Engineering Terror

by Henry Farrell on September 11, 2010

Makes it into the “New York Times Magazine”:

bq. in the ranks of captured and confessed terrorists, engineers and engineering students are significantly overrepresented. Maybe that’s a numerological accident. The sociologist Diego Gambetta and the political scientist Steffen Hertog don’t think so.

bq. Each month, Gambetta and Hertog’s database grows. Last December, Abdulmutallab’s attempt over Detroit. In February, Joseph Andrew Stack, a software engineer, crashed his plane into I.R.S. offices in Austin, Tex. In March, John Patrick Bedell, an engineering grad student, opened fire at an entrance to the Pentagon. In early May, Faisal Shahzad (bachelor of science in computer science and engineering) was arrested at Kennedy Airport for a failed attempt to set off a bomb in Times Square. Also in May, Faiz Mohammad, a civil engineer, was caught at Karachi’s airport with batteries and an electrical circuit hidden in his shoes. And going back, of the 9/11 conspirators who had been educated beyond high school, eight studied engineering. As this list suggests, the phenomenon isn’t confined to Muslims or Middle Easterners.

Status quo ante bellum

by John Q on September 11, 2010

Nine years after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, we’ve all had plenty of time to think about war and its justifications. My own views have moved me steadily towards the viewpoint that war is hardly ever justified either morally or in terms of the rational self-interest of those involved. The obvious problem is that, if no one else is willing to fight, an aggressor could benefit by making demands backed by force. It seems to me, however, that this problem can be overcome by admitting that self-defense (including collective self-defense) is justified only to the extent of restoring the status quo ante bellum. That is, having defeated an aggressor, a country is not justified in seizing territory, unilaterally exacting reparations or imposing a new government on its opponent. Conversely, and regardless of the alleged starting point, countries not directly involved should never recognise a forcibly imposed transfer of territory or similar attempt to achieve advantages through war.

This isn’t a novel idea by any means, but I haven’t found an adequate discussion, and the discourse of International Relations theory seems to me worse than useless, being dominated by unrealities like ‘international realism’ , opposed to the strawman of ‘idealism’. Just war theory seems a bit more satisfactory, but I haven’t found it helpful in relation to the hard cases. [1]

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