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?

Tags: terrorism