One of my favorite books is "Seeing like a State" by James C. Scott. It chronicles the capabilities, limitations, and propensities of the sensory apparatus of the state. This, alone, is a fascinating concept, but now it provides a fascinating window into the failure of the Nation-State system to understand what is really happening with a situation like the recent Fort Hood shootings by (allegedly) U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan.
Our societal sensory system likes to categorize things--probably because it's an aggregation of human sensory systems that function similarly, and because it's an evolutionarily successful strategy (from a media capture standpoint, not human biological survival). At present, US media is grappling with this question: was Maj. Hasan a "terrorist," or just "psychotic"? Of course, this is a false dichotomy, but the reasons why it is false, in my opinion, illuminate a fundamental failing of the Nation-State system that is growing increasingly problematic for its survival.
The media's categories of terrorist vs. psychotic is an attempt to divide an expansive continuum of actors into two neatly distinct sets that resonate with the over-simplified american understanding of global events post-9/11. Not only is it inaccurate and misleading, but it also highlights fundamental structural weaknesses of our current system as outlined below.
While still a false dichotomy, I think a more useful categorization is to view individual actors' motivations as a mix of influence/control of an outside hierarchy and individual feats of self-organization based on freely dispersed influences (memes, though that term has met with mixed reception). While the media seems intent on categorizing Hasan either as someone that was acting at the behest of a "radical yemeni cleric" or as someone who "snapped," my categories better capture that all actors represent some mix of self-motivated emergence and strict hierarchical control.
Understanding the continuum of individual actors as emergence of memetic influences: philosophy, religion, economic circumstances, individual neurochemical feedback-loops.
The false dichotomy resistance--it's just action, and the Nation-State's insistence of framing the issue in terms of enemies and opposition fundamentally fails to understand the problem.
Rose-colored glasses: the security-state's understanding of the challenge posed by the "lone-wolf" threat, and the desire to categorize perceived threats to facilitate the illusion of control (e.g. that they aren't "lone-wolfs"). Because this emergence is not intentionally crafted as an opposition to the state, the state's efforts to fight an "enemy" fail to exert any leverage on the center of gravity of the problem.
Ultimately, the Nation-State lacks understanding and ability at what I've called "Guided Emergence." Some may suggest that the Nation-State is, in fact, highly competent in this area but is simply hiding its ability to control the masses (i.e. UN black helicopters or Bilderbergers). I reject this--the Nation-State is neither this monolithic nor this competent. Instead, evidence suggests that the Nation-State's efforts to fight the symptoms of an emerging global threat are fundamentally misguided. Of course, as I set forth in my thesis on the future of the Nation-State, the process of guided emergence is antithetical to the constitutional nature of the Nation-State itself, one reason why I see little future for that institution. Quite the Catch-22.
This phenomenon can be see not only in the current media fixation on salafi jihadism, aka "Islamic Terrorism," but also environmental movements, nationalist movements, etc. I've even toyed with facilitating the Nation-State's use of the concept of guided emergence in my former job as a counter-terrorism analyst focused on dams and water/electrical infrastructure. There, I suggested that rather than follow the traditional "interdict/prosecute" model of domestic counter-terrorism, we would be better served by guiding followers of, say, Derrick Jensen, away from the idea that they can achieve their goals by destroying dams and toward the idea that they can best address the fundamental causes they seek to rectify by, for example, pursuing something akin to the Diagonal Economy. Needless to say, this idea wasn't well received by the Nation-State apparatus.
Can the Nation-State guide emergence of the global threat away from its own centers of gravity? Can improved public diplomacy solve the problem, or are the demands of the Western Nation-States (e.g. the maintenance of standard of living and relative temporal and geopolitical position via exploitation of the global commons and a global South) simply too antithetical to the concept of guided emergence? Alternatively (and perhaps diabolically), will the western Nation-States exploit the gene/meme interface via political story-telling (e.g. Ayn Rand), nationalist religions (e.g. an updated take on National Socialism)? Or will our consciousness itself bifurcate or metastasize in a fundamentally game-changing way as Julian Jaynes suggests happened several thousand years ago?
I'm only beginning to grapple with these issues, but I do feel confident that fluency with the politics/psychology, meme/gene interface will be the core competency in the future struggle between competing political structures (e.g. hierarchy vs. Rhizome, the Diagonal Economy vs. the Market-State).