No Illusions notes a study from the JFK School of Government that indicates that terrorism stems from lack of liberty rather than lack of money. Of course, those of us who have been paying attention aren’t surprised by this result. It’s one of the big reasons to have voted for President Bush in the last election, because he (at some level) understands this as well.
I’ll note in passing that it’s kind of sad that the faction that thinks terrorism is caused by poverty have a strong tendency to suggest foreign aid and socialism as solutions, even though those at best are useless and at worst can actively promote poverty. So even in their own terms, such policies are failures. In real life it’s even worse because such efforts have a strong negative effect on liberty, thereby promoting terrorism.
NI makes a special note of the study result that
This result suggests that, as experienced recently in Iraq and previously in Spain and Russia, transitions from an authoritarian regime to a democracy may be accompanied by temporary increases in terrorism.
I find that quite plausible. In truly oppresive regimes, local terrorism can be suppressed through very coarse methods (Syria and Hama, or Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood) or forced to be exported (the Saudi Entity).
However, I wonder if this is really true. It may simply be that the terrorism becomes part of the state apparatus rather than “free lance”. It is not as if the Iraqi people didn’t suffer more heavily under the Ba’ath than they are now, it’s just that Old Media in the West is now willing to publicize it. It would be interesting to see if movement toward liberty, despite the rise in what is officially labeled terrorism, has a linear inverse correlation with violence against civilians. I.e. what looks like a rise in transitional states is really just a change from state sponsored to non-state sponsored violence, even as the overall violence decreases.