Effective defense and ISIL

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The ongoing crisis of refugee fleeing war especially from Syria and Afghanistan increases the urgency of developing a deeper understanding of what motivates people to leave the sidelines to support one side or the other in conflict and what pushes people to increase or decrease their support or desert or defect?

In general, every individual and group has a right and an obligation to defend themselves. Unfortunately, when people feel threatened, they often respond with violence that manufactures more enemies than they neutralize. We need a deeper understanding of what motivates people to support one side or the other in conflict and what creates shifts in loyalties.

In particular, a growing body of evidence suggests that primary recruitment vehicles for the Islamic State (ISIL) may be strategies and tactics that the West has used to prosecute the War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, combined with Western xenophobia. ISIL says (and their supporters appear to believe) that the West is hostile to Muslims generally and to Iraqis in particular. To support this view, they cite the duplicity of the U.S. in supporting both Iran and Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the Sanctions against Iraq from 1990 to 2003, and the corrupt management of post-Saddam Iraq, among other issues.[1] Regarding Western xenophobia, they reportedly featured Donald Trump in a recent recruiting video.[2]

French journalist Nicolas Hénin, who spent 10 months as a hostage of ISIL in Syria, said that one of the best ways to defeat ISIL is to accept refugees from that area, because it clearly contradicts ISIL's propaganda.[3]

Figure 1. How terrorist groups end (n = 268): The most common ending for a terrorist group is to convert to nonviolence via negotiations (43 percent), with most of the rest terminated by routine policing (40 percent). Groups that were ended by military force constituted only 7 percent.[4]

A 2008 RAND concluded that military force is generally the least effective way to combat terrorism.[5] This study identified 268 terrorist groups that ended between 1968 and 2006; see Figure 1. Of those, 43 percent abandoned terrorist activities for nonviolent political participation, like the Provisional Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland. Another 40 percent were put out of action by effective law enforcement, like the Aryan Nations in the U.S. Another 10 percent were victorious; these included the African National Congress in South Africa. Only 7 percent were defeated by military action.

However, when a terrorist group becomes involved in an insurgency, it does not end easily.[6] Forty-seven percent of the insurgencies ended by negotiating a settlement. Only 5 percent were ended by law enforcement. Twenty-six percent were victorious. The military defeated 21 percent of them.[7] This RAND report concludes by recommending “that United States should make police and intelligence efforts the backbone of U.S. counterterrorism policy and move away from its mantra of fighting a war on terrorism.”[8]

Why is the West using the least effective approach to terrorism (the military) and avoiding effective measures like legal action to terminate the sale of oil and the flow of guns and munitions to authoritarian regimes suspected of supporting the Islamic State? (See the section on “ISIL's funding”, below.) U.S. “Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. is trying to speed up its military and diplomatic efforts to fight Islamic State and bring about a political resolution to Syria’s four-year-old conflict.”[9]Effective defense” involves selecting strategies and tactics in “military and diplomatic efforts” that increase the likelihood of success. Unfortunately, many comments in the mainstream media push for more use of the same approach that seems to have helped create ISIL. This is unfortunately but predictable from the work of Daniel Kahneman, discussed below with problems with overconfidence and how leaders and experts are selected.

Number of terrorist incidents by year[edit]

The number of terrorist incidents has jumped in recent years, consistent with the claims of the RAND study that military force is the least effective way to combat terrorism: Figure 2 plots the number of terrorist incidents by year (in thousands) in the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). This shows a general increase in terrorist activity from 1970 to 1992 or 1993, followed by a decline to a low of 933 incidents in 1998 before the suicide mass murders of September 11, 2001. This was followed by a second increase to 1907 incidents in 2001 and another decline to 1161 in 2004. The growth since 2004 has averaged 31 percent per year. [10]

Figure 2. Thousands of terrorist incidents in the GTD 1970-2014. Similar plots of the numbers of deaths or casualties or of these counts on a logarithmic scale present slightly different but similar perspectives on the same issue.[10]

The rest of this essay reviews other research that seems relevant to effective defense and ISIL. Overall, the conclusions provide complementary perspectives and suggest other actions compatible with the RAND conclusions.


Figures 1 and 2 above suggest a need to review the research supporting alternative approaches to conflict. In particular, we should consider the following:

1. What is the West doing that provides motivation, money, and guns for people to support the Islamic State (ISIL) and other terrorist organizations?

2. What can be done to encourage enemy combatants to desert or defect?

This essay provides more detail on these points after discussing the routine overconfidence most people have in the value of current knowledge and the related low predictive value of the recommendations of experts and leaders in many fields including the military and politics. If we fail to look for new information, we will likely perpetuate previous failures. This essay concludes with a summary of suggestions on how to more effectively respond to ISIL. This includes especially choosing alternative strategies that produce less collateral damage including focusing more on economic sanctions, strengthening international law, tightening constraints on international arms transfers, and selecting military strategies that reduce damage to non-combattants.

Problems with overconfidence[edit]

Most humans tend to remember news and information that is consistent with their preconceptions and forget or overlook conflicting evidence.

That's a primary conclusion of research led and inspired by Daniel Kahneman, who won the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for publications (especially with the late Amos Tversky) describing experiments that exposed problems with how humans think and make decisions.[11] Kahneman is not an economist but a psychologist. He has been frequently cited by economists, because his work has revolutionized some of the models economists use to understand and predict human economic behavior.

Kahneman pushes us to be more humble about what we think we know. He pushes us to look for credible information sources that conflicts with our preconceptions.[12] If we do, we may find with the famous comic strip character Pogo that, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Role of the media[edit]

Most individuals follow media outlets whose selection of news and entertainment is most consistent with their values and preconceptions. People of any religion, political persuasion or native language tend to gravitate to media most supportive of them -- and avoid media that demonize them. “The media do not just shape what the public is interested in, but also are shaped by it. ... The world in our heads is not just a precise replica of reality; our expectations about the frequency of events are distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed”, according to Kahenman.[13] The difference between “the world in our heads” and reality may be most acute in armed conflict, when each side believes they are right and the other is evil or at best criminally mislead. Abraham Lincoln wrote, “In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong.[14]

Kahneman also describes the “availability cascade”, whereby a highly emotional story about terrorism or a public health risk attracts public attention far beyond the magnitude of the problem relative to other issues that may have a much greater impact on society but fail to attract as much attention without a heart-rending image. The public interest in the emotional story leads to a series of follow-on stories and government actions that are arguably excessive for the magnitude of the problem.[15]

This helps explain how media organizations attract and retain audience. It does not explain how the media are funded. The funders for most media outlets are different from their audience. Few funders are philanthropists. Most support media to purchase changes in the behavior of its audience.[16] Many advertisers measure behavior change by doing experiments with their marketing communications: For example, they sometimes split a market in two and advertise in one part but not the other. By comparing changes in revenue between where they advertised and where they didn't, they can estimate the changes in audience behavior resulting from their ads.

But funders want more than just maximizing sales in the short term. They don't like feeding mouths that bite them. They don't fund media that disseminate information they consider controversial or negative, unless they have no better way to reach a valued audience. This includes any (or at least “excessive”) coverage of stories that put them in a negative light such as quality problems with their products or services, environmental or workplace safety issues, labor conflicts, or efforts to get favorable treatment from government at the expense of competition, customers, employees, the environment, etc.

Changes in the structure of the mainstream media in the U.S. over the past few decades were correlated with the much-discussed increase in income inequality.[17] Recent changes in the media include the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine that governed broadcast content from 1949 to 1987, increased consolidation in ownership of the media especially since 1983,[18] the virtual elimination of investigative reporting in the 1990s,[19] and the rise of Conservative talk radio since the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. Talk shows are cheap to produce, and hosts are selected that rarely threaten funders. Investigative journalism, by contrast, can be quite expensive to produce and contribute so little to audience share that (with rare exceptions like 60 Minutes) it's almost impossible to justify economically -- especially if it jeopardizes funding.

Funding and access to public servants who control access to information help explain the selection of topics for media feeding frenzies: A highly emotional story that could trigger an availability cascade must also pass an economics test: A story that might displease a major funder or a leading public servant gets only the coverage required to retain the audience. Funders can take their money elsewhere. Public servants can make it harder to get information, thereby increasing the cost of producing the reports that attract their audience.[20] In particular, media feeding frenzies that demonize disadvantaged minorities or people in foreign countries rarely offend funders and often provide cheap content without risking a loss of funding.[21][22] This in turn can provide support for xenophobic politicians and Social entrepreneurs driving conflict into unnecessary wars and counterproductive hostile actions.

By contrast, media organizations run multiple risks in exposing corruption or suggesting that a “our” actions might help a designated enemy: First, they may lose audience, because few people want to hear that their government is corrupt. Second, funders may benefit from the corruption and may retaliate against the media organizations that disseminate content they don't like. Third, politicians and governmental officials unhappy with the reporting may take actions that increase the media's costs for producing content including in some cases legal action that terminates the media outlet's ability to reach its audience -- sometimes jailing or killing media personalities.[23]

An example is provided by the ill-advised war in Iraq: Senior media executives in the U.S. and Britain fired prominent personalities for attempting to provide air time to dissident voices.[24] On 6 July 2016, the Iraq Inquiry published a report confirming that the government and the media had not properly evaluated the situation, and war in 2003 was unnecessary. That war would likely have been avoided with more honest reporting in 2002 and early 2003.

Leaders and experts[edit]

Research indicates that leaders and experts in many fields make worse predictions than simple rules of thumb developed by intelligent lay people. Kahneman says that true skill requires (1) an environment that is sufficiently regular to be predictable, and (2) opportunities to learn through prolonged practice. Some fields have these attributes; others do not.[25]

One of Kahneman's examples involves financial markets. Two things happen every trading day. First, the market either goes up or down. Second, the nightly news features a pundit, who tells us why. The value of this commentary for predicting the future is zero. That's because this situation lacks sufficient regularity to support learning (Kahneman's first condition), as enough people with enough money are already in the market trying to predict it. The daily movements reflect what's left and is essentially random.[26] However, claims of random variability will not attract an audience, but “experts” spouting nonsense will -- as long as the audience doesn't know it's nonsense.

Kahneman's two conditions rarely apply in politics. With media primarily focused on selling behavior change in their audience to funders, xenophobic politicians are too often promoted while people trying to facilitate understanding and deescalation over escalation in conflict may be vilified as naive appeasers. Former Vice President Cheney's One Percent Doctrine was used to justify torture and preventive war in the absence of substantive evidence to support it,[27] with no apparent consideration of how such policies might manufacture support for the opposition.

Similar questions have been raised about how military officers are promoted.[28] Unfortunately, the environments where military force is used are rarely “sufficiently regular to be predictable,” which means that it's very difficult to obtain what Kahneman would call “true skill.” Retired General Stanley McChrystal, who held several command positions in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, commented that, “In my experience, we found that nearly every first-time jihadist claimed Abu Ghraib had first jolted him into action.”[29] However, one wonders whether the torture at Abu Ghraib would have moved anyone to jihadism without other grievances such as the “collateral damage” discussed in the section on “ISIL's soldiers” below.

Similarly, the 2015 book Thieves of State describes conclusions reached by Sarah Chayes with the help of military officers including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen: Chayes wrote that the Afghani government supported by the U.S. has become a kleptocracy that collects bribes not taxes and reports people who do not pay appropriate bribes as Taliban to the U.S.-led forces there. Military units then kill the alleged Taliban. Chayes described multiple cases where corrupt Afghani officials were arrested for corruption then released after (she believes) intervention by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to “protect their assets.”[30]

However, until the public gains a better understanding the counterproductive nature of collateral damage, we cannot expect wisdom in this area to weigh very heavily in the selection of political and military leaders. A tragic example is how the G. W. Bush administration politicized intelligence to justify invading Iraq. People were fired for insisting that the available evidence did not support claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or links to al Qaeda.[31] We need more research on how to win (or better avoid) wars -- and more public awareness of this distinction.

Without this, it's easy for the side with a bigger military to win battles and lose wars. Generals and admirals are too often pushed to choose strategies that resonate with their superiors but manufacture enemies faster than they can be neutralized. This is part of how the British lost the American Revolution,[32] and how the U.S. lost its war in Vietnam,[33] to name only two examples. There is a growing body of evidence (cited below) that “collateral damage” is rarely neutral.

Recent U.S.-led efforts in the Middle East appear to have manufactured ISIL,[34] and further efforts may continue to be counterproductive unless we start paying more attention to serious research on the long-term impact of alternative strategies in conflict and less attention to generals, admirals, politicians, and national security experts, whose “expertise” violates Kahneman's two conditions (above).

Who supports terrorists and why?[edit]

ISIL has both troops and money, both of which have been attributed at least partially to U.S. foreign and military policy.

General observations on effective defense[edit]

Before discussing ISIL, we first discuss why people engage on one side or another in conflict.

  • One study of conflict recruited international experts to identify all the major violent and nonviolent governmental change efforts of the twentieth century -- 1900 to 2006 -- and score them on several scales. The project organizers, Chenoweth and Stephan, found that nonviolence was twice as likely to succeed as violence (53 vs. 26 percent) -- and virtually all successes were accompanied by desertions and defections. Moreover, the worst outcomes for democracy came when violent revolutionaries won -- because they knew how to settle arguments with violence.[35]
  • Robert Pape studied the use of air power from the First World War into the 1990s. He concluded that air power could be effective in direct support of ground operations, but strategic bombing was a waste: When critical infrastructure including manufacturing facilities were destroyed, they were quickly reconstituted in forms that were usually harder to destroy -- AND targeted civilians became more fervent in their will to resist. For example, prior to the London Blitz (1940-41), the British public was not happy about having their air force destroyed by the Nazis, but they were also not eager to put their lives on the line to support a hereditary aristocracy that just over 20 years earlier had slaughtered an entire generation of young men in a senseless war. After Hitler started bombing London, all that changed: The vast majority of Brits fell in behind Churchill saying, “We will never surrender.”[36] Pape's conclusions were supported by a more formal quantitative analysis of a larger set of cases.[37]
  • Related research compares deterrence with procedural justice in studying why people obey the law, when they do:[38]
  • Deterrence is sometimes effective but inefficient.
  • Procedural justice tends to be both efficient and effective.[39]
A survey of different ethnic groups found that African Americans and Hispanics living in the U.S. have essentially the same concept of justice as majority whites but different experiences. This research suggests that biased, unprofessional behavior of police, prosecutors and judges not only produces concerns of injustice, it cripples law enforcement efforts by making it more difficult for police and prosecutors to obtain the evidence needed to convict guilty parties.[40] More research is needed to evaluate the extent to which their conclusions extrapolate to other groups of people the world over. The rise of ISIL indicates that killing between 0.1 and 1 percent of the population did not in that case provide adequate deterrence to overcome the problems created for local governments in the region by the way the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have been managed.
  • This suggests that any use of force should take special care to minimize death and destruction that may not be necessary for immediate protection of human life (collateral damage) and make substantive efforts to understand better what motivates people to support the opposition. Examples of the latter appear in the discussion of “ISIL's soldiers”, which we consider next.

ISIL's soldiers[edit]

What factors have motivated people to support the Islamic State (ISIL) and other terrorist organizations?

A Reuters report from 16 June 2015 claimed that 90% of ISIL's fighters in Iraq are Iraqi, and 70% of its fighters in Syria are Syrian.[41] While ISIL's Iraqi troops were disaffected by their mistreatment by the U.S.-installed Iraqi government, their Syrian troops were largely motivated by atrocities committed by Assad's forces.[42]

ISIL's troops include 40,000 fighters and 60,000 non-combat supporters across its two primary strongholds in Iraq and Syria.[41] Their strength is based largely on leadership from Saddam Hussein's former officer corps, thrown out of work by “de-Baathifcation,” whereby thousands of Iraqi soldiers became unemployed. Many were imprisoned in the U.S.-managed “Bucca jail, which became a sort of IS university.”[41] Many became mercenaries, working for whomever would pay them, fighting for al-Qaeda at times but working with the US-led coalition during the Iraq War troop surge of 2007.[43]

General McChrystal said that, “mistreating detainees would discredit us. ... The pictures [from] Abu Ghraib represented a setback for America's efforts in Iraq. Simultaneously undermining U.S. domestic confidence in the way in which America was operating, and creating or reinforcing negative perceptions worldwide of American values, it fueled violence”.[44] McChrystal's comments are supported by a report that, “The first of eleven beheadings in Iraq occurred twelve days” after the photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib reached television audiences.[45]

McChrystal also described interrogations of several mid-level leaders of Al Qaed in Iraq (AQI), most of whom chose to cooperate. Some “found themselves uncomfortable with AQI's tactics -- especially the targeting of Shia civilians. Some arrived to the interrogation booths with regret and shame. Still others burned with raw anger that Iraqi lives were expendable to Al Qaeda in Iraq's leadership. Confronting them in moral language was often powerfully persuasive. They were quick to offer up information on impending attacks if we could convince them it was the right thing to do. Early on we learned that our worst mistake with a detainee was to confirm the negative stereotypes of Americans that animated the enemy's mosques and safe houses.”[46] These observations are consistent with the suggestions from the research by Pape, Chenoweth and Stephan, mentioned above, that violence is often counterproductive if the people killed and property destroyed do not pose immediate threats to others.

Some of ISIL's weapons were captured from the corrupt Iraqi military. In Mosul, between 4 and 10 June 2014 a group of at most 600 ISIL troops “were able to seize six divisions’ worth of strategic weaponry, all of it US-supplied” from a force with a paper strength of 120,000 men.[42] This invasion included suicide attacks, which are almost always motivated by a foreign occupation, such as the U.S. forces in Iraq that continued to support the corrupt Iraqi government.[47] The invading troops, officially outnumbered by 15 to 1, were faced by an army where “every officer had to pay for his post”, and made money from soldiers who would kick back “half their salaries to their officers in return for staying at home or doing another job”, and from receiving funds to feed an organization three times the size on paper as were actually there.[48][49] (The actions of the suicide fighters are hardly surprising, since an “estimated 151,000 to 600,000 or more Iraqis were killed in the first 3–4 years of” the U.S.-led military operations in Iraq that began in 2003.)

The recently leaked “Drone Papers” claim that up to 90 percent of the people classified by the U.S. military as “enemy killed in action (EKIA)” may actually be civilians, with most of the rest being people who might threaten foreign troops in their own country but would almost certainly not attempt violence on Western soil. This happens, because the vast majority of drone targeting is reportedly based on signals intelligence such as tracking a cell phone. An ISIL leader may not use a particular cell phone more than a few times before passing it off to someone else. The recipient, who may not otherwise be connected to ISIL, may then be killed in a drone strike. Moreover, the U.S. military reportedly classifies anyone killed in a drone strike as an “enemy killed in action (EKIA)” unless conclusively proven otherwise. To the extent that this is accurate, it creates a huge discrepancy between the official U.S. government reports of exceptional accuracy of the drone program and recruiting for ISIL.[50] One drone strike report described a 67-year old Pakistani grandmother blown to bits in front of her 8- and 12-year old grandchildren while picking vegetables. This might not have been classified as EKIA, if her gender and activity were obvious from the video relayed back from the air-to-ground missile before it exploded.[51] The Al Jazeera special on “The Rise of ISIL” cited above did not mention drones. However, the numbers of people killed by drones is still at most a few thousand, tiny in comparison to the number of Iraqis and Afghanis killed in other ways as a result of U.S.-led operations there.

ISIL's funding[edit]

ISIL reportedly receives financing from the sale of oil and antiquities, and from illicit drugs as well as from taxes, extortion and farming. These include an estimated US$1 billion per year in drugs, between $350 million and $1 billion per year in oil -- mostly sold via corrupt officials in Turkey -- and up to $200 million from agriculture. Some accounts claimed that much of their initial funding came from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.

The role of Saudi Arabia is particularly interesting. Since the 1970s, The Saudis have funded “explosive growth” in fundamentalist Wahhabi Islamic schools, mosques and clerics, preaching the most violent version of Islam. 'Wahhabism has been accused of being "a source of global terrorism", inspiring the ideology of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and for causing disunity in Muslim communities”. Nearly all other strains of Islam insist that Islam is a religion of peace.

Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College and author of multiple books on the Middle East and the Global South, said he'd like the French “to reconsider their $10 billion arms deal with the Saudis, which is making it very difficult for them to maneuver an actual sober policy vis-à-vis Saudi funding and ideological support to both ISIS and ISIS-type figures.” Without that, Prashad suggested that the French are more interested in selling arms than defeating ISIL.[52]


To summarize the above,

When people are killed and property destroyed,
the apparent perpetrators often make enemies.

Fortunately, we don't have to be perfect to succeed at anything: We just need to be better than the alternatives. General McChrystal's interrogators got cooperation from captured enemy combatants by treating them with respect and convincing them that his forces were better than ISIL (and better than the ogres depicted in ISIL's propaganda and in Cheney's One Percent Doctrine).

If what we hear about ISIL is accurate, we can defeat them by living up to our creed -- rule of law supporting liberty and justice for all. That includes being much more careful about “collateral damage”, including limiting air power to non-lethal surveillance and support of ground operations against active combatants -- and not firing unless first fired upon.

Maciej Bartkowski, who teaches strategic nonviolent resistance at Johns Hopkins, recommended first recognizing that if the population controlled by ISIL “decided to unite and rebel, ISIL would fall in the same way more than 50 brutal (and arguably more powerful than ISIL) regimes fell between 1900 and 2006 after people self-organized, withdrew their consent to be governed and engaged in disruptive civil resistance actions.” Indeed, he noted this has already happened on a small scale in, for example, “Mosul where some imams refused to pledge their allegiance to ISIL and a large number of imams’ followers went on the streets to express their support. They were too many, even for brutal ISIL, to challenge them.” He concluded, “Rather than bombing and planning for an armed campaign that is likely to be extremely costly in both blood and treasure, a more effective long-term strategy would be to use military force merely to contain ISIL on the territory it already controls. The containment would be combined with the implementation of communication and social strategies to exploit ISIL’s political vulnerabilities [and thereby] increase fissures within ISIL, defection by its key allies, and dissatisfaction among the local population.”[53]

Bartkowski's suggestions could be enhanced by also fighting the political corruption in Iraq and Syria that contributed to ISIL's early victories. In that regard, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,” according to former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. We can do this by increasing the funds and public demand for investigative journalism regarding corruption and violations of law in international trade especially regarding arms, munitions and oil in all the nations directly and indirectly involved in this conflict. That includes the U.S., Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Russia, France, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other countries making money from the conflict there. Options include the public subsidies for newspaper distribution in the early years of the United States and current news subsidies common in Europe and various forms of citizen-funded journalism.

The goal is to win hearts and minds by deescalating the conflict to the point that the remnants of ISIL and al Qaeda can be handled by routine police work. If successful, it will do the following:

  • Reduce political corruption in neighboring countries.
  • Reduce the flow of money, guns, and new recruits to ISIL.
  • Encourage desertions and defections, which Chenoweth and Stephan (2011) insist accompanied all the successes among the major governmental change efforts of the twentieth century.

These things should also make governments more accountable to their citizens and spur economic growth that is otherwise constrained by the corruption.

This analysis suggests several strategies to minimize further damage from ISIL and maximize the chances of defeating them long term:

  1. Support independent media to help inform the electorate, whose decisions in the ballot box ultimately drives government behavior including the behavior that seems to have created ISIL.
  2. Support more research to clarify why people support ISIL, including especially what the West is doing that helps manufacture support for ISIL -- and mange this research so it cannot be classified to prevent it from being distorted like the fraudulent "intelligence" that drove the U.S. into Iraq in 2003.[54]
  3. Change the rules of engagement for the military to minimize collateral damage, which helps generate support for ISIL.
  4. Seek opportunities to negotiate an end to the hostilities. The RAND study mentioned above found that half of the terrorist groups that ended after becoming insurgencies did so via a negotiated settlement. This will almost certainly be better for the people who would otherwise be killed by a continuation of the armed conflict, especially since repressive regimes often succumb to nonviolent campaigns organized by their citizens.
  5. Make police and intelligence efforts the backbone of of the counterterrorist efforts to the maximum extent feasible, as recommended by the RAND authors, Jones and Libicki (2008), cited above.
  6. Welcome refugees and make it as easy as possible for ISIL supporters to desert or defect,[55] because this helps demonstrate problems with ISIL's propaganda and contributes to their defeat.[56]


Astore, William J. (2014-10-14), Tomgram: William Astore, America's Hollow Foreign Legions -- Investing in Junk Armies, TomDispatch.com, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175907/tomgram%3A_william_astore,_america%27s_hollow_foreign_legions/ 

Chayes, Sarah (2015), Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security, Norton, ISBN 9780393239461 

Chenoweth, Erica; Stephan, Maria J. (2011), Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, Columbia U. Pr., ISBN 978-0-231-15683-7 

Goodman, Melvin A. (2013), National Insecurity, City Lights Books, ISBN 978-0-87286-589-1 

Jones, Seth G.; Libicki, Martin C. (2008), How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida, RAND Corporation, ISBN 978-0-8330-4465-5, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG741-1.pdf 

Kahneman, Daniel (2011), Thinking, Fast and Slow, FSG, ISBN 978-0-374-27563-1 

McChesney, Robert W. (2004), The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century, Monthly Review Press, ISBN 1-58367-105-6 

McChrystal, Stanley A. (2013), My share of the task: A memoir, Penguin, ISBN 978-1-59184-475-4 

Parton, Heather Digby (2014-12-15), "Dick Cheney’s grotesque legacy: Why the record is so much worse than reported", Salon, http://www.salon.com/2014/12/15/time_to_take_the_gloves_off_how_dick_cheney_accomplished_exactly_what_he_set_out_to_do/ 


  1. Steed, Brian (January 19, 2016), Hamilton, Adam, ed., Mesopotamia on Fire: The Historical Context of ISIS, Vimeo, https://vimeo.com/152643273 
  2. Holley, Peter (2016-01-02), Donald Trump featured in new jihadist recruitment video, Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/01/02/donald-trump-featured-in-new-jihadist-recruitment-video/ 
  3. Hénin, Nicolas (2016-01-01), Goodman, Amy, ed., Airstrikes Against Syria are a Trap, Warns Former ISIS Hostage Nicolas Hénin, Democracy Now, http://www.democracynow.org/2016/1/1/airstrikes_against_syria_are_a_trap 
  4. The researchers found 648 terrorist groups active between 1968 and 2006. Of those, 136 splintered, and 244 were still active in 2006 (Jones and Libicki, 2008, p. 19).
  5. Jones and Libicki (2008)
  6. Jones and Libicki (2008, p. xv)
  7. Jones and Libicki (2008, p. 101, Table 5.1)
  8. Jones and Libicki (2008, p. 8)
  9. Schwartz, Felicia (2015-11-23), U.S. to Speed Up Efforts to Fight Islamic State, Says Kerry, Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-to-speed-up-efforts-to-fight-islamic-state-says-kerry-1448289146 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Gobal Terrorism Database [Data file], National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)., 2015, http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd 
  11. Kahneman (2011)
  12. One of Kahneman's (2011) major themes is that nearly everyone tends to overestimate the value of current knowledge and underestimate how far wrong their preconceptions likely are. This approach works fine for most situations -- and helps us avoid wasting time searching for better answers to unimportant questions. However, it tends to produce poor assessments of some of the most important situations we encounter. We could often arrive at much better decisions if we pushed ourselves to identify really important issues and look harder for contrary information for those cases.
  13. Kahneman (2011, p. 138)
  14. Lincoln, Abraham (September, 1962), Meditation on the Divine Will (fragment found and preserved by John Hay, one of President Lincoln's White House secretaries, who said it was "not written to be seen of men.), http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/meditat.htm 
  15. Kahneman (2011, pp. 142-4, 322-3)
  16. Herman, Edward S.; Chomsky, Noam, Manufacturing Consent, Pantheon Books 
  17. See also Documenting crony capitalism.
  18. Lutz, Ashley (Jun. 14, 2012), These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America, Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6?IR=T . See also the Wikipedia discussion of the Telecommunications Act 1996
  19. McChesney (2004, p. 81); see also Wikiversity, “Documenting crony capitalism”, accessed 2014-07-12.
  20. McChesney (2004)
  21. McChesney (2004)
  22. Sacco, Vincent F. (2005), When Crime Waves, Sage, ISBN 9780761927839 
  23. e.g., Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal
  24. Prominent television personality Phil Donahue was fired by MSNBC a month before the invasion, because “he opposed the imminent [invasion and] would be a ‘difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.’” BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan and BBC chairman Gavyn Davies and director-general Greg Dyke resigned under fire for claiming that the British government had “sexed up” a report claiming Saddam Hussein had WMDs.
  25. Kahneman (2011, ch. 22. Expert intuition: When can we trust it?, esp. p. 240). One of Kahneman's examples is anesthesiology (p. 242), because problems with anesthetics can lead fairly quickly to death of the patient. A contrasting medical example is provided by back surgeons, discussed by Harvard Medical School Jerome Groopman. He wrote that back surgery practices in the U.S. are grandfathered to procedures used in the nineteenth century. This lack of research has retarded the development of improved procedures in that field and contributed to the pain of every person world wide who suffers from back pain. This research deficit is a result of lobbying the U.S. congress by companies that manufacture devices implanted in people's backs. Groopman, Jerome (2007), How Doctors Think, Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 9780618610037 
  26. For a summary of the research on financial markets, see, e.g., Siegel, Jeremy J. (2008), Stocks for the Long Run, 4th ed., McGraw-Hil, ISBN 9780071494700 .
  27. Parton (2014)
  28. Ricks, Thomas E. (2012), The Generals, Penguin, ISBN 978-1-59420-404-3 
  29. McChrystal (2014, p. 172)
  30. Chayes (2015)
  31. Goodman (2013, ch. Four. Bush's Surrender to the Pentagon)
  32. Graves, Spencer B. (2005), Violence, Nonviolence and the American Revolution, http://prodsyse.com/conflict/Nonviolence&AmericanRevolution.pdf 
  33. Chayes (2015)
  34. Astore (2014)
  35. Chenoweth and Stephan (2011)
  36. Pape, Robert (1996), Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War, Cornell U. Pr., ISBN 978-0801483110 
  37. Horowitz, Michael; Reiter, Dan (2001), "When does aerial bombing work? Quantitative empirical tests, 1917-1999", Journal of Conflict Resolution 45 (2)  Horowitz and Reiter's study used data compiled by the RAND Corporation for a study funded by the U.S. Air Force; Rand failed to confirm Pape's claims. Byman, Daniel L.; Waxman, Matthew C.; Larson, Eric (1999), Air Power as a Coercive Instrument, Project AIR FORCE, RAND Corporation, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/2007/MR1061.pdf 
  38. Tyler, Tom R. (2006). Why People Obey the Law (With a new afterword ed.). ISBN 9780691126739. 
  39. See also Tyler, Tom R.; Blader, Steven L. (2000). Cooperation in Groups: Procedural Justice, Social Identity, and Behavioral Engagement. Psychology Press. ISBN 1-84169-006-6. 
  40. Tyler, Tom R.; Huo, Yuen J. (2002). Trust in the Law: Encouraging Public Cooperation with the Police and Courts. Russell Sage Foundation. ISBN 0871548895. 
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 Nakhoul, Samia (16 June 2015), Saddam's former army is secret of Baghdadi's success, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/16/us-mideast-crisis-baghdadi-insight-idUSKBN0OW1VN20150616 
  42. 42.0 42.1 "5. 2009-2015: Syria uprising and ISIL in Syria", Enemy of Enemies: The Rise of ISIL, 2015, http://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2015/riseofisil/chapter-five.html 
  43. "3. 2007: The Awakening", Enemy of Enemies: The Rise of ISIL, Al Jazeera, 2015, http://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2015/riseofisil/chapter-three.html 
  44. McChrystal (2014, pp. 200-201)
  45. Miles, Steven H. (2009), Oath Betrayed: American's Torture Doctors, U. of California Pr., ISBN 978-0-520-25968-3  The Wikipedia article on “Beheading video” is a close but imperfect match for this quote from Miles. On 2015-11-27, this Wikipedia article listed a beheading in Paikistan almost 27 months before the Abu Ghraib revelations. It then lists 10 beheadings in the 6 months following the televised reports. The next beheading video was just over 4 years later, on Feb. 7, 2009 in Pakistan, possibly before Miles' completed his book. This count of beheadings seems consistent with Miles' comment, even if it does not match perfectly. Miles continued, “Pursuing justice differs from being consumed by revenge. The former proceeds from crime to investigation, to trial, to punishment, and then to closure. Vengeance is a whirlwind, where atrocity justifies revenge, and revenge becomes an atrocity.”
  46. McChrystal (2014, p. 209)
  47. Pape, Robert (2005), Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, Random House, ISBN 1-4000-6317-5  Pape, Robert; Feldman (2010), Cutting the fuse : the explosion of global suicide terrorism and how to stop it, U. of Chicago Pr., ISBN 9780226645605 
  48. Astore, William J. (2014-10-14), Tomgram: William Astore, America's Hollow Foreign Legions -- Investing in Junk Armies, TomDispatch.com, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175907/tomgram%3A_william_astore,_america%27s_hollow_foreign_legions/ 
  49. "2. 2004-2006: Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi Emerges", Enemy of Enemies: The Rise of ISIL, 2015, http://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2015/riseofisil/chapter-two.html 
  50. Reed, Betsy; Hodge, Roger, eds. (2015-10-15), "The Drone Papers", The Intercept, https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/ 
  51. Goodman, Amy, ed. (2013-10-31), "Too Scared to Go Outside": Family of Pakistani Grandmother Killed in U.S. Drone Strike Speaks Out, Democracy Now, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/31/too_scared_to_go_outside_family 
  52. Goodman, Amy, ed. (2015-11-16), "We Are Scared, We Are Grieving": Muslim Activist in Paris Condemns Attacks, Rising Islamophobia, Democracy Now, http://www.democracynow.org/2015/11/16/we_are_scared_we_are_grieving . See also "We Shouldn't Play into the Hands of ISIS": Vijay Prashad on Danger of Military Escalation in Syria, Democracy Now, 2015-11-16, http://www.democracynow.org/2015/11/16/we_are_scared_we_are_grieving .
  53. Bartkowski, Maciej (2014-12-20), Can political struggle against ISIL succeed where violence cannot?, War on the Rocks, http://warontherocks.com/2014/12/can-political-struggle-against-isil-succeed-where-violence-cannot/ 
  54. Goodman (2013)
  55. Chenoweth and Stephan (2013)
  56. Goodman, Amy (2015-12-07), "Former ISIS Hostage Nicolas Hénin: Welcoming Refugees is the Best Strategy Against ISIS", Democracy Now, http://www.democracynow.org/2015/12/7/former_isis_hostage_nicolas_henin_welcoming