Intent and analysis

This one really verges on the pathological: “You do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism”. If it’s true, terrorism is unique in human experience: anything you do to oppose it will work!

More commonly,

If you fight floods by constraining the river with levees, you create floods.

If you fight infection with shotgun dispersion of antibiotics, you create more, worse, infections by resistant bugs.

If you fight forest fires by putting out every fire, you create really big fires.

If you fight crime in poor minority neighborhoods by sending white cops in to break heads, you create crime.

If you fight misbehavior in children by beating them with a belt, you create misbehavior.

If you fight AIDS by attacking the CIA for inventing it, you get more AIDS.

If you fight impiety and unbelief by berating the congregation for being so small, you create more impiety.

I think the president may be mistaken.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

8 thoughts on “Intent and analysis”

  1. This one really verges on the pathological: "You do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism".
    You can go the opposite direction as well: "You do not create poverty by giving poor people money." Any conservative should in principle agree that this is consistent with Bush's statement.

  2. Doesn't Bush say enough dumb things that you don't have to misinterpret his words? "You do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism" is a direct response to those critics who say that terrorism happens when the West does not give in to terrorists demands and that the very act of attempting to fight terrorism with force creates more terror.
    If you feel that we should not fight terrorism as Bush does, how would you do it? Or do you think that it will just go away if we ignore it?

  3. misinterpret? I'm quite sure his remark was intended to refute the findings of his entire intelligence system that fighting terrorism from Bin Laden in Afghanistan with an incompetent and corrupt occupation of Iraq has increased terrorism risk. It was offered in his characteristic mode of argument, a vacuous slogan disconnected from the patent facts, delivered in the manner of a fundamental truth.
    It will not go away whether we ignore it or not; some level of terrorist violence is here to stay indefinitely. A higher level is likely following incompetent, immoral, and thieving responses to it. There's no shortage of good ways to manage the situation for reduced harm, right on this blog and elsewhere. These include (for example) forbidding torture and protecting our moral standing instead of trashing it and getting lousy intelligence; protecting the capacity of the military to act when its useful instead of wrecking it in a useless adventure; and thinking carefully about the motivation of the sea of malcontents and enraged poor among which the terrorists swim.

  4. I don't think the President would find your examples persuasive. He's pretty consistently on the side of the literal minded, self-defeating whack-a-mole strategy on those issues.
    Through the books from Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill I've gotten the impression that Paul Wolfowitz (and presumably much of the dominant Cheney/Rumsfeld wing of the administration) argued that we needed to go military (vs. law and order) and get Saddam (vs. Taliban/alQaeda) precisely because counter-terrorism was too much of a whack-a-mole thing. You've got to "drain the swamp" and get rid of those state-sponsors and all will be goodness.
    I agree with the administration that failed states are among the important factors driving asymmetric threats. In fact failed states are to terrorism much the way slums are to gangs/drug violence. But their combined Iraq/Afghanistan strategies have resulted in more "swamp" not less. They used eminent domain to sieze the land, but didn't think about how to pump the water out. Apparently swamps are caused by evil landowners and evaporate spontaneously when deeded over to the good guys.
    So the real irony is that the "don't play whack-a-mole" big thinkers implemented the most expensive version of that game ever.

  5. Russ: "…a direct response to those critics who say that terrorism happens when the West does not give in to terrorists demands…"
    Which critics say that, again? Besides the ones in Bush's imagination.
    What a stupid, stupid thing for such an allegedly important person to say. Especially when, frankly, there are more persuasive rebuttals Bush can make. Here's one I'll give him for free: "You're not counting the other side of the ledger, where we are subtracting more terrorists. (Heh, heh optional.) Those are victories for our side. Of course any enemy being fought into a corner will get madder and fight harder. That doesn't mean we give up."
    You can send the speechwriting fee to my PayPal account, Mr. President. Or just donate it directly to the DNC yourself.

  6. To clarify, the "stupid, stupid thing" and the "allegely important person" in my comment above refer to George W. Bush, not Russ.

  7. Before this post drops away, I should also note that my "free advice" remark contradicts my "speechwriting fee" quip. Next time, I'll try to keep a consistent premise.

  8. Unlike the other items on the list where the attempted cure backfires directly, attacking the CIA for inventing AIDS probably doesn't affect AIDS rates.
    A better example would be people who try to fight AIDS by further stigmatizing gays, IDUs, and other high risk groups.

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