What Causes Terrorism?
At the recent debate between Republican candidates for the American presidential nomination, the most popular Myspace candidate (Ron Paul) clashed with Rudy Giuliani on terrorism.
The basic gist of it is that Paul attributed terrorism to poverty and frustration in the ranks of terrorists, as well as excessive American imperialism — one notable example being its stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia.
Giuliani, whose claim to fame is basically being the Mayor of New York City when it was attacked on 11th September 2001 by terrorists, argued that Paul was wrong, and insisted that terrorists attack America because they hate its freedoms.
Since this is a Republican debate, obviously the delusional answer given by Giuliani made him the winner. But as Paul noted after the debate, his explanation of events is corroborated by the September 11 Commission's report.
You might argue that terrorists do condemn America as the Great Satan because they hate Americans and their way of life. But if you take what these terrorists say at face value, why not take what Osama himself says at face value? The number one reason he hates America — as stated by himself — is because it stations troops in the Muslim holy land.
And the fact is, the reason Osama finds recruits so easily is because when people have no purpose or direction in life, they feel they need a way to get back at it — and what better way to get back at things than to blow yourself up, taking anywhere from a few dozen to a few thousand people with you?
The main reason people are unhappy is because they are being left behind by economic development. And what is driving development forward around the world right now is globalisation — and globalisation is inextricably linked with America.
Does this mean that because the terrorists hate the American way of life, the development that has been brought to the rest of the world by American corporations, they seek to destroy America and the development it brings?
No. The terrorists (of almost any ilk) — and most reactionaries, for that matter — are unhappy because they cannot share in the development. Whatever excuses they may have, be they religion or nationalism, if these people had a chance to escape a life of poverty, do you really think they would be bombing and murdering?
It might feel good to denounce terrorists for hating a peaceful way of life. But the reality is, terrorists want to share in that peaceful way of life. It's because they can't that they lash out at the world.
If we want to fight terror, we can't just treat it as a typical military or even law enforcement problem. The root cause of terror is a different sort of terror — a terror at a changing world that no longer has a place for those without a chance to adapt to the new realities of globalisation and a globalised world.
The way to fight terrorism is to provide the social mobility and opportunities that terrorists so often lack. This may not wipe out terror, but it will certainly cut off the supply of willing recruits — and in the long run, it will benefit everyone to have not only a peaceful world, but also a prosperous one.