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Leif makes strong and good points.

From various readings and my own observations I do agree 'we'(meaning the Public and the government taken as a whole) have overreacted. On the other hand I wonder how many people think like me and think it's overblown but don't say it because they know it makes them look bad. It's almost assured that the better option is to keep mum rather than risk ire because voicing doubts about our specific reaction(was unpopular then but OK now) or expecially voicing doubts about the severity of the attack itself(still unpopular) is not going to change anyones mind. The cat is out of the bag.

Even in this post there are heated arguments taking place. This is no good from a truth seeking prespective. The whole idea is to look at events dispassionantly to get a clearer idea of what is happening and how what is ranks up compared to what might have been or what could be. It seems that even people that would be dispassionant in most areas will get worked up when some threat to their moral system is stated or when they preceive an attack on something else 'fundamental' to their image or their groups image.

I havn't actually done the following for the same reason I havn't tried to carefully and critically investigate a widely believed claim that is quite popular in the Public and more select groups like scientists such as Global Warming. I feel that, no matter what I found, the knowledge would not aid me much. If, let's say, I reviewed evidence carefully and found that the majority of claims/forcasts/proposed preventions are valid it would not allow me to personally do anything to aid the movement.

Note: The idea that we all 'do our part' and so on is good propaganda but it appeals to a sort of collective action fallacy. The fallacy presents itself when someone says "If I do X it will not make a noticible difference, even though if many do X it will make a difference." and someone replies "But what if everyone thought that way?" Logically it's irrelevent what everyone might or might not do - expecially if the person that dissents is in no position to change many other peoples actions.

This is why I don't vote. The vote is very very likely not to make any difference in the outcome. Voting has value but only to people that don't know this or possibly people could signal something by voting even though they know its unlikely to be useful but as the polls are private they might as well just go in and throw the level randomly and walk out to social rewards...

The above will serve as examples of the general idea of the collective action fallacy.

So, to go back to Warming, if I found the claims were mostly invalid it would not allow me to do anything much to stop actions and beliefs. If it was a mix the same thing applies. No matter what I find I will not have substancial resources to do anything and I don't have a burning need to actually find out. I'm content to just wait and see and adapt no matter what happens over time. So I hold a (private) agnostic view and a public 'lukewarm acceptance' view.

The time and effort involved in finding out facts in such a heated issue that I can trust is not worth it compared to the expected value of knowing the info.

I'm much more interested in the "meta" truth about these type of issues. That's why I am taking the time to write this post.

So back to the root of my little collapsable tree shaped comment:

I think a few things would be required to really have a good idea of what's up in the 9/11 and post 9/11(finally a valid use of this phrase) world:

Very good knowledge of the history of the attackers organization; its structure, history, goals, tactics, propaganda style, ext

A very good knowledge of how(in detail) this group is viewed by the rest of the world in the past and in the present. This would probably require extensive polling and would be subject to all sorts of problems as it's a sensitive topic.

A very good understanding of the specific groups that play an important role in the whole mess. People talk of the "Arab Culture" and how we must understand it but I think this is probably often applause lighting. Do we really understand our own culture so well that we can make accurate predictions of the social forces at work in decades long timeframes? Many people think the WoT will last that long and it seems that tensions have lasted for quite awhile in the Middle East. Could we, say, predict with good detail and accuracy the public reaction to the oft talked about human level AI in our own culture? Can we predict what the standard opinion polls will report in 10 years even? Perhaps people do have good models of these things and I just don't know about them but OTOH I think many people offhandedly say "oh of course I understand my own culture - I live in it!" and stop thinking. So if we don't understand ours very well it's little hope that we can understand one that is rather different in some ways.

A good knowledge of general history would be needed. It'd probably require info that the government doesn't share because many actions taken in 'hot' areas are sensitive. It's just these type of actions that effect the arab world that we don't know the full details and motivations for. A history of other parties actions and their motivations would be needed too. The general problem of getting an omniscient view of history seems to be a big setback for understanding of such a complicated event complex.

Basically I think people underestimate the complexity of a global sociopolitical issue with hundreds of thousands of major and minor players. I doubt one person can wrap their head around it well enough to say if an action taken is better than one not taken but still one that was possible. At least in anything but trivial cases. And what people take for obvious is probably less obvious than they think.

People are not equipped to think on such a grand scale without horribly oversimplification going on.

So I think that, assuming we can't really say one way or the other what actions are net positive and what ones are not(and too what degree the positive ones are compared to other possible actions) we can only look to easily seen effects of taken actions.

For example we can see ill will from many people and groups We can also see laws that many do not favor being passed

But people could easily argue that, even with such things going on, the net result will be positive.

Breaking this big problem down into tiny little areas might be helpful. For example scientists could do many careful polls on peoples reaction to 9/11 and continue to do them over time all over the world. People probably already do that but I think, with the correct gathering and examination, you could build a sort of opinion map of the world that would probably be better than nothing. You'd then do other polls to get baseline feelings and thoughts and see how they change in responce to mass media news. Hopefully you could get a good idea as to how people in various places react now and later to events of various types and what happens on 'fronts' where people that have different types of reactions interact. This would be done all over the world to get a map superimposed over the terra firma map that would show regions of likemindedness. This map might look very strange and have a lot of streaks and blotches running around overlapping and mingling. The whole point would be to have a good idea of what people feel and how they will react given you know their general location. With this tool planners could use it just like a map showing important terrain that may be useful or harmful depending on the goals.

Much more and different work would have too be done as well. I think the main problem is that its very hard to do controlled experiments on huge masses of people reacting to big world events.

Note: The above ideas are long and probably confused but I think my core idea is worth something at least