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?