Friday, July 06, 2007

STUDY: WHAT REALLY DRIVES TERRORISM? Princeton economist Alan Krueger, author of What Makes a Terrorist? has found that--as indicated by the broad involvement of Muslim doctors in the terrorist attack in Britain--terrorism is not driven by poverty.

Instead, among the things he found:
• Backgrounds of 148 Palestinian suicide bombers show they were less likely to come from families living in poverty and were more likely to have finished high school than the general population. Biographies of 129 Hezbollah shahids (martyrs) reveal they, too, are less likely to be from poor families than the Lebanese population from which they come. The same goes for available data about an Israeli terrorist organization, Gush Emunim, active in the 1980s.

• Terrorism doesn't increase in the Middle East when economic conditions worsen; indeed, there seems no link. One study finds the number of terrorist incidents is actually higher in countries that spend more on social-welfare programs. Slicing and dicing data finds no discernible pattern that countries that are poorer or more illiterate produce more terrorists. Examining 781 terrorist events classified by the U.S. State Department as "significant" reveals terrorists tend to come from countries distinguished by political oppression, not poverty or inequality.

• Public-opinion polls from Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey find people with more education are more likely to say suicide attacks against Westerners in Iraq are justified. Polls of Palestinians find no clear difference in support for terrorism as a means to achieve political ends between the most and least educated.
Not everyone agrees with Krueger, who has his own theory on what drives people to terrorism:
When nonviolent means of protest are curtailed," he says, "malcontents appear to be more likely to turn to terrorist tactics.
This makes the Middle East in general, and Gaza in particular, fertile ground--especially with Islamism as the fuel.

The myth that terrorism is simply caused by poverty is easy and convenient, and will stick around. But if we are going to allow ourselves to be so easily mislead, we cannot win the war on global terrorism.

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