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Open Access Publications from the University of California

American Thinking About Violence in the Middle East


A Nation of Puritan Engineers, a.k.a. the USA, is singularly ill-equipped to understand something as complicated, as paradoxical, and as deeply historically rooted as Middle Eastern violence. As the heirs of the Puritans, we tend to be self-righteous in our certainty that we have the truth. Further, we believe that the truth is singular, and we are confident that vengeful violence in defending that truth is divinely sanctioned. As engineers, we believe that all problems have solutions, and that the past (and history) don’t matter, and that our new technology, and our organizational prowess, will always find a solution.

None of these perspectives is useful if one wants to reduce the suffering spawned by violence, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere. Our mind-set repeatedly leads us astray, and we become lost in a wilderness of complexity our minds cannot comprehend.

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