The story that claims that bombing will solve the problem of ISIS is a story that leads us nowhere

A basic point that Nicolas Hénin makes in Jihad Academy (2015), a study that is featured at a previous post, is that some news stories lead us astray.

With any story, it’s useful to consider where the evidence leads, and to go with the story that is based upon the strongest evidence,  rather than with the story where the evidence in insufficient, incomplete, not corroborated by other sources, or missing.

I support the position of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who argues that joining in the bombing of ISIS is not the best way to address the challenges posed by the crisis in Syria and Iraq. There are better ways, as both Justin Trudeau and Nicolas Hénin cogently argue.

Along with analysis of events on the ground in the Middle East, Hénin offers a positive view of a way forward, as the following text from Jihad Academy (2015) demonstrates (pp. xiii – xiv):

“The challenges posed by this crisis are new and require a comprehensive response. A reaction based solely on policing, legal measures and intelligence is doomed to fail. Likewise, a military operation, regardless of the means mobilised, can only spell disaster, since the intervention of ground troops (except for the discreet efforts of special forces) is out of the question, as there is no support for it. When the frustration of a youth from the European suburbs combines with the rage of a Syrian persecuted by his own country’s security forces, it’s easy to understand why public agencies need to work together. Diplomatic efforts must apply pressure to bring about political transition in the states concerned. Humanitarian organisations need to act, because there is no better breeding ground for extremism than entire populations in despair.

“It will be no easy task. Competing powers are involved in the crisis in Syria and Iraq, each hoping to strengthen its own position. The Russian-Iranian axis believes its survival is at stake. For the Gulf monarchies, it provides a way of containing the ‘Shia Crescent’ while strengthening the conservative tendencies within the Arab Spring. Turkey, having had to abandon its good-neighbour diplomatic policy, is now trying to suppress Kurdish claims at the same time as containing the jihadist thrust. But Turkey does not understand that the countries in the region don’t look favourably on its neo-­Ottoman imperialism. Finally, the West, as so often, views the crisis in terms of security, and has a particular fixation on Israel; it remains entangled in contradictions over the vital issues of human rights and the protection of civilians.”

[End of excerpt]

Stories that seek to explain, and that act as a basis for addressing, income inequality

I read with interest an April 6, 2016 Atlantic article entitled: “Is America Having the Wrong Conversation About Income Inequality?”

The subhead reads: “One sociologist says that there’s too much of a focus on giving out more college degrees, getting more people married, and making elite workplaces more diverse.”

This is a valuable article. We as human beings use stories to make sense of the world around us.

In this regard, it’s a great idea to take care, when choosing a story when seeking to make sense of income inequality.

So, I highly recommend the article. It offers a framework for choosing a story that best addresses the topic if income inequality.

Gated communities; gating as a state of mind

A passage in the April 6, 2016 Atlantic article attracted my attention, given my interest in the role of gated communities as they relate to governance practices in contemporary China.

I am also reminded of a historic gated community, called Long Branch Park, that was developed in the late 1880s in what is now the neighbourhood of Long Branch in Toronto.

The passage, which strongly took hold of my attention, in the April 16, 2016 Atlantic article reads:

White: Speaking of politics, you identify several issues that contribute to growing income inequality, including political sway in the form of lobbying, rent-seeking, and under-investment in public good. Is there one factor you think is more problematic than the others?

Leicht: I think one of the biggest things is disinvestment in public goods. When you produce extreme amounts of inequality, then there’s a segment of the population that can basically purchase private access to just about anything that they want. They can live in a gated community, they can have a private police force, they can send their children to private schools, they can send their high-school graduates to private universities. They can set up their own enclave neighborhoods. So when inequality gets to a certain extreme and you can opt out of all those things, then suddenly the welfare of your neighbors is not something you have to deal with or take care of.

[End of excerpt]

March 23, 2016 article by Nicolas Hénin

A March 23, 2016 Guardian article by Nicolas Hénin is entitled: “In the fanatical world of Isis, your duty is to kill and die.”

The subheading reads: “If there is any hope in the Brussels outrage, it is that there are still humans in the bombers’ ranks who refuse to meet their death.”

The Atlantic article by Gillian B. White and the article and book by Nicolas Hénin address the same fundamental question: What do we do with regard to the inequality that currently exists, and that is growing more extreme with the passage of time, in the distribution and management of the finite resources of the world? Gillian B. White and Nicolas Hénin, in their respective overviews of things, point in directions that make good sense to me.

Related topics

An April 5, 2016 Brookings Institution article is entitled: “Why are efforts to counter al-Shabab falling so flat?”

I became interested in the Brookings Institution article after reading an evidence-based overview years ago, about the economic benefits, to a country, from effective early childhood education. It was based on the work of Fraser Mustard, among others. I was super impressed and have been reading longread articles at the Brookings Institution website as a primary means of keeping up with in-depth reading about world events.

Previous posts at my website, under the category of military history and related topics, highlight evidence-based analyses of topics addressed by Gillian B. White and Nicolas Hénin, among others.

The topics include, among others:

Elite storytellers

An Aug. 3, 2015 [that is, last year] article at is entitled: “Exposing the false prophets of social transformation”

The subhead reads: “A growing group of elite storytellers present radical solutions to global problems, but their ideas actually inhibit real change and strengthen the status quo.”


An April 12, 2015 Brookings Institution article – entitled “Everyone says the Libya intervention was a failure. They’re wrong” – adds an additional perspective, regarding the topics at hand.

Two studies that provide backstories related to the topics at hand include:

The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time2nd Beacon Paperback Ed. (2001; originally published 1944)

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (1999)


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