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Ordered to Kill, part 3 of 3: Who refuses to kill?

Photo credit:

In the first two parts of this series, I asked what type of soldier commits a mass killing. My last post emphasized the scary extent to which most people will conform to social pressure, including the pressure to kill innocents. Today, I want to ask what type of person will refuse orders to kill civilians. To see how soldiers answered ... Read More »

Ordered to Kill, Part 2 of 3: Why do they do it?


In my previous post, I asked what type of person commits a mass killing during wartime. I noted that a similar pattern occurred in many massacres: a minority of sadistic soldiers enthusiastically led the killing, another minority refused, while most reluctantly participated. I also argued that the most common explanations do not hold up to scrutiny – few soldiers can ... Read More »

Independence or accession: thinking about Pakistan’s goals for Kashmir

Photo: The Hindu

Noted security studies expert Hafiz Saeed had this to say about developments in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, on this most auspicious of days: “No one could defeat the Muslims… If America had to run away, then India, you will have to leave Kashmir as well,” said Saeed amid chants of ‘al-jihad, al-jihad’. Saeed expressed support for all Kashmiri leaders and ... Read More »

Why isn’t there a “Muslim party” in India?

Indian Symbols

When might we expect the development of an ethnic/communal/identification-based party in a polity? First, if the society at large is divided along ethnic or communal lines. Second, if other ethnic communities have already organized a political party on such bases. Third, if political demands in the society that happen to be couched in ethnic or communal terms find a more ... Read More »

Ordered to Kill, Part 1 of 3: What type of person commits an atrocity?

Photo from

On March 16, 1968, American helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson Jr. was flying over the South Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai when he noticed a ditch filled with bodies. He then watched in horror as a U.S. Army Captain shot an unarmed Vietnamese woman at close range. Thompson immediately landed his helicopter and confronted the Americans, “…these are human beings, unarmed ... Read More »

Self-Immolation as Political Protest: Powerful Beginning or a Tragic End?

Malcolm Browne, 1963

In June 1963, a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, committed suicide by lighting himself on fire to protest religious discrimination by the South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem. Journalist David Halberstam, who witnessed the act, described his reaction as being “too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think.” When President ... Read More »

When could a conspiracy theory be true?

TimeOut Chicago

As Ahsan’s affirmative action hire for this blog, I know little about Pakistani politics, even less about football, and all I know about Younis Khan is that Farooq bares an unhealthy obsession with him. What’s more, I’m currently knee deep in historical research for my dissertation, so I’ll limit my occasional contributions to random musings on political/historical events that I ... Read More »

A conversation with Ayesha Jalal


A few months back, I exchanged a bunch of emails with Ayesha Jalal, renowned historian at Tufts, and a model for budding social scientists from South Asia and elsewhere. We discussed how she got into academia, why more Pakistanis don’t go into the social sciences and humanities, what the differences are between teaching Pakistani students at LUMS and American students ... Read More »