Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Another poor terrorist

One of the London bombers was loaded (both figuratively and literally):

A suicide bomber who killed eight people at Aldgate Tube station on July 7 left £121,000.
Converting pounds to dollars, that's about $213,425. The sum is net all taxes and liabilities owed. The guy was only 22 and apparently accumulated the wealth by working for the family's business. Clearly he was not emaciated and hopeless. And he, like two of the other terrorists that acted on July 7, 2005, was a British native. The fourth was from Jamaica. They did not come from countries oppressed by the West or the Zionists.

Conventional wisdom has it de jure that poverty creates terrorism, or at least provides it with a moist breeding ground. But international terrorism is not characterized by vagabonds with no money, no prospects, and no future. To the contrary, Islamic terror suspects tend to be more educated and well-bred than their brethren. An analysis of some 400 jihadists who targeted the "far enemy" (non-Israel) by former CIA case officer Marc Sagemen is informative:

Most people think that terrorism comes from poverty, broken families, ignorance, immaturity, lack of family or occupational responsibilities, weak minds susceptible to brainwashing - the sociopath, the criminals, the religious fanatic, or, in this country, some believe they’re just plain evil.

Taking these perceived root causes in turn, three quarters of my sample came from the upper or middle class. The vast majority—90 percent—came from caring, intact
families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that’s usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways.

Al Qaeda’s members are not the Palestinian fourteen-year- olds we see on the news, but join the jihad at the average age of 26. Three-quarters were professionals or semi- professionals. They are engineers, architects, and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion. The natural sciences predominate. Bin Laden himself is a civil engineer, Zawahiri is a physician, Mohammed Atta was, of course, an architect;
and a few members are military, such as Mohammed Ibrahim Makawi, who is
supposedly the head of the military committee.

Far from having no family or job responsibilities, 73 percent were married and the vast majority had children. Those who were not married were usually too young to be married.

These terrorists are twelve times more likely to be educated than their country's broader population. In countries where secondary education largely overlaps religious edification, these subjects were overwhelmingly educated in empirical fields of study. They were family men with children to take care of. Not having enough resources to get by is not at all an adequate explanation.

Saturating everything with Marxist overtones is a problem with the analysis of contemporary Western elites (by this I refer to the so-called mainstream media and scholarship). Thomas Frank's popular book What's the Matter with Kansas? raises the question of why the rustic poor in middle America vote so heavily Republican when their pocketbooks would be better served by Democrats. That morality often trumps dollars just doesn't seem to register. But if you believe abortion to be murder, how can some impotent social program financed by your boss's dispensable income compare to 1.5-plus annual killings in the US alone? Utah is not a particularly wealthy state, but it may be the most generous. An act of selfless magnanimity like making a charitable donation makes no sense economically, but it has other obvious benefits like personal fulfillment, the satisfaction of helping others, attenuating cognitive dissonance or guilt, fulfilling religious obligation, and so forth.

Religion--something often scorned and misunderstood by elites--plays a part in this as well. Precisely because of their secular humanism, people like Frank have trouble understanding--possibly even believing--that a person would act against his self interest for some silly, archaic supernatural system. The disconnect is enormous.

The Salafi jihadists are an order of magnitude more zealous than the Nebraskan farm crowd, and their belief system is hardly benign. Shunning democratic liberalism, despising Western pop culture (if you think the putative Religious Right is too socially conservative, multiply that by fifty), rejecting rule by secular law, and with no conception of church and state being distinguishable, the Islamic terrorist is not going to be eviscerated by wealth transfers. It is, remember, wealth transfers from the Saudi Royal Family that finances hardline Islamic schools that preach jihad. Osama bin Laden is a multimillionaire, and fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, one of the world's wealthiest Islamic countries. They spent half a million to carry out the plane attacks on the WTC.

The London bombings also evidence why the West should halt Islamic immigration or at least restrict it substantially. Muslims have not integrated into European society. They are a drain on the social system and create a host of social problems. The West and Islam mix about as well as water and oil.

Speaking of, ending our energy dependency on Middle Eastern oil should be a top priority. Start pulling out of Iraq and spend that money on alternative energy research. While I'm not Panglossian enough to believe that Western influence leaving the place would assuage the zealotry of jihadists wishing to create a pan-Islamic ummah, the obsolescence of petroleum would cause the Middle East to collapse economically. Without oil, the Middle East becomes about as potent as Rwanda--let them go on slitting each other's throats if that's what they desire, so long as they don't have the funds to threaten our security and global stability.

(Terrorism)

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