In “Princeton Economist Says Lack of Civil Liberties, Not Poverty, Breeds Terrorism” by David Wessel in the Wall Street Journal (thanks to all who sent this in), Princeton economist Alan Krueger ably debunks the crumbling myth that poverty causes terrorism, and then, breezily ignoring the jihad ideology, constructs his own alternative myth.
…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 couple of months later, his wife, Laura, said, “Educated children are much more likely to embrace the values that defeat terror.” Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn has argued, “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.”…
“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 said at the London School of Economics last year in a lecture soon to be published as a book, “What Makes a Terrorist?”
Krueger hasn’t discovered anything new in the idea that jihadists are generally wealthier and better educated than their peers. We have documented that fact here again and again and again over the years.
“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. The Sept. 11 attackers were relatively well-off men from a rich country, Saudi Arabia.
“¢ 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 what is the cause? Suppression of civil liberties and political rights, Mr. Krueger hypothesizes. “When nonviolent means of protest are curtailed,” he says, “malcontents appear to be more likely to turn to terrorist tactics.”
The Wall Street Journal’s dogged cluelessness about the jihad ideology never ceases to astound me, and here we go again. For a rebuttal, let’s bring in Mr. Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, and no friend of those who, like Muslims Hassan Butt and Tanveer Ahmed, believe that the root cause of jihad terrorism is not anything that non-Muslims do, but the jihad ideology itself. Mr. Blair? What would you say to someone who posits that Muslims in Britain hatched the recent terror plots because of a lack of civil liberties?
…’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 told Observer columnist Will Hutton, who presents the documentary.
‘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.”‘…
Blair added: ‘How are [we] oppressing them? You’re oppressing them when you support the people who are trying to blow them up.’