No sex for terrorists *UPDATED*

I spoke this weekend to a law enforcement agent who works in domestic counter terrorism.  He said what we all know:  one of the ways in which Islamic radicals recruit previously apathetic young men is through sex.  Not actual sex, but the manufactured sex of rock videos.  In other words, terrorist recruiters have figured out what Detroit knew in the 50s — if you attach a pretty lady to the product, men will associate that product with pretty ladies, and they’ll buy.

It turns out that one of the ways to counter this fantasy is to make it very clear that, not only will the product not produce fantasy sex, it won’t produce real sex either.  Evelyn Gordon writes about the fact that, slowly but steadily, Israel has used warfare to defeat the Intifadah.  I strongly recommend reading the whole article, but I’ll share one point here:

Palestinian terrorists, once lionized, were now unmarriageable, because the near-certainty of Israeli retribution made marriage to a wanted man no life. As one father explained: “I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one. I want her to have a good life, without having the army coming into her house all the time to arrest her while her husband escapes into the streets.” And therefore, the terrorists were quitting.

Most terrorists aren’t die-hard fanatics, and non-fanatics respond to cost-benefit incentives. When terrorist organizations rule the roost, recruits will flock to their banner. But when the costs start outweighing the benefits, they will desert in droves. And then the “unwinnable” war is won.

UPDATE: A reader emailed me saying that the word “warfare,” in my sentence that “Israel has used warfare,” sounded incomplete. He’s right, since warfare can connote all sorts of different tactics, both military and otherwise. I meant conventional warfare, as opposed to the one-sided diplomacy the international community keeps trying to foist onto Israel.

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  • David Foster

    I’ve also seen research suggesting that the presence of an attractive woman causes men to have a much nearer-term time focus, ie to discount the future more heavily…can’t remember the details of the experiment. Wonder whether it works with fantasy images (“72 virgins”) as well as with real women…

  • Ymarsakar

    Foster, I’ve heard similar research conclusions. Meaning, when men are thinking about women or vice a versa, their long term goals are decremented in favor of short term gains.
    “But when the costs start outweighing the benefits, they will desert in droves. And then the “unwinnable” war is won.”
    This is all part of the secondary effects of going in and slaughtering people when available. Book mentioned the Nazis doing this to suppress the locals but the fashion in which many people use it is when they don’t even know who is guilty and they can’t occupy or control or gain the loyalty of the residents. So they go in and kill a bunch of people at random and hope it deters somebody or other from fighting back. It doesn’t usually work out in the long term. The really effective way to use the method of mass public executions is to link it with local loyalist efforts and good intel.
    When villagers start realizing that people who join the insurgency will be obliterated down to their last living relative, while on the other hand the occupation offers them good jobs, a recovering economy, and a future, it’s not going to take long for people to realize which side they should back. It is a way to hijack local families and tribal networks and use the authority already in place to deter things. Not simply go in a village and go out and hope whatever damage you do makes the locals too afraid to act.
    For insurgency to win, rather than counter-insurgency, you use much of the same types of dynamics. AL Qaeda got in trouble with the Sunni tribes because they kept pissing off the Sunnis and killing Muslims in market places. Sometimes a flock of kids around US vehicles too. The locals eventually got sick of it, but what could they do, when AQ was inside their villages, living there, and the US Army and Marines were ready to bust in and kill both of em? Eventually tribal leaders figured out that if they went against AQ, there was a way to make the US leave them alone. So they tried that out. Then the US conducted a reciprocal offer to the Sunnis and they ended up allying against Al Qaeda for common goals. Once they started fighting together, the cultural barriers started getting broken down and actual communication could result. For people who don’t study wars historically and how diplomacy works in reality, not in Ivy League theory, it is a perfect case example of conflict and cooperation leading to mutual respect and understanding.