Economist: Terrorism not caused by poverty, best countered by … democracy

posted at 3:53 pm on November 13, 2007 by Allahpundit

It’s Prof. Alan Krueger, author of a forthcoming study of terrorism and lately featured here in one of See-Dub’s posts on myths (and truths) about terrorism. Good lord — he’s gone and validated the Bush doctrine.

On the demand side, terrorist organizations want to succeed. The costs of failure are high. So the organizations select more able participants—which again points to those who are better educated and better off economically.

One of the conclusions from the work of Laurence Iannaccone—whose paper, “The Market for Martyrs,” is supported by my own research—is that it is very difficult to effect change on the supply side. People who are willing to sacrifice themselves for a cause have diverse motivations. Some are motivated by nationalism, some by religious fanati­cism, some by historical grievances, and so on. If we address one motivation and thus reduce one source on the supply side, there remain other motivations that will incite other people to terror.

That suggests to me that it makes sense to focus on the demand side, such as by degrading terrorist organizations’ financial and technical capabili­ties, and by vigorously protecting and promoting peaceful means of protest, so there is less demand for pursuing grievances through violent means. Policies intended to dampen the flow of people willing to join terrorist organizations, by contrast, strike me as less likely to succeed…

One set of factors that I examined did consis­tently raise the likelihood that people from a given country will participate in terrorism—namely, the suppression of civil liberties and political rights, including freedom of the press, the freedom to assemble, and democratic rights. Using data from the Freedom House Index, for example, I found that countries with low levels of civil liberties are more likely to be the countries of origin of the perpetra­tors of terrorist attacks. In addition, terrorists tend to attack nearby targets. Even international terror­ism tends to be motivated by local concerns…

Consistent with the work on international terrorist incidents, countries with fewer civil lib­erties and political rights were more likely to be the birthplaces of foreign insurgents.

He’s not really validating the Bush doctrine since he says nothing about whether democracy could/should be imposed by force or how the formation of new political grievances as a result of that force might affect the supply of terror vis-a-vis the lowered demand. He does, however, seem to support Bush’s basic theory of how to solve the problem. Which isn’t especially controversial: Harvard, of all places, was turning out studies years ago connecting terror to political repression and the left for the most part has wised up enough to jihadi demographics that they don’t push too hard on the poverty angle anymore. It’s education and wealth, says Krueger, that frees the would-be Osama from worldly concerns like ekeing out a living and turns his mind towards grander things; hence his analogy of jihad to voting and protest, that are typically engaged in by the upper and middle class, than to basic criminal activity.

The weak spot here is how he shunts religious fanaticism off to the side as one of many intractable causes too numerous to resolve in toto and therefore not even worth addressing individually. That’s an awfully cavalier attitude to take when those various causes are all uniting under the banner of religious fanatics. Perhaps the next study will focus on a little cause and effect for that dimension of the problem. In the meantime, your exit question: How do Krueger’s findings bode for Musharraf’s emergency rule in Pakistan?

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I can’t agree with you in calling this concept the “Bush Doctrine”, Allah. This mindset has been used throughout most of this century to address the former Cold War.

For all of the failing Bush has perpetrated in his second term, it would be far too generous to credit him with using a tried-and-true strategy for the current conflict as being the definitive applicant.

MadisonConservative on November 13, 2007 at 4:00 PM

Is very similar to this story I got from Strategy page

It isnt poverty but Ignorance that promotes terrorism

November 7, 2007: One thing that keeps the Islamic world favorably disposed towards Islamic terrorism is widespread fear and hatred of the Western world.Opinion surveys continue to show that Moslems hate and fear the West, more than Westerns hate and fear Moslems (despite the growth of Islamic terrorism.)

The fear comes largely from the poor economic, political and scientific performance of the Moslem, especially the Arab, world when compared to the West. It’s a perverse expression of jealousy and resentment.

That brings up another obstacle. For a thousand years, there has been a struggle between a large segment of the Islamic clergy, and Moslem scientists and engineers. In a pattern that persists to the present, Islamic conservatives condemned many things that are “new” as “un-Islamic.”

The education shortage results in less wealth. GDP of all Islamic countries is a fifth of the European Union and the United States (which contain half as many people.) Unemployment rates are much higher in Islamic countries, and most are ruled by dictators or monarchs. Without science, education and democracy, you find that science and economic progress cannot flourish.

William Amos on November 13, 2007 at 4:00 PM

How many more times do Muslims have to democratically vote for Shari’a before this idiotic theory dies a much-belated death?

Five? Ten? A million? Infinity?

Loundry on November 13, 2007 at 4:04 PM

Is democracy in America’s best interest when you have Sharia-lovin’ electorates? If you like the elected Palestinian government, you’ll love what happens in Pakistan.

Valiant on November 13, 2007 at 4:04 PM

That’s an awfully cavalier attitude to take when those various causes are all uniting under the banner of religious fanatics.

Well said.

Weight of Glory on November 13, 2007 at 4:06 PM

How do Krueger’s findings bode for Musharraf’s emergency rule in Pakistan?

That’s a hell of a question. Will Democracy save Pakistan, or will Musharraf save Democracy?

Free Constitution on November 13, 2007 at 4:07 PM

In the meantime, your exit question: How do Krueger’s findings bode for Musharraf’s emergency rule in Pakistan?


Musharraf needs to give it up and have elections. He needs to form a coalition with Bhutto and crack down on any and all provocatuers while scaling back his power. If not he and we risk an all out uprising that could see the Taliban coming out of the hills to control Islamabad. In that scenario it would tak a military leader to control them, like Turkey to keep them off of the nukes.

This entire situation seemes to have an inevitable negative outcome.

Theworldisnotenough on November 13, 2007 at 4:09 PM

Islam = poverty and
Islam + poverty = Terrorism

terrorism + (Screwing with the U.S.) = Ass whoopin’

Greg’s Therum

TheSitRep on November 13, 2007 at 4:15 PM

dang, theorem

TheSitRep on November 13, 2007 at 4:15 PM

Economist: Terrorism best countered by … democracy

Too bad he’s wrong.

2Brave2Bscared on November 13, 2007 at 4:20 PM

TheSitRep on November 13, 2007 at 4:15 PM

Um, Dude.

Theworldisnotenough on November 13, 2007 at 4:09 PM

That isn’t going to happen. When in history has a military leader commenced the ‘cracking down’ upon his scaling back of power? By the way, Mushy is a military leader.

Free Constitution on November 13, 2007 at 4:21 PM

Islam = poverty and
Islam + poverty = Terrorism

Yeah, that’s why we’ve got Muslim doctors trying to blow themselves up in the UK. Good thinking.

The savage ideology of Islam is the root cause.

2Brave2Bscared on November 13, 2007 at 4:22 PM

The savage ideology of Islam is the root cause.

2Brave2Bscared on November 13, 2007 at 4:22 PM

You are correct!

TheSitRep on November 13, 2007 at 4:27 PM

How long will it take until people learn not all the world is Western? How can someone examine the underlying forces driving terrorism in certain cultures without addressing any of the specifics of the cultures, themselves. What I usually see are people analyzing everyone in the world as though they were some little European nation that just went off the tracks a little and can be steered back by making their lives look as much like our lives as possible. Different cultures react differently to the same circumstances.

I cannot take any analysis of motivations for terrorism seriously if the analyst doesn’t even address the particulars of the culture that might be problematic, how they could be changed, and how they are different from Western models.

Not everyone wants individual freedom above all and not all cultures are able to even handle it without imploding, or worse.

I put as the simplest example that of Turkish “democracy” where the military is placed above all, constitutionally. No Westerner would ever accept such a system (as we are neurotic about civilian control of all) but that seems to be the only system that has worked to bring any individual freedom with self-rule to a muslim society that has been stable and trustworthy – so far. But it, obviously, can happen, just not in the Western mode.

progressoverpeace on November 13, 2007 at 4:34 PM

How come secular dictatorships don’t breed suicide bombers?

This study shows how to prevent civil wars – not suicide bombers.

AlexB on November 13, 2007 at 4:36 PM

Iraq had democracy with Saddam. You got to vote for Saddam, and nobody else. Isn’t that Democracy?

That’s what there is in Massachusetts when there is only one name on a ballot and it’s next to “Democratic”, and sometimes another name next to Green/Rainbow party.

Hening on November 13, 2007 at 4:49 PM

Democracy also gave us genocidal fascistic dictators…and Jimmy Carter.

Healthy economies seem to be effective at underpinning a content, peaceful society.

And well-armed civilians ;-)

Ochlan on November 13, 2007 at 4:52 PM

for it to work, you need a force of good, such as our Military(see Japan, Korea..), to hold down the oppressing forces in these countries, to give it a chance. Without that, its a longshot in the Middle East if not impossible.

the policy makers, have relied heavily on what they learned from the Cold War…..see Sarkozy’s book, “case for democracy”

jp on November 13, 2007 at 4:56 PM

It’s a chicken-and-the-egg situation: democracy is impossible without religious tolerence.

logis on November 13, 2007 at 5:33 PM

I guess when you talk about promoting democracy and economic issues Capitalism must not have anything at all to do with being part of the solution. I never hear that word mentioned by any politician or would be pundit.

Egfrow on November 13, 2007 at 5:51 PM

Doesn’t Islam teach that life here on earth is only passage to eternal life?
I thought I read, or misinterpret whichever the case may be, from Robert Spencer’s Blogging the Quran series that the end goal is to reach heaven, or whatever version of Islam heaven is, by whatever means necessary, and that martyrdom is the easy quick way, the cliff note version of jihadism and getting into heaven. (run-on)

So, there’s no class envy when strapping a bomb on yourself.

Kini on November 13, 2007 at 7:16 PM

As a novice at observing Islam: as it is both a religious and political system all bundled together with sharia law, how can any “Muslim democracy” ever vote for anything other than a (very undemocratic) theocracy?

Muslims voting for anything other than sharia theocracy seems to be a pipedream.

Where am I wrong? This is really depressing.

fred5678 on November 13, 2007 at 7:36 PM

Wait a darn minute. They have a Problem with “westerners”? As in John Wayne? Clint Eastwood? This can’t be so, I read that book by the Afghani guy (the Kite Runner ~ worst book evah!) who said he LOVED John Wayne! They LOVE western movies! Ya know, I bet they think those damn Brits* are westerners!! We should just go down there with some Texans, horses, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, etc…, and show them a REAL westerner!!! Betch they’d all LOVA Bush then!

*Not a dig on Brits per se, just trying to think outta the box! I lova the warm beer, and fish and chips. Okay, maybe just the chips. But we like to call em fries over here!!1!!

Califemme on November 13, 2007 at 8:46 PM

So, there’s no class envy when strapping a bomb on yourself.

Kini on November 13, 2007 at 7:16 PM

Unfortunately for us, MOST of their lives suck so bad, that the afterlife appeals to them much more than living. If that’s not a sad commentary on the plight of the muslim, I don’t know what is.

If any of you ever want to know how “palestinians” or arabs think, you should check out a book called The Haj by Leon Uris. I understand the mentality of the average muslim/arab way better than I thought I did after reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Infidel. I said I understand it, but I assure you I don’t agree, and I don’t think it’s as hopeless as I used to believe. I definitely had a “nuke Mecca” mentality before I read these books, but I understand now that the “good” muslims need someone to get their back, and all we’ve done in the past is set up the bad ones.

The first time, shame on them; this time, shame on us if we don’t get it right “Over There”. God, I miss that show.

Califemme on November 13, 2007 at 8:56 PM

“Democracy” in a Sharia-poisoned zone:

one man,one vote, one time.

SEE: Algeria (almost); Gaza; ad nauseam.

profitsbeard on November 13, 2007 at 10:08 PM