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Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Root Causes of Terrorism Redux

In my previous post, I discussed the root causes of terrorism (The Root Causes of Terrorism). As I noted there, the average terrorist (not just leaders of terrorist groups) tends to be well educated, to have come from a middle class background, and to have attended a secular, rather than a religious, school as a child. What I failed to note is that a recent Freakonomics podcast covers some of the same ground and features the following experts:
The podcast can be downloaded from iTunes or accessed (or listened to) at the Freakonomics website ("Is There a Better Way to Fight Terrorism?").

1 comment:

  1. I just found your blog, so I'm somewhat late to the party. I read the transcript of the discussion and I have to say that I think they are way off base. First of all, to suggest that suicide bombings have something to do with desired territory is historically wrong. The World Trade Center bombing and the 9/11 bombings weren't about territory, the United States had bases in the Middle East but certainly hadn't invaded anyone. Bin Laden says it was to remove the bases but not to recapture Saudi Arabia. More significantly, the first, and arguably the most famous suicide bombings were not the Tamil Tiger but the Kamikaze attacks in World War 2, also not about territory. I think there are three salient facts which the panelists didn't discuss:
    1. I just finished reading Viktor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl says that people search for meaning in their lives and, based on his experience in the camps during the Holocaust, without finding something they lose the will to live.
    2. I'm old enough to know about and to have read Eric Hoffer's True Believer. While the research wasn't knew, his ideas were generally accepted. The idea was that some people searched for extreme beliefs and didn't particularly care where on the spectrum those beliefs were. I think the reason for joining destructive cults, whether it be ISIS, Charles Manson's group or Jonestown, is that the group provides a sense of purpose that makes the individual feel as though he is part of something that gives his life meaning. He loses his individuality in the group and that he may die is irrelevant as the group keeps going.
    3. It is a psychological phenomenon that the closer one is to a goal, the greater the risks he is willing to take to get there. So, while it is counter-intuitive, inmates are more like to attempt an escape the closer they are to their out date. Thus, the more educated or upper class member of the destructive cult may take greater risks when he feels he is closer to achieving his goal of meaning.
    I'm not that smart, and others could very well improve on my brief theories, but I truly thing I'm addressing the facts and issues and Freakonomics is not.

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