Saturday, September 29, 2007

US Policy and Terrorism

US policy, not poverty, 'is cause of terrorism'
The Sunday Herald, Feb 19, 2006 by Paul Hutcheon

A LEADING US academic will challenge the establishment this week when he makes the controversial claim that poverty is not the root cause of international terrorism.

Alan Krueger, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, will say suicide bombers tend to come from middle-class families. He will also argue that terrorism is directly motivated by US policy decisions.

Krueger's arguments will be made in a prestigious three-part lecture series at the London School of Economics, beginning on Tuesday. The former member of the Clinton administration will present new research on the "causes and consequences" of terrorism, which he says have been misunderstood.

One of his main findings disputes the supposed link between deprivation and terrorism. "One point I'm going to make is that the popular stereotype, from Tony Blair on down, seems to be that poverty is the root cause of terrorism. That is a very questionable presumption. The evidence doesn't point in that direction, " he told the Sunday Herald.

Krueger reached the conclusion by sampling members of Hezbollah and looking at the biographies of suicide bombers in Israel. "Overwhelmingly they were from well-off families, " he said.

He said his model is relevant to al-Qaeda (whose leader Osama bin Laden came from a wealthy family and whose main ally was a doctor) and the 9/11 attacks on New York. "It fits very well. Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers were middle-class or from high-income classes."

Krueger also applied his findings to the London Tube and bus bombings last July. "My vibe on the people who carried out the suicide attacks was that they were not from struggling families."

He argues that terrorists, instead of coming primarily from poor states, tend to hail from oppressive regimes, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This, he says, shows that terrorists tend to be motivated by fanaticism, not poverty. "In most cases [a suicide bomber] is not someone who has nothing to live for, but someone who desperately believes in a cause."

He will also say US policies, such as the presence of troops in the Middle East, are one of the main factors behind terrorism.

"A good example is US presence in Saudi Arabia, which is a large part of the motivation for al-Qaeda. The US just had to think of suicide bombers as people who are destitute, whereas I think they are motivated by political factors.

"We have to own up to the fact that a lot of the terrorist activity is in response to policy decisions."

Krueger's research challenges the conventional wisdom that terrorism is motivated by third world conditions in Arab countries and by envy of the West. The left, particularly in Britain, has tended to argue that a root cause of Muslim anger is Palestinian poverty, an explanation that Krueger's model seems to reject.

SNP leader Alex Salmond said he agreed with the academic's analysis of the Bush administration's anti-terror policies. "Krueger is undoubtedly correct. The war on terror has been disastrously counterproductive, " he said.

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