Friday, 10 January 2014

Terrorism is a rich man's thing, not a poor man's thing

In "Terrorism's Fertile Ground", Kennedy Odede makes a familiar -- but false -- point: "... the link between urban poverty and terrorism....".
In "Mumbai's The Word", Theodore Dalrymple tears apart the canard "... that there is some direct connection between poverty and ignorance on the one hand and extreme political violence or terrorism on the other."
The world's first terrorists, in 19th Century Russia, were either aristocrats or members of the newly-emerged middle classes.
In Latin America, Castro was the son of a self-made millionaire and Che was of aristocratic descent; the leaders in Guatamala were bourgeois and educated; the Shining Light leader in Peru was a professor of philosophy.  In Asia, Pol Pot studied in Paris.  Osama bin Laden was a Saudi millionaire and most of the top leadership of Al-Qaeda are educated to university or post-graduate level.
"Peasants are capable of uprisings," says Dalrymple, "... but they do not elaborate ideologies or undergo training for attacks on distant targets."
Which leads nicely to Odede's conclusion: "The war on terror can be won only through education, promise and real opportunities."
Of course, this is wrong (in fact, one might claim an inverse relation!).  It is false because Odede's analysis of the causes of terror, is wrong, as evidenced by those who are its architects, as Dalrymple shows.  It is not poverty, but ideology that drives terrorism.  Not to mention the obvious fact that there are many millions of poor in the world who are poor, but do not commit acts of terror, in India and sub-Saharan Africa for example.
I'm on Dalrymple's side on this one.  Read the two articles and see if you are too.
And if Dalrymple is right (he is!), then the battle against terrorism's proponents continues to be an ideological one: the values of Enlightenment West vs ideological Islam.
None of this is to say that "eduction, promise and real opportunities" should not be pursued.  Of course they should (vide  China, for a positive example of its profound effects in just three decades). But it's not going to stop terrorism, either in the "Islamic world", or by Muslims in the west.  Only robust resistance to the Islamic Jihad, to Islamic Sharia, to Islamism in all its forms will work.