Thursday, January 31, 2008

Knowledge, he says, is the antidote to anxiety.

The name of this blog has the word "know" in it because I take particular interest in the idea and power of knowledge - not just knowledge of things, but of how we know what we know.

So, I'm always happy to see people who are clearly experts in their fields talking about the importance of 'knowing'. In a first page story in today's LA Times , Greg Krikorian writes about terrorism expert Brian Jenkins, who has worked on this topic since he was a Green Beret in VietNam and for forty years at the Rand Corporation.

In some ways, Jenkins knows too much. He is immersed routinely in risk assessments and intelligence reports brimming with the stuff of nightmares. His assessment: "We are not going to end terrorism, not in any future I see."...

He is a relaxed frequent flier, traveling more than 200,000 miles a year, much of it to terrorism conferences or briefings around the world.

And he thinks the country can cope as well.

"During the Cold War both the U.S. and Soviet Union spent a great deal of time and money understanding each other. To a great extent, that spared us from mutual annihilation," Jenkins says.

Similarly, he says, in the war on terrorism "we have to have a better understanding of what we're up against." Demonizing terrorists as "wicked and evil" plays into their hands, while learning about "their quantifiable goals and understandable motives" demystifies them.

Knowledge, he says, is the antidote to anxiety.

The challenge is complicated, however, by evolution. Terrorist methods, motives and members keep changing.

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