Remember last week when the Obama administration told us that terrorism is caused by poverty and joblessness?
Let’s take a look at the research and see if this is true.
Here’s the working paper, authored by a Harvard University scholar from the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
And here’s the abstract:
This article provides an empirical investigation of the determinants of terrorism at the country level. In contrast with the previous literature on this subject, which focuses on transnational terrorism only, I use a new measure of terrorism that encompasses both domestic and transnational terrorism. In line with the results of some recent studies, this article shows that terrorist risk is not significantly higher for poorer countries, once the effects of other country-specific characteristics such as the level of political freedom are taken into account. Political freedom is shown to explain terrorism, but it does so in a non-monotonic way: countries in some intermediate range of political freedom are shown to be more prone to terrorism than countries with high levels of political freedom or countries with highly authoritarian regimes. This result suggests that, as experienced recently in Iraq and previously in Spain and Russia, transitions from an authoritarian regime to a democracy may be accompanied by temporary increases in terrorism. Finally, the results suggest that geographic factors are important to sustain terrorist activities.
More from the body:
However, recent empirical studies have challenged the view that poverty creates terrorism. Using U.S. State Department data on transnational terrorist attacks, Krueger and Laitin (2003) and Piazza (2004) find no evidence suggesting that poverty may generate terrorism. In particular, the results in Krueger and Laitin (2003) suggest that among countries with similar levels of civil liberties, poor countries do not generate more terrorism than rich countries. Conversely, among countries with similar levels of civil liberties, richer countries seem to be preferred targets for transnational terrorist attacks.
I know this is shocking – this the same administration that told us that insuring more people for more stuff would lower health care premiums… and that anyone who though that Russia was a threat was crazy… and that pulling out of Iraq would stabilize the region… could they be wrong about this Jobs for Terrorists program, too? The study seems to say they are wrong again.
But wait, there’s more. We actually know about some terrorists from their terrorist attacks, and we can see if they were as poor and uneducated as the Obama administration tells us they are.
This article is from The Stream.
According to scholar Scott Atran, a research director in Paris who is part of a NATO group studying suicide terrorism, there is no link between poverty and terrorism. Forensic psychiatrist and former foreign service officer Marc Sageman studied 172 participants in jihad for his book, Understanding Terror Networks, and came to the same conclusion. Princeton economist Claude Berrebi found that members of Palestinian terrorist organizations were frequently better educated and better off economically than the Palestinian Arab population as a whole.
Islamic terrorists tend to come from cosmopolitan backgrounds, are fluent in multiple languages and have advanced computer skills. Their privileged status enables them to accomplish such horrific acts undercover, often without being detected.
Osama bin Laden was the son of a billionaire construction magnate, who had close ties to the Saudi royal family. The younger bin Laden inherited $25–30 million of his family’s wealth. He studied economics and business administration at King Abdulaziz University.
Bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who replaced him as the leader of al Qaeda, came from wealthy Egyptian parents. His father was a surgeon and medical professor, and his mother came from a politically active, financially successful clan. Al-Zawahiri also became a surgeon, even obtaining a master’s degree in surgery.
The leader of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mohammad Atta, studied architecture in Cairo, Egypt, then entered an urban planning graduate program at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg in Germany. His father was a lawyer and his mother came from a wealthy farming and trading family.
The “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker and businessman. His father was the chairman of First Bank of Nigeria and has been described by the UK paperThe Times as “one of the richest men in Africa.” Umar studied at several universities, including University College London, where he studied Engineering and Business Finance and earned a degree in mechanical engineering.
One of the 2005 London bombers left an estate valued at over $150,000. Dawood Ibrahim, who coordinated the 1993 Mumbai bombings, is worth somewhere between $6 and $20 billion. Ibrahim despised his father’s successful banking profession, condemning it as “immoral” and “un-Islamic” for charging interest, and urged him to quit.
Now, my understanding is that when we elect politicians to run the economy, foreign affairs, etc. that we are picking people who understand the issues – not merely people who give speeches that sound nice. If I am hiring someone to fix my car, I don’t want to hear his pet theory about how gremlins are causing the leak. I want people who can see the world clearly, apart from any political correctness or anti-American bias, so that the problems get solved. I want the problems solved effectively and cheaply – that’s what I am used to in the private sector, where competence matters. It seems to me that the next time we have an election, we ought to elect someone who can do the work – not someone who just talks a lot of counter-factual nonsense.