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This Week's Best Foreign Policy Reads

Oct 10, 2015

The Cyber Activists Who Wants to Shut Down ISIS – Simon Cottee, The Atlantic

In July, I traveled to a gloomy European capital city to meet one of the “cyber warriors” behind this operation [against ISIS]. Online, he goes by the pseudonym Mikro… No state intelligence agency assigned Mikro this work. He answers to no one and uses methods that are not only ethically ambiguous, but also beyond any kind of democratic oversight and accountability. Nobody even knows what he’s doing except for his girlfriend and a motley crew of dedicated operatives. His neighbors just think he’s a recluse. To his friends, he’s a computer nerd.

ISIS vs. cyber-nerd vigilante. If there’s a better stand-in for the complexities of modern combat, I haven’t seen it.

What It’s Like to Grow Up as a Closeted Gay Extremist Muslim — Sohail Ahmed, Vice

Getting closer to Allah was always held up as the way to get rid of sinful thoughts, so I prayed more, became more "pious," grew out my beard, and fell further and further into revolutionary Islam. At 16, my mind was so corrupted and hate-filled that I considered a bomb attack on Canary Wharf. Being attracted to an unspeakable atrocity was ultimately the expression of this huge self-destructive streak. I wanted to show my piety and zealousness to Allah, but was truly terrified of spending an eternity of conscious torment in fire for my sexuality. It's hard for secular people to understand how real Hell is to the devout.

Sexual repression meets brainwashing. A combustible combination.

The Secret Maoist Chinese Operation That Conquered Malaria—and Won a Nobel – Jia-Chen Fu, The New Republic

The Vietnam War had exacerbated an epidemiological crisis to which Maoist China responded with nationalist fervor by turning to its institutions of traditional Chinese medicine…[Nobel winner Tu Youyou’s] research has drawn accolades from the international scientific community, while also igniting a debate in the Chinese language media about the celebration of individual inventors over collective group efforts. This too, perhaps, may be part of the legacy of Maoist mass science, which demanded research that served practical needs and engaged the masses. Scientific achievement, while important, was not the be all, end all of scientific work.”

Just as the work of many medieval artists went unsigned because it was dedicated to the greater glory of God, so heroic scientists in socialist countries have gone unrecognized. That’s hard for those of us who live in an individualist ownership society to accept.

Iran’s Identity Crisis – Kim Ghattas, Foreign Policy

For the only theocracy in the region, Iran seems much less overtly concerned with religion than its Sunni neighbors and the only country in the Middle East where people are more secular than their government…The battle to set the tone for the future of Iran is now getting under way. A tussle for influence between hard-liners and reformers, ahead of key elections next year, highlights an internal dynamic that the United States and the outside world must be attuned to.

If the lifting of sanctions raises public expectations for more change and puts a lot more disposable income in people’s pockets, what will that mean for the aspirations of Iran’s young people for a more “modern” way of life and the desire of conservatives to prevent them from having it?

Equal Opportunity Terrorism –Farahnaz Ispahani & Nina Shea, The Weekly Standard

As the Islamic State has evolved, it is relying on women to perform roles beyond wife and mother that, while not involving combat, use or promote violence and provide essential support to the organization. For too long American forces seemed to underestimate such women, taking them to be simply victims within a large undifferentiated class of oppressed women…If the West is to understand and defeat the Islamic State, it must recognize these women for the serious threat they represent, and it must understand that ideology, not gender, explains Islamist extremism.

Sadism has no gender.

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