Guest Post: Jihadists and the Nisei soldiers

A guest post by Jim Rose:

Japanese Americans interned during World War II jumped at the chance to volunteer to fight.They saw it as their last chance to prove their undivided loyalty to their country.

One Japanese father, when saying goodbye to his son, stressed that showing his loyalty to his country, if necessary through the last full measure of devotion was far more important that his returning safely to his family.

The 442nd Combat Regiment Team was the most decorated unit in World War II. Its motto was “Go for Broke”. The 4,000 Nisei soldiers in April 1943 had to be replaced nearly 2.5 times. In total, about 14,000 men served, earning 9,486 Purple Hearts.

Migrants are a cut above regarding initiative and judgement. They pass many of these traits on to their children. These Japanese Americans, both migrants and native born knew that counter-signalling was required. They had to go out of their way to show their loyalty no matter how unfair any suspicions of disloyalty among Japanese Americans might have been at the time.

I am reminded of that counter-signalling by Japanese Americans during the darkest days of World War II when I read the remarks of Julie Anne Genter and Jeremy Corbyn. Both focused their pleas on the need to be inclusive and understanding why people join violent, radical groups. They and the rest of the Twitter Left had nothing to contribute regarding strategies to deter the next attack and disrupt those that are in the planning stage, but that is not new.

The notion that bad behaviour towards minority communities leads to more recruitment to the terrorists is overrated. There will be a few wind-bags who say harsh things after each terrorist attack, but if they cross the line, they will be dealt with by the police and courts in a democracy governed by the rule of law.

Acrimony towards your community following the latest terrorist attacks has little to do with the level of recruitment to these terrorist groups either now or in the past. As Alan Krueger explains:

One of the conclusions from the work of Laurence Iannaccone—whose paper, “The Market for Martyrs,” is supported by my own research—is that it is very difficult to effect change on the supply side. People who are willing to sacrifice themselves for a cause have diverse motivations. Some are motivated by nationalism, some by religious fanaticism, some by historical grievances, and so on. If we address one motivation and thus reduce one source on the supply side, there remain other motivations that will incite other people to terror.

Malcontents join the jihadists today for the same reasons they joined the Red Brigade, the Japanese Red Army Faction and Baader-Meinhof gang in the 1970s and 1980s.

Plenty of young people were attracted to communism in previous generations as a way ofsticking it to the man. Now as then economic conditions were good as were political freedoms. Italy, Japan and Germany were all at the peak of recoveries from war. Japanese incomes are doubled in the previous decade. Germany and Italy were rich countries. As Alan Krueger explains:

Despite these pronouncements, however, the available evidence is nearly unanimous in rejecting either material deprivation or inadequate education as important causes of support for terrorism or participation in terrorist activities. Such explanations have been embraced almost entirely on faith, not scientific evidence.

Each generation has its defining oppositional identity. Radical Islam is the oppositional identity of choice for today’s angry young men and women. Mind you, they have to buy Islam for dummies to understand what they’re signing up for.

In previous generations, it was communism, weird Christian sects, eco-terrorism, animal liberationist terrorism and a variety of domestic terrorists of the left and right with conspiratorial motivations. Look at the level of diversity of the angry young men and women on the domestic terrorists list of the FBI. One jihadists when interviewed said that 30 years ago he would probably have become a Communist as his vehicle for venting his frustrations.

There is always an ample supply of troubled and angry people so trying to redress their grievances is overrated as Alan Krueger explains:

…it makes sense to focus on the demand side, such as by degrading terrorist organizations’ financial and technical capabilities, and by vigorously protecting and promoting peaceful means of protest, so there is less demand for pursuing grievances through violent means. Policies intended to dampen the flow of people willing to join terrorist organizations, by contrast, strike me as less likely to succeed.

The current appeal of radical Islam rests on what psychologists call personal significance. The quest for personal significance by these angry young men and women is the desire to matter, to be respected, to be somebody in one’s own eyes and in the eyes of others.

A person’s sense of significance may be lost for many reasons, including economic conditions. The anger can grow out of a sense of disparagement and discrimination; it can come from a sense that one’s brethren in faith are being humiliated and disgraced around the world.

Extremist ideologies, be they communism, fascism or extreme religions are effective in such circumstances because it offers a quick-fix to a perceived loss of significance and an assured way to regain it. It accomplishes this by exploiting primordial instincts for aggression, sex and revenge. MI5’s behavioural science unit found that

“far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could… be regarded as religious novices.” The analysts concluded that “a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation”

Most evidence point to moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, for a sense of belonging and purpose as drivers of radicalisation. Anthropologist Scott Atran pointed out in testimony to the US Senate in March 2010:

“. . . what inspires the most lethal terrorists in the world today is not so much the Quran or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends, and through friends, eternal respect and remembrance in the wider world”. He described wannabe jihadists as “bored, underemployed, overqualified and underwhelmed” young men for whom “ is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer . . . thrilling, glorious and cool”.

Chris Morris, the writer and director of the 2010 black comedy Four Lions – which satirised the ignorance, incompetence and sheer banality of British Muslim jihadists – said “Terrorism is about ideology, but it’s also about berks”.

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