I came across an idea this summer that's been rattling around my head... the accidental guerrilla.
The idea came from a book by the same name, written by a former Australian army officer David Kilcullen. The gist of the book is that most of the insurgents or terrorists we fight are "accidental guerrillas." There are a core of true believers out there who infect these accidental guerrillas with their ideology. These accidental guerrillas join the cause not because of they're radicals themselves, but because of circumstance -- often Western intervention. (That's a really abridged summary, if you're intrigued, I'd really recommend picking up the book.)
If that's the case, then the strategy to fight insurgencies and terrorism is in part separating out these accidental guerrillas from the true believers, thereby isolating the true believers from their base of support.
While Kilcullen was just talking about insurgencies in his book, I think the idea of the accidental guerrilla is quite powerful and all around us.
From politics, to technology, to entertainment. We see the accidental guerrillas driving movements. Its why we focus on undecided voters in politics. Its what all consumer brands (especially tech brands) are hoping will buy their products -- moving from the hard core band of early adopters to the majority of the public. And, its how the army finally found success in the Iraq war.
"Beliefs are a member's card to a group of believers." (Schultz, Being Wrong)
Accidental Guerrillas make a decision about which community they want to be a part of of, who they belong with. Sometimes those decisions are social, sometimes cultural or religious, sometimes geographical and sometimes a matter of life and death. When we insult or demean the beliefs of the Accidental Guerrilla, we're insulting and demeaning the believers. That only causes the group to circle the wagons and make their beliefs more hard core not less.
Our beliefs are a story to the world about who were are and what side we're on. So whether its Syrian refugees, anti-vaxxers or Trump voters, the real trick is not just what we say, but how we say it. Accidental guerrillas are all around us, if we take the time to reach out and listen to them, perhaps they'll come over to our way of thinking. Too often we can't see the accidental guerrillas from the real ones and then the lose is ours.