Where Do Little Terrorists Come From #1 - Poverty?

Terrorists aren't the world's poor.

Shortly after 9-11, liberal sociologists saw opportunity in the poverty which is so highly visible in the Palestinian territories neighboring Israel, and throughout the Middle Eastern Islamic world.  The liberals declared that poverty was the root cause of terrorism.  Like their Great Society predecessors of decades before, they promised that if the American taxpayers would only spend enough money fighting poverty, terrorism would melt away just as American crime had melted away when we fought the "War on Poverty" in the United States.

That notion was ridiculous on its face - most of the 9-11 terrorists turned out to be university-educated, middle class Saudis - but the idea of being permitted to spend large sums of taxpayer money fighting poverty is always attractive to liberals.  They kept banging the drum for a program to fight global poverty in the name of fighting terrorism.  The idea that poverty causes terrorism became so pervasive that someone had to write a book disproving the link between poverty and terrorism.

An article "The Poverty Myth" was published on p. 104 of the Winter 2008 issue of the Wilson Quarterly.  This article reviews the book What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism by Alan B. Kreuger.  The review begins:

The belief that poverty is a root cause of Islamic terrorism has been thoroughly discredited.  Numerous studies of terrorism have debunked the notion.  Islamic terrorists themselves, as well as those who live among them and know them well, have repeatedly attributed Islamic terrorism to primarily to religions and ideological motivations and to the logic that - against America and the west - terrorism is used because it works. [emphasis added]

The reviewer credits Dr. Kreuger, a Princeton economist, with a much-needed act of intellectual hygiene.  "As a group," Kreuger notes, "terrorists are better educated and from wealthier families than the typical person in the same age group of the societies from which they originate."

We commented some time ago on the great wealth of the Bin Laden family from which Osama bin Laden emerged.

One study examined 48 Palestinian suicide bombers and found that "almost 60 percent of the suicide bombers had more than a high-school degree, compared to less than 15 percent of the general population."

We see a similar phenomenon in the few examples of America-grown terrorists.  We noted earlier that Mr. Barack Obama was involved with William Ayers, son of the CEO of New York's Consolidated Edison utility company, who was a member of the Weather Underground in the 1970s.  Mr Ayers wrote that he had he participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and of the Pentagon in 1972.  Given his father's exalted job as CEO of ConEd, personal poverty clearly played no part in Mr. Ayer's decision to become a terrorist.

The book review concludes:

...perhaps they [Western opinion leaders who seldom consult Arab sources] will read Kreuger's book and understand that if terrorism has identifiable root causes, they're the ones most frequently cited by Islamists themselves - the desire to achieve what terrorists see as holy ends, and the conviction that, in the service of those holy ends, terrorism works.

I fear, though, that despite Kreuger's definitive and persuasive book, conventional wisdom and wishful thinking will keep alive the idea that poverty causes terrorism.  Intellectual hygiene is an honorable enterprise but, alas, often unsuccessful - especially in a world in which familiar, easy, and hopeful explanations that leave us thinking the problem has a ready solution are preferred to explanations that leave us feeling vexed, powerless, and perpetually afraid.

We agree wholeheartedly with the Wilson Quarterly's view that people prefer imagined, hopeful explanations to unpleasant reality, but they've overlooked the real reason why so many people want to claim that poverty causes terrorism: there's huge money to be made in fighting poverty.

Making money by expanding their empires motivates the bureaucracy, of course, and they're only too glad to ally themselves with wealthy liberals who can afford to look down on those of us who try to earn money.  After all, they already have more than enough for themselves.

For example, we've pointed out some time ago that Mr. Barack Obama and many other senators support a massive fight against global poverty.  Mr. Obama is a millionaire; so are most of his Senate colleagues.  Taking Mr. Obama's description of this program at face value, he and the other sponsors of a global War on Poverty are arguing that we should spend about half our annual federal budget fighting global poverty.

What's wrong with telling a few lies when there's that much money at stake?  Throw in the fact that wealthy liberals won't be hurt by spending our money and that they can feel good about fighting global poverty and about fighting terrorism at the same time, and it becomes a no-brainer.  It fits quite nicely into their efforts to redefine "patriotism" - "Of course I'm patriotic, I voted to spend zillions fighting global poverty, the cause of terrorism!"

Justice Department figures show that crime rates remained essentially flat during the peak years of the war on poverty.  The fact that fighting global poverty won't reduce terrorism any more than the domestic War of Poverty reduced crime in America is a mere fact, and liberals are never too worried about mere facts.

If poverty doesn't cause terrorism, what does?  It's all very well to say that terrorists use terrorism because "it works," but what are they trying to bring about that they couldn't accomplish in other ways that did not expose them to as much personal peril?

The next article in this series explains what modern terrorists are trying to do and explores the reasons why terrorism seems to be the only method that gives them a significant chance at achieving their goals.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments
So that means that there no longer exists poverty in the US? So no poor means no rich. Ok.
September 10, 2009 1:16 AM
I agree with these comments !!
September 11, 2009 2:03 AM
Terrorism is clearly act of an Evil.
September 12, 2009 5:04 AM
after listening the lyric I just take some information about " war on terrorism " that's the terrorists in indonesia come from other country such as malyasia, singapore and emigrant come from arabic countries.

After reading the article I have interpretation that alot of western people consider the moslems are terrorist.The notion was widely accepted by them.but actually the terrorism arise of discriminating and expanding in moslem country by western people.
September 13, 2009 5:41 AM
assalamu alaikum
we kashmiris die for freedom
i appreciate you of helping kashmiris for freedom
September 13, 2009 6:06 AM
i am tanzeel of maisuma kashmir
after reading the article i think that terrorism is evil but we have to JIHAD according to the allah's messenger saying
September 13, 2009 6:10 AM
You are right, poverty is not a cause of terrorism.
It's the American and Israeli state terrorism and their injustices to muslim countries that forces educated people to revert to terrorism as revenge.
September 14, 2009 11:17 AM
I am not poor... that means i am not terrorist.
September 14, 2009 12:47 PM
i love alqaida
September 15, 2009 3:25 AM
i love alqaida
September 15, 2009 3:29 AM
terrorism is christian and jewish monopoly,islamic terrorrism is negligible counter product.
September 15, 2009 7:07 PM
Pull your head out of your ass. Pretty much all international terrorism is a product of Islamic faith.
September 15, 2009 7:58 PM
Yah muslims nuked japan, muslims spending billions of dollers to keep christianity alive,muslims are keeping military bases all over world,muslims banning african countries from development,muslims killing millions by bobming defendless countires.you moron shamless breeds terrorist shame you criminals
September 15, 2009 10:35 PM
You're so far off the loony left cliff, you need a lobotomy. Japan was an act of WAR. Read the article again, particularly the last one in the series. Acts of war are not the same as acts of terrorism. If you don't get that - and I'm sure you don't - you're too ignorant to reason with.
September 16, 2009 7:17 AM
hi friend , killing defendless peoples is war?i am senseful , it is u need lobotomy . killing defendless peoples is war. How come? chritians terrorist countries killing millions, is it war? shamful inhumans, muslim very little response to christian terrorism, war of terror, if so proud about technology just test it with RUSSIA man be brave do not be coward.eductae yourself.
September 16, 2009 11:55 AM
"eductae yourself"? That's a hilarious string of characters. Point made.
September 16, 2009 12:19 PM
There is no agreed definition of terrorism in the world.
September 19, 2009 2:05 PM
Scragged has one - see the link to article 7 in their series.
September 20, 2009 6:57 AM
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