The reason is the existence of "sacred values," which make a hash of standard analyses, explains Prof. Scott Atran, an expert on Islamic terrorism who teaches at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris and at John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York.Wow. They're finally grasping that not everyone in the world makes decisions rationally. About #$%&ing time.
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Although White House sessions with Middle East experts have been widely reported, less well known is that social scientists have a seat at the table, too. Prof. Atran, for instance, has briefed the Homeland Security and National Security councils on his research. Social science, he says, "has the attention of policy makers."
Sacred values are ideals so transcendent they have no equivalent in anything material. . . . Seeing actions through the lens of sacred values makes explicable what seemed irrational by the usual cost-benefit analysis.
This is why I've always hated the "realist" school of foreign policy thought. Its practitioners have this lovely assumption that everyone in the world makes decisions through rational cost-benefit analysis, with the mutual goal of maximizing personal prosperity and security. That barely serves to explain domestic conflicts in Western democracies. When dealing with tyrants seeking glory through conquest, or maniacs who see genocide as an end it itself, it makes the "realists" easily manipulated suckers. Such as the ones who set up the latest cease-fire in Lebanon.