Monday, September 17, 2007

The two types of terrorist

In the London times last week Daniel Finkelstein wrote an article disputing the fact that it was possible to spend your way out of terrorism that solving social inequality and poverty will not solve stop terrorism.

A study of the country of origin of terrorists reveals that lower-income countries are no more likely to produce terrorists and, crucially for the Brown hypothesis, “we find no significant impact of GDP growth on the frequency of international terrorism”. Furthermore “neither the overall literacy rate nor the female literacy rate appeared to have any effect”.

There is a small flaws in that theory which is to put all terrorism into one boat. To me there is two types of terrorist the idealist and the pragmatist. While they cross over somewhat one set of terrorist is more motivated by one then the other and this might help explain why

Suicide bombers from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were less than half as likely to come from families below the poverty line as an average Palestinian. Less than 15 per cent of Palestinians have more than a high-school degree, while almost 60 per cent of the suicide bombers did.

The difference between the two types of terrorist is motivation. Take the IRA, they started out fundamentally from the fact that there was widespread discrimination and that to end it British occupation had to end. The aftermath of that happening while thought of did not really matter that much. For the mass majority of supports might like a 32 county socialist country if the 32 country bit was achieved they would not take up arms again to achieve the socialist aspect of it. That is the pragmatist.

Now take Hamas while they are fighting for similar things as the IRA i.e. the end of an occupation. They do care about the outcome. Looking at their battles with Fatah it is clear that a simply free Palestine is not good enough it has to be a very certain kind of Palestine is desired. This is the idealist.

Idealism comes from idea’s and the way that idea’s spread fastest in this world is though learning. Think about it who is more likely to be picketing in Rossport at the moment. Someone who has gone to college and read Noam Chomsky, Marx and other such works or someone who rather spends the evening in the pub watch United. Now I know these are generalisation but you get my point.

So is it any wonder that the suicide bombers are more educated while the IRA members tend to come from working class districts?

Now this of course does not tell us what we can do to solve terrorism but it does raise some interesting questions. Can the lessons of one place be used in another? Does this mean that Sinn Fein going around the world as peace keepers is anyway useful at all?

The article in the Times is based on a book What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism By Alan B. Krueger something I think I should add to my book list. His idea as articulated in this article.

According to Krueger, the polls indicate that those with at least moderate wealth and education, relative to their nations' standards, are more likely to be confident enough in their beliefs to attempt to enact political change, even through illegitimate and violent avenues.

The poor and uneducated, meanwhile, are less likely to even voice a neutral political view when asked. Simply expanding access to education without reforming content, warns Krueger, may actually have the unintended effect of promoting terrorism.

Now this of course does not tell us what we can do to solve terrorism but it does raise some interesting questions. Can the lessons of one place be used in another? Does this mean that Sinn Fein going around the world as peace keepers is anyway useful at all? Is it possible that while it is possible to engage with the pragmatic terrorists and deal with their concerns that when dealing with idealist terrorist it is not possible to deal with them?

The book I am currently reading is God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad. It tells the story of the Wahhabi group. One of the interesting parts of it was describing the Indian Mutiny where some of the British forces Mutinied and joined by some locals rebelled. One of the points was that the Wahhabi’s who were well educated could garner support from the non-educated where by they could manipulate their beliefs and make them do the bidding of the Wahhabi’s. This still happens to this day where the intellectual elite can dominate the daily discourse and spin.

Anyway I have waffled on a bit here so I will try to finish up. The idealist terrorist comes from a place of learning of idea’s. But without the network below they, they are limited in what they can do (Even though large scale attacks like 9/11 are possible) by what support they get. If you want to limit terrorism you need to open up ideas. You need people to hear the whole of the story not just there side but the others side as well, without bias. You need freedom was Bush would say. Only the pragmatist can be bought off the idealists can only be contained.

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