The comments on my Three Axes to Explain Terrorism post inspired what I am going to say here.
1. I believe that human population includes both B’s and C’s. B’s are inclined temperamentally or ideologically to use violence to control others. C’s are not so inclined, and they seek ways for people to interact peacefully.
2. If there were no B’s in the world, C’s could adopt a simple rule of never engaging in violence. However, such a rule when followed by C’s produces a very bad equilibrium if there are B’s in the world, because it leaves the B’s unchecked.
3. To check B’s, C’s must be willing to commit violence against B’s. This makes C’s a bit like B’s, but I do not believe that this implies total moral equivalence. As one commenter put it,
The distinguishing factor is intention. The civilized nation should be motivated towards living peacefully so long as that is a live option. It does not intend harm to non-combatants and does as much as it can to avoid civilian casualties – the barbarian groups murder non-combatants in gruesome ways for shock value.
4. One of the mechanisms that C’s will use is a state and its government. When C’s organize a state and its government, they create institutions that seek to constrain the government’s ability to use violence, so that it is only used to protect against B’s. These institutions are necessarily imperfect, but this does produce a more civilized (and libertarian) outcome than (2).
5. The apparatus of a state can be taken over by B’s. See the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. That is a major risk of (4).
6. In his comment, Handle writes,
progressive politicians and the leaders of majority Islamic countries are trying to convince [both Islamophobes and radical Islamists] that there is no link between Islam and political violence, and, at least tacitly, if we can all just get people on all sides to shut up and quit insisting there is such a link, then it will quickly cease to exist and we can reify the claim and bootstrap a decoupling into existence.
In other words, if you deny that Islam is connected to B’s, then that will be self-fulfilling. Conversely, if you insist that Islam is connected to B’s, then that will be self-fulfilling.
Unfortunately, I do not think it’s that simple. In the story about the Belgian prison, the WaPo reporter wrote
Proselytizing prisoners used exercise hours and small windows in their cells to swap news, copies of the Koran and small favors such as illicit cellphones. Gradually, they won over impressionable youths
[my emphasis]. If the prisoners had become C’s as a result, that would be fine. But instead they turned into worse B’s.
7. I do not believe that we can rely solely on the Koran to turn Muslims into C’s. I do not believe that we can rely solely on the Bible to turn Jews or Christians into C’s.
8. I think that C inclinations must be reinforced by a web of institutions, including families, the state, and civic associations of all kinds. My concern with Islam is that it privileges religion ahead of everything else, which reduces the ability of other institutions to play their civilizing role.
9. I have a similar concern about progressivism, in that it privileges the state ahead of everything else. As Yuval Levin points out in his forthcoming book, The Fractured Republic, progressives seem to extol the individual and the state, while opposing churches, corporations, and every other intermediate institution.