Thursday, May 17, 2007

Terrorism Theories

At Distributed Republic, Constant has posted a list of theories about why terrorists kill us. Of the options given, I lean toward what Constant calls the Synthesis Theory:
Synthesis theory: They would kill us whether or not we killed them, but they kill us more because we killed them.
But I would supplement this with one of my own:
Scapegoat theory: They want to kill people because of their lousy economic circumstances, which result from their zero-sum non-capitalist economies. They kill us because we're rich, and thus we provide a convenient scapegoat.
How can Scapegoat theory be included in the Synthesis? There are lots of scapegoats to choose from, so they target the nation that is richest and most meddlesome. If we reduced our meddling, they would still want to kill us because we're rich. But not quite as much.


Gene said...

Seems to me "lousy economic circumstances" relative to the US have been pretty much a constant, and they've needed a scapegoat since the fall of Andalusia. Even US meddling (e.g., toppling Mossadegh sp?) well predates Islamist strikes on US soil. What seems to have made the difference is boots on the ground. They may well "hate us because we're free," among other reasons. Hate is cheap. But they kill us because we're there.

JC said...

Problem is, "they" is not the poor as such. "They" is the islamist extremists.

Al Qaeda's string of terrorist attacks began shortly after the Soviet Union fell. The reason for this, I'd argue, is that with the removal of socialism, (a) the socialist regimes in the Arab world became simply ideologically bankrupt, and (b) socialism-based opposition became impossible.

So the only viable bases for political opposition are appeals to the West and to Islam. By starting a culture war, the Islamist extremists hope to kick the legs out from under the proponents of West-style democracy, thus turning Islamic world politics into Islamists vs Corrupt Dictators.

They kill us because we make their message look less appealing. It's not lashing out in anger, it's a specific game theoretical tactic to raise the costs, and reduce the apparent payoffs, of taking the opposite position from theirs.

Anonymous said...

There are also, of course, the motivations stemming from unreformed fundamentalist Islam. Religion isn't ~just~ pretext.

Gene said...

Evidence on this question is harder to come by than it is with a lot of other disputed matters of fact. That's why everyone can have fun spinning theories. Dinesh D'Souza seems to think they hate us because of Planned Parenthood. Maybe somebody else will construct a theory of terrorist motivation based on global warming. I wouldn't deny that religious fervor, scapegoating, envy, and hatred of Western decadence all play a part. But people who've looked closely at the suicide terrorism phenomenon, like Robert Pape, see it as a weapon used by nationalist insurgents to expel (democratic) foreign occupiers from prized territory. Which is what Al Qaeda says as well, both when they're talking to us and when they're trying to gather recruits. Isn't it possible that *that's* what motivates them?

sakthi said...

Terrorists can give hundred reasons to escape from their bad behavior..But the fact is they are utilized by some people(Bin-Ladan,Saddam..) for their own sake..We cannot accept general public get affecting by the war at any cause..
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Anonymous said...

"Why do they kill us?" Why don't we just listen to them when they tell us why? It is not because of something we have done, are doing or may do at some future time. It is because of what we are NOT. Islamic.

Glen Whitman said...

"Why don't we just listen to them when they tell us why? It is not because of something we have done, are doing or may do at some future time. It is because of what we are NOT. Islamic."

Actually, if you listen to what Bin Laden says, it's pretty clear that it's about the U.S. military presence in the Middle East. There's also Islamist rhetoric thrown in there, but when it comes to concrete complaints, it is -- as Gene says -- the boots on the ground.