Monday, July 9, 2007

Poverty and Lack of Education Are NOT Linked to Terrorism

More than half a decade since 9/11/01, it seems that America STILL doesn’t understand its enemy in the Global War on Terrorism (WoT). Sure there are fringe characters like Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan who insist that “there is no terrorist threat,” but almost EVERY one of the Democratic candidates for the White House, save Hillary Clinton, seem to think that Military force can and should be replaced with diplomacy.

Even the Bush administration has failed to understand who the enemy is and what. Less than a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush said, "We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror."

A few months later, the First Lady, Laura Bush, said, "Educated children are much more likely to embrace the values that defeat terror," while former World Bank President James Wolfensohn has claimed, "The war on terrorism will not be won until we have come to grips with the problem of poverty, and thus the sources of discontent."

THAT’S the conventional wisdom and it's appealing to many people because it’s in line with the noble cause of fighting poverty and ignorance. But all the systematic study done to date seems to indicate that this “conventional wisdom” is wrong.

According to Alan Krueger and economist at the London School of Economics, "As a group, terrorists are better educated and from wealthier families than the typical person in the same age group in the societies from which they originate," Mr. Krueger outlined the results of his recent studies at the London School of Economics last year in a lecture that will soon to be published as a book, "What Makes a Terrorist?"

Alan Krueger says, "There is no evidence of a general tendency for impoverished or uneducated people to be more likely to support terrorism or join terrorist organizations than their higher-income, better-educated countrymen," he said and that seems to be borne out by some of the most high profile recent terrorist attacks – both the 9-11 and the 7-7 attackers were relatively well-educated and well-off men.

David Wessel writing in the Wall Street Journal notes that, “Mr. Krueger, 46 years old, is one of those academics whose research extends from the standard fare -- How much more do workers with education earn? What happens to employment when the minimum wage rises? -- to, well, cool stuff. Did Firestone factories produce shoddy tires during a period of labor unrest? (Yes) Are rich people really enjoying life more than the rest of us? (No) Are concert-ticket prices higher for female musicians than males? (Yes)”

“When He began poking around this sordid subject a decade ago when he and a colleague found little connection between economic circumstances and the incidence of violent hate crimes in Germany. Among the statistical pieces of the puzzle a small band of academics have assembled since are these:

• 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.”

So if poverty and lack of education DO NOT motivate terrorists, what does?

Well according to Mr. Wessel, “So, what is the cause? Suppression of civil liberties and political rights," and he cites Alan Krueger who notes, "When nonviolent means of protest are curtailed," he says, "malcontents appear to be more likely to turn to terrorist tactics."

While that may well explain some of jihadism’s appeal in the Mideast, it does nothing to explain its appeal among Muslims in the West. No, there’s something more.

As blogger Jeremayakovka ( has astutely noted, “Islam, like Communism is simply incompatible with democracy.”

Jere cites former British PM Tony Blair who said, “The idea that as a Muslim in this country that you don't have the freedom to express your religion or your views, I mean you've got far more freedom in this country than you do in most Muslim countries.”

Blair goes on, “The reason we are finding it hard to win this battle is that we're not actually fighting it properly. We're not actually standing up to these people and saying, "It's not just your methods that are wrong, your ideas are absurd. Nobody is oppressing you. Your sense of grievance isn't justified."

Yes, it seems that like Communism, Sharia-based Islam is simply incompatible with Democracy.

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