Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Terrorist Circles

As I considered Mumbai, living in Jerusalem, a few hundred yards from many such attacks, I came upon this paragraph during my bedtime reading, in Adam Gopnik's lovely book, Through The Children's Gate. Adam is recalling a conversation in New York, just after 9/11. Think of it as we judge what President-elect Obama means by wedding military power to other power:

Later that day, I bump into F.A., the Arabist, and we have a talk about What Is To Be Done. I ask him if there is anything we can do about madmen who worship psychopathic gods. And he says something obvious but interesting: that there's nothing to be done about the core, the real nuts, but they exist, as human beings must within concentric circles of culture: an immediate circle of murder-minded sympathizers and financiers; a circle just outside that of sympathizers who would not do such things themselves but will not stop them from happening; a circle beyond that of people who choose not to know what is being done but sympathize with the radical purpose; a circle beyond that one of the fearful and even sentimentally sympathetic--and on and on, each circle of culture outside the actual nucleus of evil a little larger and a little less regular in its orbit than the one before, and therefore able to be dried up, reduced, set loose. Attack and persuade the outer circles of culture to abandon the inner circles, and eventually, the core will be all alone, isolated and futile.