October 15, 2003
Terrorists are Rational
Reilly at Boycott Hollywood questions a comment by the Archbishop of Canterbury:
You can be quite rational and still go out and commit a terrorist act. Rationality deals with the thought process terrorists engage in. If the terrorist's aim is to drive the United States out of the Middle East then a way to do that would be to increase the human costs for U.S. citizens. Taking the lives of thousands of people in New York and Washington, D.C. is a rational approach. Did it accomplish al-Qaeda's ends? No, but that doesn't mean bin Laden, et al. were irrational for carrying out the September 11 attacks. It just means they miscalculated. The opposite of rational behavior isn't irrational behavior it's, to use Ludwig von Mises' words, "a reactive response to stimuli on the part of the bodily organs and instincts which cannot be controlled by the volition of the person concerned."
Calling terrorists irrational takes away some of their moral responsibility. By calling them irrational we make them seem they're not in control of their actions. Let's remember these monsters want to kill as many people that get in the way of their goals. They plot out attacks with complete understanding that innocents will be killed. They're quite rational even if monstrously immoral.