Why is there not more terrorism?

Scott Sumner asks a version of that question:

But here’s what I don’t get.  If America really is this weak and cowardly, then why can’t ISIS easily defeat us?  They could phone in threats against movie theaters just as easily as the North Koreans can.  And there must be 100 times as many Hollywood films that offend ISIS sensibilities as there are that offend Kim.  Recall that women get stoned to death in ISIS-controlled areas for things like wearing a miniskirt.  Then consider Hollywood films, which often show Arab terrorists as villains. So why doesn’t ISIS copy North Korea?  Why does ISIS let us insult them? I don’t get it.

There is more from the Scott on the question here.  This is hardly my area, but here are a few observations:

1. The United States will permit all kinds of mini-outrages against us, provided they are not seen as precedents.  If we were viewed as exploitable at this margin, our reaction, from both the government and private citizens, would be quite different.  In the meantime, pretending that North Korea is a fly to the American elephant may be an optimal response/non-response.  When Obama told Sony it made a mistake by pulling the film, that is exactly what he was doing, namely minimizing the significance of the event on purpose.  He wasn’t trying to scold Sony or even to defend free speech.

2. Often groups such as ISIS are much more offended by what “their own” women do than by what “outsiders” do.  They may even welcome the existence of a certain amount of Western and also Hollywood depravity, to aid product differentiation.  Additionally, don’t forget that some of the 9-11 terrorists seemed to enjoy strip clubs and the like.  Their motivations are not always strictly pious.

3. We don’t have a good understanding of why terrorists don’t attack more than they do.  Perhaps terror attacks can be viewed as belonging to two groups: a) the more or less replicable (Sri Lankan and Palestinian suicide bombings), which are allocated by some set of calculating authorities, and b) the “one-off,” which are governed by a kind of multiplicative formula, under which many things have to go the right way for an attack to happen at all.  9-11 is probably an example here, but without a fixed infrastructure for providing training and motivation and coordination, most terrorists aren’t actually that well organized and they can’t pull much off.  Read Diego Gambetta on 9-11.  Now that U.S. troops are (mostly) out of Iraq, the replicable attacks aren’t there any more either.

4. It remains possible that the U.S. still will retaliate against North Korea, or perhaps already has retaliated in a non-public manner.  It is also possible we have let news of such retaliation or pending retaliation leak to ISIS and other groups in some fashion.

And a final point: in the MR comments section Boonton wrote:

I think this illustrates a difference in perception between North Korea and, say, Al Qaeda. If Al Qaeda was offended by some movie (say the last Batman movie which featured some type of Middle Eastern prison that was nonetheless within walking distance of Gotham city), people would be up in arms about all theaters pulling the movie. Yet not so much North Korea, why?

Al Qaeda is recognized as having an actual agenda is is assumed to be a somewhat rational agent. Hence most of us will give credit to the anti-appeasement argument with them. If we pull one movie they will keep making demands.

North Korea, in contrast, is perceived as an irrational state lead by a child-man dictator. In other words, most in the west see it as essentially an entire nation that is literally mentally ill. We are willing to indulge them a bit because we are not quite sure how ill they really are and just like a deranged person may try to stab you over a napkin on the ground, this is the type of state that may start a nuclear war over a Seth Rogan movie.

Is this perception correct? Is North Korea not just mentally ill ‘on the ground’ but also at the top? Is the inner circle populated by cold rationalists cynically exploiting propaganda to control the masses or have they actually drunk the most Kool-Aid of the entire bunch?!

“Both” is a possible answer of course.

Comments

Simplest answer - ISIS does not, in fact, care about the US. The US is not it's enemy - Shias, moderates and minorities are: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/dec/02/isis-what-us-doesnt-understand/

Yes, but you know how ignorant and stupid US cable TV news is...They need something to do fear-mongering...

I enjoyed your article and broadly speaking agree but it contains several contentious claims(see below). It is, however, correct that at the moment in primary aim is setting up its own version of an Islamic state in the levant, an area which it imagines encompasses Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and maybe Iran. This requires the expulsion and/or murder of minorities, opponents and moderates. However IF this could be achieved then it's aims would expand outwards, perhaps towards the USA. This does not mean that US involvement is wrong, indeed the initial proposal was that action was necessary to protect Yazidi refugees and help the Iraq army, not to launch a war on behalf of America.
Many senior IS figures were involved in the insurgency against the US in Iraq (let alone the general categorisation of the US as the root of all evil so widespread in the Islamic world) and so it's hardly surprising it bears hostility to US citizens. I suspect that without the public executions of US journalists IS would have had many months if not years before anyone was energised into action.

ISIS has made repeated statements about the destruction of Israel and to this end it has attempted to establish affiliates in both Jordan and Palestine
Turkey has been as strong a supporter of Islamist(non IS) groups in Syria as the Gulf States.
Historically there have been repeated periods of violent confrontation between Shia and Sunni groups ever since the original division over the succession including exterminationist campaigns.
I am not convinced by the authors argument that this is a Shia-Sunni war, the main target of IS in Syria are the nominally Sunni Alawites, although they have Iranian support, in Iraq they fight against Kurds who are again Sunni as much as the national army, and it's assorted ISish militias, who are Shia.

In a geo political sense S-S split explains the situation better. Most Sunni Arab States don't wish to be drawn into a war (against their own proxies) that would benefit Iran, nor are they energised by a desire to protect minorities, be they Alawite, Christian or Yazidi. US pressure has actually been relatively successful, from the point of view of the achievable rather than the perfect.

The persecution of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq began long before IS or even Al Qaida in Iraq were prominent.
IS are much less tolerant than traditional Sunni practice, but this is a relative comparison.
Islamic revivalism is not simply Wahhabism it is more widely spread.

The idea that Jordan should lead the war effort is particularly perverse a significant minority of Jordanians either support the general aims of IS, but not necessarily the brutality, or believe IS is part of an Israeli plot. Moreover the Jordanian king is much more moderate than many of his subjects and this would create just the kind of tension that he was been trying to prevent in order to stop the emergence of some Arab spring type movement.

You can tell I'm bored by Christmas Day. Three comments on this topic each less focused.

Are we so sure we know the whole story here?

About the hacker attack? I doubt it... As always, a very dubious cover story brought to you by federal government.

Well, I'm not convinced it's North Korean hacking.

Not only is there a lack of direct evidence (and some evidence to the contrary, e.g. http://gawker.com/a-lot-of-smart-people-think-north-korea-didnt-hack-sony-1672899940 , there is also a long history of government deception to justify conflict.

I remember the Gulf of Tonkin incident, quite likely not as presented.
There's Colin Powell at the UN, talking about the WMD in Iraq.
There's the bait and switch on Afghanistan (we initially said the Taliban could stay in power if they got rid of Al Queda, and weren't interested in regime change; now we're in a quagmire).
(etc.)

No particular reason to be in a huge hurry to believe the government.

"1. The United States will permit all kinds of mini-outrages against us, provided they are not seen as precedents."

Mini-outrages can be laughed off. Micro-aggressions must be responded to with Federal investigations, PSAs and maybe even a beer summit.

Isis wants to control its alleged state. Attacking internal dissenters helps it to instil terror among the populace, weakening resistance. In contrast, needling America is very counter-productive because it could lead to a renewal of military operations and public support for destroying their organisation; better to consolidate first, even if a confrontation is inevitable. Consider it a strategy of appeasement.

If Isis didn't kill American hostages, they would probably be doing better than they are today by minimising the probability of American retaliation. However, the outrage of taking the lives of journalists, aid workers, and other overseas Americans is nothing like that instilled by 9/11.

North Korea can act with greater impunity than Isis. Air strikes and invasion aren't feasible, and they might have the bomb. Feasible American counter-attacks, like losing internet access, don't threaten their regime because it is so isolationist to begin with.

Probably, Americans are more outraged by al-Qaeda than North Korea because the former gang killed thousands of Americans in a single day and it still represents a credible threat to American lives in the future. Cancelling a film just doesn't have the salience of 9/11, right?

"the former gang killed thousands of Americans in a single day and it still represents a credible threat to American lives in the future": yes, but 9/11 required only courage, daring and luck. To pull off another 'spectacular' might require rather more.

The executions brough international bombings, but they also brought legitimacy and massive PR, so I'm not sure it was a strategic error on their part.

As for the phoning in threats, I don't think thats in their favour.

ISIS's brand is that they're unbelievably brutal and willing to cross any line. Ie if you don't surrender we'll behead you and take your women as sex slaves because we've done it a bunch of times before.

If they start making threats they don't back up then all their threats become devalued very quickly, I think this is true for more terror groups.

As for why there aren't more terrorist attacks in the West.

Your terrorist agents needs several qualities.

1) Dedicated/unstable enough to carry out a suicide attack

2) Stable and competent enough to have a reasonable chance of success and not take down a chunk of the network.

3) Reliable enough to not change their mind when they enter a nice western country full of nice friendly targets

4) They need to actually be in the target country.

I suspect it's really hard to find people who combine these qualities.

Huh? There have been numerous cases in recent years of censorship for fear of Islamic acts of violence. The Mohamed cartoon crisis being the most prominent one. Not a single american mainstream publication published the cartoons. Yale University Press refused to print the cartoons in a book dealing with the cartoon crisis.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Many TV shows, art exhibits, plays, articles, scholarly books have been censored or withdrawn. Not to mention the murder of Theo Van Gogh and Pim Fortyn and the murder attempts against Lars Hedegaard, Lars Vilks and Kurt Westergaard.

And the establishment usually supported censorship, because "feelings were hurt", or because of pretended aesthetic criticism or they simply ignored such events. The victims of violent threats are frequently equated with the aggressors. They are said to be no better than the Islamic radicals.

Or, as Obama put it:

"The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied."

ISIS does not engage in these tactics, because other militant Muslims have been doing this for decades.

P.S.: Can anybody name recent Hollywood movies that depict Arabs as villains? The Wikipedia article on the subject lists Rules of Engagement (2000) as the most recent example.

P.P.S.: The 2012 remake of Red Dawn was changed from a Chinese invasion scenario to a North Korean one because of political pressure from China.

John Travolta in Paris with Love. Great movie by the way.

P.S.: Can anybody name recent Hollywood movies that depict Arabs as villains? The Wikipedia article on the subject lists Rules of Engagement (2000) as the most recent example.

Taken (2008). Granted it wasn't about terrorism but the villian was clearly an Arab Sheik who made the mistake of buying Liam Neeson's daughter from a white slave ring.

Iron Man starts out with Tony Stark dealing with being prisoner by an Arab warlord type thug in the middle of a war zone that's some type of stand in for a combination of Afghanistan and Iraq with a bit of Bosnia thrown in.

Syriana (2005) too has plenty of generic Arab badguy types (terrorist, oil billionaire, mercenary etc.). I'm not sure anyone actually saw it so maybe it shouldn't count.

Homeland (2011- ) likewise features an Arab terrorist kingpin as the main villian (though I haven't followed it myself)

There is a difference, though, between 80's and 90's Arab Villians and more recent ones. Just running thru a few movies that come to the top of my head: Back to the Future (Iranian terrorists who sold plutonium to the doc to make a nuclear bomb), True Lies, Delta Force etc. Arab villians were either comic relief or simply evil for the sake of evil. Post 9/11 the change IMO has been an attempt to made to try to be more realistic by making 'Arab' centered storylines 'complicated'. Instead of just bad guys there's allies on the ground who look just like the bad guys, there's bad guys whose motives have mixed sources (i.e. their family was killed by a US bomb that went astray). Even Iron Man had a 'complicated' Arab story line where there were innocent civilians on the ground terrorized by the warlord, a nobel doctor etc.

I think there's two causes for this:
1. The US has had troops in the Middle East fighting for over a decade now. Many return not having meet a simplistic 'True Lies' type of Arab but an appreciation of the complex nature of a different region.

2. 9/11 did focus a lot of public attention on the region which means many people, believe it or not, have put forth a little effort to educate themselves about the region and its peoples. Cartoons appeal less.

What is interesting is how we view North Korea in movies. It feels a lot like how movies of the 80's and 90's viewed Arabs.... Essentially cartoon characters who may be funny but can be scarey.

Your causes are whole un-sastificatory. Why no movies exploring why terrorists and jihadis do what they do, even if were're not vilifying them? Merely having troops in a fight is unsatisfactory, look at the output of Hollywood in the four years of WWII. Then, look at the number of movies where the real bad guy is the US (the Borne series is the standout, but Captain America is also glaring in this category). Even the remake of the Manchurian Candidate offered a Corporation as the baddie. In addition, most of your examples are pretty thin. In Taken, the baddie is an Oil Sheik-- somebody most jihadis would also view as an "other" and as an enemy. The Iron Man scene is fleeting, and doesn't involve the ultimate villain. The other excellent example is the GI Joe films, Cobra Commander is a shadowy, multinational terrorist group. An Al-Qaeda without religion. The fact that movie-makers haven't used them more directly as an un-racist Al-Qaeda stand-in is kinda surprising. So, it is amazing your list is so sparse, and has to reach back ten years.

We seem to be pretty clearly self-censoring on this-- or so self-absorbed as a society, that we can't view anything outside of ourselves as of any real concern.

Homeland (not a movie though a TV show) certainly explores the terrorist motivations.

Long form is probably easier to do so as you have a chance to sell the viewer slowly and build a case for the characters motivations.

I'm not sure WWII is a good comparison. There certainly were post-WWII movies that made more complicated judgements of Japan and Germany (spurred partly on by the fact that the US had to suddenly pivot from Japan and Germany being the total immoral enemy to being the ally against Communism and the fact that post-war occupation meant that US GI's were marrying German and Japanese women, spending time in the countries on recreation etc.). Perhaps Korea and Vietnam are the two wars you should be looking at instead. There's also the fact that WWII simply does not compare to the 'War on Terrorism'. WWII was a total war on several large nation states while the War on Terrorism consist of multiple police actions against sub-nation actors. When World War II ended so did wars like World War II for modern history. The Cold War, if it had becme hot, might have become WWIII but it never did and given nuclear weapons I'm not sure we ever could have something like WWII ever again.

Anyway the request was for recent movies that depict Arabs as villians, not simply jihadists. The oil sheik in Taken fits that bill perfectly as well as the plotline which is "they want to take our sweet innocent daughters for their debauched desires!". In fact being that the villian is so cartoonish the movie almost stands out more as belonging to the 1980's or 90's. Iron Man began in the Middle East but nonetheless it was a Middle East populated by Arab villians. Of course it shifted action after that to the domestic front as it isn't a story line centered in the Middle East. While we are on the topic let's toss in the last Batman movie with its 'cruel' hole in the ground Middle Eastern prison where no light is ever allowed in (although strangely they are wired not only with electricity but also cable TV....did the Dish TV guy have to make that jump to get back to his van too?)

The Bourne series belongs clearly in the spy.v.spy genre where the villian is not so much the US but is a US agency gone rogue. Not unlike the Bond series where Bond might be fighting the Russians but is more often than not fighting what is essentially a 'Cobra' type group that stands outside normal geopolitical disputes.

We seem to be pretty clearly self-censoring on this– or so self-absorbed as a society, that we can’t view anything outside of ourselves as of any real concern

I think it's a bit thin to claim the cartoonish villians of, say, True Lies, represents an enlightened non-self asorbed society rationally looking at external threats.

Or, as Obama put it:...

It's amazing how blind the right is when they try to spin that quote as pro-anti-Islamic censorship. If you actually read what is being said, it is a challenge not to Americans to avoid 'slandering Islam' but to Muslims to condem and reject violence against Jews, Christians and other Muslims while they take offense to things said about their religion. It's amazing how potent partisan blinders are.

What the hell? He's clearly speaking of two different groups there. First, we have "those who slander the prophet of Islam." Then he switches to speaking of Muslims in the next sentence.

It might help to read the actual context of the statement inside the larger speech.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/09/25/remarks-president-un-general-assembly

It is time to leave the call of violence and the politics of division behind. On so many issues, we face a choice between the promise of the future, or the prisons of the past. And we cannot afford to get it wrong. We must seize this moment. And America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future.

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt -- it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted, "Muslims, Christians, we are one." The future must not belong to those who bully women -- it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. (Applause.)

The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources -- it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs, the workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the women and men that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied. (Applause.)

It is pretty clear, IMO, that there are not 'two groups' the President is talking about here....'bad Muslisms'vs'bad Westerners'. The address is aimed entirely at Muslims and the 'two groups' are Muslims who embrace 'prisons of the past' versus 'promise of the future'. The infamous 3rd paragraph would define as 'prison of the past' Muslims who protest offensive material about Islam while ignoring those who desecrate Churches and deny the holocaust. Which given the culture of the region is a pretty powerful challenge. It would have been nice if the right had supported their President there instead of seeking cheap partisan talking points but hey, that's life I suppose.

The reason people dislike this speech is not, or not just, it's misrepresentation by the right. Obama in effect equates attacks by Islamic groups/societies on their own minorities with minor external criticisms. In reality both violent attacks and pervasive discrimination, unlike the cartoons, are a constituent part of life for minorities in the Middle East, in Pakistan and even in moderate Islamic countries like Indonesia. Moreover the idea that the future should not belong to people who "slander" the prophet is both stupid and wrong. Indeed what is need are Islamic societies in which making fun of the prophet is acceptable, for the response to the so called slander and the violence against others are not opposites, they have the same cause.

I don't see any equation made in the speech. The speech is full of criticisms of Muslims only and those criticisms are for serious things (attacking Coptic Christians, attacking girls trying to go to school) and ends with a less serious offsense (making a big deal about slanders against Islam while ignoring desecrating Churches and denying the Holocaust).

Your being disingenuous and reading into the idea that the slander of the prophet is a lesser offence. He says the future must not belong to those people who slander etc but that those critics of the slander must also stop doing their own bad stuff. He is not saying slander is less serious, although he may believe it, he is saying both must stop. This is false equivalence. As a said before a normal society is where people can make fun of the prophet and none of that other stuff occurs either. The reaction to criticism of the prophet is not different to the persecution of non-Muslim members of society it stems from the same root.

This questions might more appropriately be asked, "Can anybody name a living person whose death was glorified in a movie?" It's one thing to have a bunch of fictional Arabs die in media. It's quite another to say let's write a story about killing Bashar al-Assad because that would be good.

Zero Dark Thirty? Or do you mean glorify killing a person who is actually alive at the time the movie is produced? Even in WWII I don't think they made a movie about killing Hitler ala Inglourious Basterds?

Or in answer to your question more directly, the only name I can think of is Sadaam Hussein in the first South Park movie.

I agree totally. But the center of self-censorship and kowtowing to Islamic thought control is in the universities, which is why Prof. Cowen can't see it, any more than a fish can sense water. Cowen and his fellow academics only notice cowardice and subservience when other people do it. Matt. 7:3.

What exactly is 'self-censorship'? Does it even make sense as a concept? It sounds like saying "this guy should agree with me, but he doesn't, he must know better and must be censoring himself rather than just expressing a belief that is at odds with my own!"

The following is adolescent bullshit: "Recall that women get stoned to death in ISIS-controlled areas for things like wearing a miniskirt." In fact, the mini would warrant, say, a hundred lashes. However, they shoot women that refuse to "marry" jihadis, and behead those that refuse to convert. It's not terror. It's in the Book.

During WWII, the Japanese imperial war machine similarly forced local "comfort women" in occupied territories to "service" the troops.

Those guys could teach a few tricks to Ming the Merciless.

I would just observe that Sumner's instinct is shared by many. So many that people are willing to accept extraordinary powers of government so they can intuitively answer the question with "because there are US government ninjas and super spies running all over the world stopping the COBRA, er, ISIS." In my view, one of the greatest dangers to liberty in the modern world is that people do not understand why there isn't more terror and chaos. If you see civilization as an unstable equilibrium, this is the model you are left with.

A few points.

According to Lawrence Wright in the Looming Tower, the various security agencies in the US had a pretty good composite of what was planned, but it wasn't in one place and as in 1938 the most dangerous enemy of the US Army was the US Navy. There were individuals who had a vague picture, but they weren't taken seriously enough at the time. That likely wouldn't be the case now, and in retrospect it would have been trivially easy to disrupt the execution of 9/11. Suicide bombers are by definition a rather inexperienced lot.

There are terrorist attacks, but of a different nature and less spectacular. The shooting in the Canadian parliament followed a killing of a Canadian serviceman. Australia had one over a week ago, France has had a couple in the last few days. The US has had a couple Islam motivated killings as well.

The flypaper strategy in Iraq worked.

What the North Korean situation illustrated is what has been happening for a long while with regard to anything that may elicit a reaction from Islamists. Salmon Rushdie would not be published today, and if actions of the US government are any indication, probably would be arrested for inciting violence. The Danish drove Ayaan Hirsi Ali out of the country, Canada went after a magazine that published the Danish cartoons. The Obama administration vigorously blamed the Benghazi attack and other turmoil at the time on a movie. I fail to see why someone with an axe to grind wouldn't push a bit. The North Koreans seem to have pushed and golly gee everyone backed off pretty quickly.

The last time someone managed to pull off something that did serious damage to the US ended up with Saddam gone, Afghanistan, Pakistan cowed for a while, a couple hundred thousand dead. Someone with the ideological fury and the smarts to organize this kind of thing needs someone else with some money. There may be a bit of hesitation there.

Why would any Islamic crank try to pull off something in a large US city with the inherent risks and probability of failure when they can have a country in North Africa for the price of showing up? Or half of Iraq?

Yep. ISIS is in a do or die fight for the big prize and hasn't the time or energy to worry about US stuff.

ISIS and Al Qaeda have two very different goals.

Al Qaeda was a 'high level' group dedicated to a Holy War with the West. As a result their inclination was towards things like 9/11 or the Africa embassy bombings. Their goal, if you will, is to score a lot of 'likes' on the Jihadist version of Facebook.

ISIS wants to be an actual government for Sunni Muslims in Syria and parts of Iraq. This requires a lot of fund raising which is why they kidnap Westerners and kill Americans. America doesn't pay ransoms, Europe does, kidnapping raises tens to hundreds of millions. Osama Bin Laden achieved a level of pan-Muslim appeal by attacking the West in a high profile manner while avoiding getting bogged down in a lot of day to day running of life in Muslim lands. He got lots of websites full of fans and merchants who sell t-shirts with his face on it. ISIS is aiming for something different.

Let me thank Tyler for addressing my question, though I thought he had a different question in mind when I read the title, "Why is there not more terrorism"?

I had this question after 9/11 and now that a mentally ill criminal shot two cops in NYC as revenge for grand juries refusing to indict cops. We've had a few 'lone wolf' types attempt or pull off smaller scale terrorist attacks in sympathy with Al Qaeda. Before that we had militia types who advocated terrorist attacks against the US gov't for revenge against Waco. Add to this every now and then you get an attack that is totally out of left field (school shootings by mentally ill losers, the subway attack in Japan by a religious cult, the unabomber, of course there's abortion clinic bombers too).

Why are there so few of them? Consider every time I drive by a propane place I note that all it would take is for someone to plant a small bomb there in the middle of the night to make a huge explosion. Imagine 5 or 6 cheap vans are purchased and loaded with fertilizer bombs and placed not at high profile buildings but simple shopping malls with lots of people. Or even just that father and son sniper team that spent weeks shooting people around the DC area before they were finally caught.

It seems like there are lots of opportunities for terrorist attacks to happen and they can be done without the terrorists having to kill themselves or even run a high risk of being caught. So why so few terrorist attacks?

I mean we had tens of thousand of people protesting police abuse, many of them quite angry. We have a portion of the population that is either armed at any given time or has easy access to a gun if they want it. Despite tempers raging in some of the protests, no one just starts shooting....when the shooting does finally happen it's from someone not even connected with the protests, not even from the place the protests happened. Why aren't there 20, 30, 50 different shootings at all different spots and times?

Likewise there are hundreds of thousands to millions of Muslims in the US at any given moment. If even 1% of them were inclined towards violence we should easily see 9/11 levels of death on a weekly basis. Yet we don't despite Islamophobes endlessly arguing that violence and terrorism are essential to Islam's DNA.

So we indeed have a lot of missing violence here. Why?

"The starry heavens above me and the moral law within me"

I see a hell of a lot of Christians who aren't poor, too

http://www.gwern.net/Terrorism%20is%20not%20Effective#on-the-absence-of-true-fanatics

I don't know about the US but in the UK and Australia the security agencies/police have been successful in foiling multiple medium scale attacks through monitoring potential suspects and through good relationships with moderate community members. US/International action destroyed the central command and control structure of Al Qaida and IS don't have a similar structures in place to carry out attacks. This just leaves the lone wolf type attacks that we have seen in the past few months.
In reality only a very small proportion of people want to carry out violent attacks. When I was growing up a significant percentage of people in my parents community supported the IRA, some gave direct support (financial etc) some campaigned others simply cheered when the heard of murders that had been carried out but most just felt that whatever the IRA did Protestants and or the English deserved what they got. Only the tiniest number ever became directly involved. However in Northern Ireland the situation was reversed, the very same extended families had significant numbers of people directly involved, the majority in support and only a tiny number of dissenters.

I kind of feel, though, that at its worst the IRA-English conflict was more like Iraq is today....periodic bombings, murders, kidnaps. In the West and especially the US, terrorism is more like school shootings. Few and far between and when they do happen they are almost entirely 'lone wolfs'.

Excellenct law enforcement is not the answer IMO. Look at illegal drugs. When a small but non-trivial portion of the population wants to do something, they accomplish it mostly with ease. If large numbers of people wanted to attack the US, they would do so and FBI informants/internet monitoring would do little to stop them.

FWIW, judging by google data on search terms, porn seems to be quite popular in the Arab world:

http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2014/12/porn-in-the-middle-east-the-elephant-in-the-room.html

No, it's economics!

There are many reports that suicide bomber's families are paid, and the Palestinian authority pays prisoners.

You could not merely dial-a-terrorist in the US like you can in the desperately poor middle east, it would take $$. Hiring someone in the US? Even $25k to the family like Saddam used to pay would not go very far. How much did they spend to send 20 people to flight school, and live in the US?

Just like you could not get 3000 people to line up to clean iPad screens like you can in China, it is going to be much harder to get people to line up to kill themselves in the developed world. And, the people who are inclined to take on danger can make money selling illegal drugs.

I would argue we do see homegrown terrorists from time to time, from Timothy McVeigh to Adam Lanza... and who knows, maybe someone is out there plotting to kill people, right now, but it's a much cheaper endeavor to do it overseas.

The opportunity cost of terrorism is much higher in the US, with (comparatively) lower unemployment rate.

Who says people would have to line up to kill themselves? We've had abortion clinic bombings, bombings by the radical left in the 70's, eco-terrorism. Many cases the terrorist was never caught. It was only a loose license plate that got Tim McVeigh captured. It seems like fear of death or capture is not enough of a hurdle against terrorism to explain the lack of terrorism in modern society.

Why the assumption the Sony hack was by North Korea? I give it a p =.5 that it was North Korea based on my understanding of the arguments on both sides. The FBI story sounds pretty weak.

Never mind miniskirts .

I almost got stoned for walking topless on a hot day in Palestine and I'm hair as heck. I didn't see the stones, but once I figured out to put my shirt on I realized that overnighting in that town was very much not an option. A few km out of town someone came to offer a ride to the next town.

Terrorists have to produce larger and larger spectacles or risk demeaning themselves. One can view ISIS as caving to the statism of their enemies and an evolution away from terrorism which is a dead end after all.

Not sure this is the case. Iraq and Afghanistan have seemed to have lurched into a norm where every now and then someone sets off a car bomb or suicide bomb killing a dozen people or so. Terrorists are not shy about attacking for fear that they can't one up the huge spectacle that happened last time.

ISIS has basically transformed into a government. That being said, I'm pretty sure the CIA trained lots of ISIS members and may have even created ISIS to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria for control over nat gas supply lines.

It wouldn't be the first time that they had trained a group to fight a common enemy, only to find that the donor was also the common enemy with the group they were paid to fight against.

Money never has been a particularly effective way to buy loyalty. Brainwashing might work, but once people figure it out, they might decide to agree that freedom in a system that does not treat people excessively like objects is something worth fighting for.

Some of their big announcements are just so nuts that it really does seem plausible that some of them may have been brainwashed by someone who wanted to use them for one end, but then they realized that they were being used as pawns.

Well, the situation on the ground is pretty clear. They are not a welcome influence in the Middle East, regardless of how responsible who may or may not be for their origins, capacities, etc.

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So when I first found out about this program I was
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They will, once they have nuclear weapons.

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