true, it's still not like the situation where your adversary is an evil genius so that doing what he wants you to do is likely to be helping him succeed in his evil goals. In this situation, it's not worth it to put much stock in whether the West is playing into Isis' hands. It depends how far they get in their war, it seems to me.
1polymathwannabe5yISIS (or any enemy, for that matter) doesn't need to be led by evil geniuses in order to know how to set a trap for the West to fall into. With 9/11, Al Qaeda set a perfect trap for the U.S. to be blinded by pain and rage (having the simpleminded W. in office certainly helped) and, as a result, the U.S. engaged in what from the White House looked like a righteous campaign for the liberation of oppressed masses, but to those masses looked like a meddlesome intrusion into their already complicated lives. In this case (in every case, actually), I think it's absolutely essential to consider what our enemies are counting on us to do.
-1brazil845yNo, but it would (edit: arguably) help quite a lot. What is the evidence that Al Qaeda's intention with the 9/11 attacks was to goad the United States into invading Afghanistan and later Iraq?
1polymathwannabe5yVarious journalists have analyzed the writings of Al Qaeda strategist Muhammad Makkawi a.k.a. Saif al-Adel, concluding that: "His goal, for at least five years, had been to goad America into invading Afghanistan..." [http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/09/11/the-master-plan] "September 11 constituted the first step: dragging the United States into the Arab region in preparation for an extended war of attrition." [http://www.jamestown.org/programs/tm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=181&tx_ttnews[backPid]=238&no_cache=1]
-1brazil845yWhat exactly did he write and when?
1polymathwannabe5yThe text in question is allegedly called "Al Qaeda's Strategy until Year 2020." My search met a dead end at the website of the newspaper Al Quds al Arabi. I don't read Arabic, and that newspaper doesn't show digital archives for 2005, which was the date when Makkawi's writings were first made available to the general public. Journalist Abdel Bari Atwan wrote a book on the subject, but Google Books doesn't give a complete view of it.
-1brazil845yOk, well your second source states the following: It would be interesting if an individual who was known to be a senior Al Qaeda official were known to have written BEFORE the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq that they had a plan to goad the US into such invasions. But without this kind of evidence, your claim does not stand up to scrutiny.
-2VoiceOfRa5yIn which case they're going to keep making attacks so the solution is to destroy their ability to do so.
2entirelyuseless5yThe problem with that solution is that it is either impossible, or implies genocide. As Socrates says in Plato's Gorgias, "Suppose that I go into a crowded Agora, and take a dagger under my arm. Polus, I say to you, I have just acquired rare power, and become a tyrant; for if I think that any of these men whom you see ought to be put to death, the man whom I have a mind to kill is as good as dead; and if I am disposed to break his head or tear his garment, he will have his head broken or his garment torn in an instant. Such is my great power in this city. And if you do not believe me, and I show you the dagger, you would probably reply: Socrates, in that sort of way any one may have great power-he may burn any house which he pleases, and the docks and triremes of the Athenians, and all their other vessels, whether public or private-but can you believe that this mere doing as you think best is great power?" Great power or not, it is in fact true that anyone can do those things if he wishes, so as long as people are alive, one cannot take away their ability to do those things. So as I said, your solution is either impossible or implies genocide.
-4VoiceOfRa5yKill a single person, yes. Carry out an attack like the one in Paris, no.
[-][anonymous]5y -1

On a related note: the Libertarian International Brigades are an informal foreign fighter grouping involved in the Syrian conflict in particular. They are allied with the People's Protection Units, and the Lions of Rojava (PPU's foreign legion) in particular who espouse democratic confederalism. They may also be associated with the Kurdistan Workers Party, but it is unclear:

Having PKK on a „terrorist organisations list13” is a real treat for the adversaries of Rojava. Due to shared ideology, close ties and common enemies, it is extremely easy label Rojav

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