In the “official worldview”, terrorism is a product of deprivation. The old, “They’re depraved on account of being deprived” cliche. The reality is that’s a myth.
Not a single study could make a cogent case that terrorism had economic roots. This lack of evidence culminated in a recent review of the literature by Martin Gassebner and Simon Luechinger of the KOF Swiss Economic Institute.
The authors estimated 13.4 million different equations, drew on 43 different studies and 65 correlates of terrorism to conclude that higher levels of poverty and illiteracy are not associated with greater terrorism. In fact, only the lack of civil liberties and high population growth could predict high terrorism levels accurately.
So does this relation also hold for Pakistan? It appears so. Christine Fair from Georgetown University documents a similar phenomenon for Pakistan. By utilising data on 141 killed militants, she finds that militants in Pakistan are recruited from middle-class and well-educated families. This is further corroborated by Graeme Blair and others at Princeton University.
They too find evidence of a higher support base of terrorism from those who are relatively wealthy in Pakistan. In a robust survey of 6,000 individuals across Pakistan, it is found that the poor are actually 23 times more averse to extremist violence relative to middle-class citizens.
This should not come as a surprise. Left wing terrorists were also largely drawn from the middle and upper classes. Lenin’s father was a nobleman. Castro’s father owned a plantation.
The reason why Islamic terrorism is so often conflated with poverty is because the left insists on justifying it and willfully ignoring its true causes and agendas.
Like any nationalist or ideological movement, Islamism is not out to remedy some occupation or oppression. It is out to impose a theoretical notion of how things should run developed by its leaders on everyone else by force. This isn’t resistance, it’s tyranny.
We’ve already seen how in Egypt and Tunisia, the revolutions of the Arab Spring gave way to even worse forms of oppression. This is how it always works in such revolutions.
My own work too comes to a similar conclusion. Exploiting the econometric concept of Granger causality and drawing on data from 1973-2010 in Pakistan, I document a one-way causality running from terrorism to GDP, investments and exports.
The results indicated that higher incidence of terrorism reduced GDP, investments and exports. However, higher GDP, exports and investment did not reduce terrorism.
The bottom line: when the economy was not doing well, terrorism did not increase and vice versa.
That should be obvious considering that the Middle East’s core of terrorism is in oil rich Muslim countries who have the wealth and leisure to plot terrorism and global domination.
To understand what causes terrorism, one need not ask how much of a population is illiterate or in abject poverty. Rather one should ask who holds strong enough political views to impose them through terrorism.