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December 22, 2003


Anthony C

Those with a serious interest in this area should also read "The Roots of Terrorism: Probing the Myths" by Karin von Hippel in "Superterrorism: Policy Responses", edited by Sir Lawrence Freedman

A short article by von Hippel dealing with this matter can also be found on the website of the War Studies department at King's College, London at this address. http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/wsg/sept11/papers/root.html

It is somewhat unrealistic to claim that poverty and deprivation do not play a role in all this. But as Oliver has pointed out, it is a somewhat secondary role. Arguably, embittered populations provide the "sea" in which international terrorists can "swim". In a minority of cases, poverty can be a driving factor in terms of driving somebody to terrorism - the obvious case study would be the cynical exploitation of impoverished mothers by Palestinian terror groups: the mother is promised that her children will receive a generous annuity and various other benefits if she is prepared to blow herself up.

The problem is that many of the people advocating tackling poverty and deprivation as a tool of the fight against terrorism fail to make their advocacy part of a comprehensive programme involving methods drawn from the military, law enforcement, intelligence and humanitarian relief fields. It rapidly becomes apparent that pretty much all they want is for the USA to apologise a lot and spray the "developing" world with cash. This approach is either startlingly naive or deeply cynical and disingenuous.

Anthony C

Incidentally, regarding the Shirley Williams speech, I find it curious that she singles out the AIDS epidemic when the USA is now doing more to combat AIDS at an international level that the EU.

I would also make the point that if they are so interested in tackling so-called "root causes" of terrorism, there are two things that Baroness Williams and her friends in continental Europe could do immediately that would go a fair way to helping to drain the swamp. The first is to abolish European agricultural subsidies. The second is to make clear to the Palestinian Authority that EU funding will dry up unless the Authority stops indoctrinating Palestinian children wholesale with anti-semitic and anti-American incitement through the officially sanctioned Palestinian educational system.

But of course even as they give sanctimonious and patronising lectures to the poor dumb Americans, they themselves don't have the brass knackers to do either. It's no wonder they have no credibility whatsoever on the other side of the Atlantic. It's laughable.


"I would plead with you not only to think of retaliation," she said. "But to address the difficult part: how one deals with the sources of terrorism."

We hear this ridiculous argument all the time as if America's response is all about 'retaliation'. Have they not listened to George Bush's speeches, now becoming so frequent as to almost be repetitive, that he believes the cause of terrorism are the lack of freedom and the perception that America has perpetuated it?

Or is it just a case of 'my solution is best (ie. poverty) and any other interpretation is so stupid that it is not even worth acknowledging?

David Gillies

Such question begging. Even if 'inequality' were sufficient grounds for terrorism (which it clearly is not), Williams is assuming that the US is the cause of the inequality. It's just a reiteration of the silly 'finite pie' idea of wealth, which holds that inequal levels of economic development are de facto evidence of oppression. Of course all the evidence is that countries that pursue liberal economic policies achieve sustained growth. Bringing capitalism to the Third World will drain the swamps of terror far more effectively than earnest navel-gazing by likes of Shirley Williams.

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