Monday, September 11, 2006

Root Causes of Terrorism

My apologies if this is a duplicate. I blame society for my inability to properly post an article on this blog. :)

Thomas Homer-Dixon writes a letter to the Globe & Mail today about researching the root causes of terror [Globe & Mail, Pull up terrorism by the roots, via Google]. Well worth the read.

Thomas discusses some of the pitfalls in current discussions around terrorism. For example, trying to find a root cause of terrorism leads to either criticism that the the analysis is attempting to "blame the victim" or that analysts try to find one root cause based upon a "favoured" root cause, instead of looking for all causes in a particular act.

Thomas concludes that there is a profile of a terrorist emerging based upon research and statistics.
[Research] suggests that participants in terrorism tend to be men in their twenties or thirties who are ferociously angry because of powerful feelings of humiliation. The humiliation can have many sources, but it's likely to arise when relatively well-educated young men are deeply frustrated by a lack of political and economic opportunity and when, at the same time, they strongly identify with a group, society, or culture they perceive as oppressed or exploited. Extremist leaders then inflame and manipulate these feelings of humiliation, partly by defining the "enemy" -- the group or society that's responsible for all problems and that should be the target of attack.

It's not enough to point to one thing, one group, or one society as the cause. What are your thoughts?



OMMAG said...

Root Cause Analysis:

The origin of the disconnect is the steadfast refusal of a small group to let go of a barbaric millenium old ideology.
What ever consequences we see are the result of this one intransigent groups refusal to integrate in a modern or even civilized world.

Projected Outcome:
Regardles of what this group does they will ultimately fail to change the world into their idilic vision.

The only question is: How long will the civilized nations of this world allow the perpetrators to go unchecked?

Anonymous said...


Let's see...the original article posits a number of possible avenues of exploration to address in order to attack root causes. Your response is that the root cause is "they don't believe what we believe and they refuse to integrate", and that the solution is to kill them. First of all, "they don't believe what we believe" may be a root cause, but it alone does not justify extremism, since many people fall in that category and don't resort to violence. Also, a certain belief system might still require a catalyst to propel the believer into radical action - the original article tried to address this catalyst as well. Second, "they refuse to integrate" could just as well come (in whole or in part) after the fact.

That is, your facile 'root cause analysis' is hardly very exhaustive, and the simple conclusion of eradication is foregone when you ignore other possible roots. The original article took the right step in presenting a much deeper analysis that provides - at the very least - a number of alternative avenues to explore.

Anonymous said...

I tend to look at this from a Niagara Falls perspective. If you are on a boat and somewhere along the ways one of the turns you made ends up being a mistake and you find yourself 100 yards from the crest of Niagara Falls, what do you do first? Do you, a) do all you can to get away from the falls, b) spend the next few minutes trying to figure out where you went wrong, or c) first make sure that the Falls don't kill you and then figure out what happened that caused you to end up there in the first place?

There are quite a few people who are quick to lay down a one-time solution and ignore whatever gripes -- legitimate or otherwise -- the Muslim world has. Thankfully those people are few and far between. Unfortunately we have WAY too many people who are so focussed on finding somebody to blame that they wilfully ignore the fact that there is a very real danger ahead of them. And with those stand the Jack Laytons, Paul Martins and Howard Deans.

I tend to gravitate towards the third option like the current USA and UK governments who recognize that terrorism has to be stopped and equal rights and equal opportunities must be made available to those in the Middle East who feel wronged.

Mike said...

Silly analogies aside from the peanut gallery, this was quite a good aricle, Jim.

Similarly, there are studies that show that the vast majorty of suicide bombers are not of a particular ethnic group or religion, but are - gasp! - suicidal. Suicide bombers are motivated by suicidal ideations and the desire to rid their territories of occupiers. There are some exceptions of course, but that is what the general problem is.

Those who do not (or refuse to) understand their enemies and attack the real causes are doomed to never defeat them (see the yahoos above me), but to keep perpetuating the problem.

But I suppose it is easier just to kill a bunch of people than to try to understand and deal with the nuances of the problem.

These are they guys that think Hezbollah are the aame as Al Queda and Iran is the same as Syria. In short they are simpletons.

Dan said...

Those who peg this on something endemic to Islam have a shallow view of the problem. The sort of disaffection that the article quote describes seems reminds me of Dostoevsky's stock of radical, disaffected young men. Raskolnikov, or perhaps more exactly, Kirilov (who actually commits suicide in Demons) would seem to fit this profile dramatically well.

Anonymous said...

Just from reading your post, I can hardly tell you're an NDP supporter mike.

*in case you didn't catch it, that was sarcasm*

Mike said...


Ya, well whatever, don't try to talk to the arguments or anything.

Hey, why don;t you go read a little Sun Tzu and get back to us.