The Great Debate

Islamic State’s rules of attraction, and why U.S. countermoves are doomed

By Peter Van Buren
October 21, 2014

Demonstrators hold placards outside the U.S. embassy near to where a 9/11 anniversary memorial was being held in central London

The U.S. State Department is producing anti-Islamic State propaganda to persuade American and other would-be jihadis not to join the extremist group. It’s ham-handed, and often sarcastic, and unlikely to have the intended effect.

Here’s why Israel loses no sleep over Islamic State

By Dimi Reider
October 21, 2014

A masked man speaking in what is believed to be a North American accent in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014 is pictured in this still frame from video

At first sight, it seems that Israel is just as preoccupied with the rise of Islamic State as anyone else. Israeli media report diligently on the extremist group’s assault on the Kurdish town of Kobani and run at least a story every few days on its atrocities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu references Islamic State frequently, as do other Israeli ministers. And the stories of two Palestinian citizens of Israel who died fighting for the group have been recently featured in the press.

Being the ‘indispensable nation’ is killing American democracy

By Robert L. Borosage
October 20, 2014

U.S. military personnel take pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama as he speaks during visit to Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad

America — proudly dubbed the “indispensable nation” by its national-security managers — is now the entangled nation enmeshed in conflicts across the globe.

from Jim Gaines:

Clear-eyed dissent from Supreme Court’s ruling to allow Texas voter ID law

October 18, 2014

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Before dawn on Saturday morning, the Supreme Court issued a terse, unsigned ruling that, in effect, endorsed Texas’s voter-ID law, the most restrictive such law in the nation.

from Jack Shafer:

GamerGate: We now know what evil lurks in the heart of man – or trolls

By Jack Shafer
October 17, 2014

A girl dressed in costume plays a video game at the PAX East gaming conference in Boston

For the purposes of this column, all you need to know about "GamerGate" is that it has earned writer Anita Sarkeesian, game entrepreneur Brianna Wu, and developer Zoe Quinn violent threats from anonymous Internet sources (here's coverage in the New York TimesReason, the Washington PostVoxHuffington Post, the Guardian, and Gawker, if you want to know more).

from Stories I’d like to see:

Hospital turns to PR to fight Ebola

By Steven Brill
October 16, 2014

A general view of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas

This New York Times story on Thursday outlines the damage done to the  reputation of  Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas as a result of its mistakes in dealing with Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan. The hospital, the Times reports, has now “hired Burson-Marsteller, the global public-relations firm, to help tell its side.”

As the midterm elections near, it’s unclear who can vote

By Ari Melber
October 17, 2014

Poll worker Catherine Smith looks over a voter ID at the Cottageville Municipal Complex during the U.S. presidential election in Cottageville

With less than three weeks until the midterm elections, the rules for voter ID keep changing — and many key races hang in the balance.

Joining Islamic State is about ‘sex and aggression,’ not religion

By Arie W. Kruglanski
October 16, 2014

Militant Islamist fighter waving a flag, cheers as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province

It is easy to look to religion for an explanation of why young men — and some women — become radicalized. But it is psychology, not theology, that offers the best tools for understanding radicalization — and how best to undo it.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Why markets ignore good news from U.S. to focus on bad news from Europe

By Anatole Kaletsky
October 16, 2014

A trader watches the screen at his terminal on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York

What’s spooking the markets?

One thing we can say for sure is that it is not the slightly weaker-than-expected retail sales that triggered the mayhem on Wall Street on Wednesday morning. Most U.S. economic data have actually been quite strong in the month since Wall Street peaked on Sept. 19.

Is Ebola the real ‘World War Z?’ (Spoiler alert: It’s not)

By Max Brooks
October 16, 2014

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In 2006, I released a novel about a global zombie plague that drives humanity to the brink of extinction. While the zombies may have been fake, I tried to anchor the human response (political-military-economic-cultural) in reality. I studied the history of pandemics, natural disasters and industrialized warfare. I interviewed doctors, soldiers, journalists and someone who “has never gotten a check from the CIA” in an attempt to illustrate the fragile global systems that shield our species from the abyss. As a result, I’ve been repeatedly asked if the current outbreak of Ebola is the real-life incarnation of my novel. As much as any author would love to crow about how “I predicted this!”, this time, I’m happy to say, my fictional plague could not be more different from the truth.