Friday, July 13, 2007

Does Misunderstanding Work?

Having recommended an interesting paper by Max Abrahms, discussed in my recent post Does Terrorism Work?, Bruce Schneier has now posted a longer commentary about Correspondent Inference Theory, in which he makes the following important point.
"Perversely, Bush’s misinterpretation of terrorists' motives actually helps prevent them from achieving their goals."
This follows logically from Abrahms' paper, although I can't see anything perverse about it. Surely the point is that Bush's failure (or refusal) to appreciate the motives of the terrorists works here to Bush's advantage.

Leaders in conflict situations often fail to appreciate the motives of the other side. But sometimes they may understand more than they admit. Pretending to misunderstand is a well-established tactic. Not just against terrorists but against political opponents.

So does it make any difference (to the course of history) how much Bush really understands?

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