Skip to comments.Causes of Terrorism (in-depth analysis with accompanying articles, links)
Posted on 12/02/2004 12:40:01 PM PST by traviskicks
Causes of Terrorism
Oil, being an extremely valuable commodity, has made the Saudis exceptionally wealthy. Despite this wealth, or, ironically, perhaps because of it, Saudi Arabia is a heavily indebted state (debt load is 115% of GDP) (14), ruled by a chaotic, corrupt oligarchy consisting of the ever expansive Saudi royal family. The family maintains it's hold on the kingdom through a combination of religious indoctrination (which aids in the creation of external enemies), ruthless despotism, and the 'generosity' of a bloated, out of control welfare system. Throwing buckets of cash at individuals who never worked a day for it, combined with the lack of an accountable financial system and loose controls, has led to an explosion of funding for the twisted ideology of Wahhabism. Moore is right in exposing the Saudi regime as the dangerous society it has become.
Generally, it appears that a corrupt political society is only reinforced and further distorted by the power thrust upon it through easy wealth [and possibly created from it]. To elaborate further, let's pretend there is no oil in the Middle East, but it's all in Africa. The Middle East, besides Israel, would consists of impoverished warring states that don't have the capability to threaten anyone besides their own citizens and their equally impoverished neighbors. In short, you'd have a situation similar to (certain parts of ) Africa today. But in Africa, you'd still have the constant civil wars, tin cup dictators, rebel leaders, massacres and genocides, but now each state would be bolstered by billion dollar oil revenues. Mirage fighters would replace machetes in Rwanda; cruise missiles would replace militias in the Congo. Tanks would replace horsemen in the Sudan. These regimes would have the funds to import and/or train scientists to develop chemical and biological agents. Powerful countries would succeed in taking over their neighbors. Sound familiar?
In essence, the political systems are not much different in (parts of) Africa and the Middle East. Oil makes the difference appear so glaring by increasing the wealth and power these corrupt despots hold and elevating them from primitive warlords to global power mongers. (20) The national security of the United States [and the free world] become threatened when these regimes gain enough power, through oil, to threaten the stability of a vital economic commodity and, in some cases, become powerful enough to challenge the west militarily - Iraq through direct military confrontation, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and others through the exportation of subversive ideology and terrorism. Is the United States trying to steal oil in order to profit corporations as Moore later indicates? No. US companies are more than willing to pay the market price for it. Is oil intertwined in the problems of the Middle East? Yes. But not in the way Moore and the anti-US crowd overseas believe it is, although I can see how it is tempting to make the correlation. The US [and the free world] would like nothing better than to pay their money for oil and have nothing else to do with the Middle East. Unfortunately, it appears that this hands off policy, coupled with appeasing diplomatic and military alliances and interventions, has failed.
Another theory is that without foreign aid or natural resources, governments are forced to liberalize because it is the only way for them to get tax revenues. In other words, when wealth can only be generated through the naked productivity/ingenuity of it's citizens, the rulers of that country will be most inclined to introduce reforms to accelerate this. Notice some of the strongest economic zones in the world today - Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, Israel, Taiwan, South Korea and the (early, eastern) United States - are poor in natural resources. Historically, the British, Dutch, Portuguese and, going way back, Carthageans and Athenians, were all were top world powers without being strong in natural resources. Why was the Spanish Empire, a centrally controlled country drowning in colonial gold, discarded into the ash heap of history so fast? Returning to the Africa analogy, the areas which are richest in natural resources, especially the diamond belt, are suffering the greatest conflict and strife. Taking this into account, Moore and other leftists should wonder why the United States would even want to "take over" any oil...
Egypt, homeland of number two (and probably more influential in operational effectiveness than Osama Bin Laden) Al Qaeda terrorist Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri, is perhaps the second largest supporter of Al-Qaeda in the gulf region. Each year Egypt receives about 2 billion dollars in transit from the Suez canal, 2.2 billion in 'aid' from the United States and inflows of money from the 10% of it's population that works or has worked abroad in other gulf states. With this revenue, why should the government worry about the need for a rich or middle class to tax? (111)
We must not minimize the roll that the socialistic nature of the Arab governments play in their totalitarianism, aggression, and sponsorship of terrorism. Foreign investment is discouraged because of the government monopolies and political instability (not to mention lack of religious freedom, freedom of expression etc..- foreign investments need foreign workers to manage them; how would you like to move your family to Syria, Iran, or Saudi Arabia?). Publicly owned factories are not likely to invest in foreign countries. Privately owned Arab companies are hampered by an uneducated workforce, a jumbled legal system, and competition from the huge subsidized public sector, and so are also less likely to invest in foreign countries. The net result is that, besides oil and petro-investments, little trade and interaction exists between (and among) Arab countries and the rest of the world.
It has been argued that the United States is the world's best policemen because our citizens own many things of value in countries across the world. Likewise, multitudes of citizens from many, many countries across the world own things of value in the United States (such as businesses that employ our citizens). Therefore, as the wealthiest country in the world, we have the most interest in seeing the world stay free, peaceful, and prosperous in order to protect and increase our own wealth and prosperity. For the United States, a win for us is a win for the world (and vice versa). In the same sense, China's shift from a Communist regime to a Capitalist regime has greatly reduced the threat it poses to it's neighbors. Any hostile actions by the Chinese against, say, Taiwan, would devastate it's economy. Chinese businessmen and workers, the former of which are becoming increasingly influential in the Communist party, would howl and possibly revolt. Chinese aggression is a loosing strategy for China and a loosing situation for the world. In contrast, a hostile action by Saddam Hussein against Kuwait is a win for him and a loss for the world. Socialistic countries are not held back from aggression by business/economic pressures, they see only external prizes that can be easily claimed by 'the state'. It's citizens don't raise a fuss about the need to protect their property because the citizens don't own anything (or very little)! Of course, the term 'Socialistic' as I am using it here does not apply to the Socialistic Scandinavian countries, which consist of private industry (with internal and external foreign investments) burdened by high taxes and regulations. In Arab Socialistic countries there may be some areas of relatively low taxes, but there is little private industry.
Perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle lies in the totalitarian nature of the Arab regimes. None of the 22 countries in the Arab league are democracies compared to 63% of countries throughout the world. In it's 2002 survey Freedom House found only 28% of Middle Eastern countries could be described as 'free' or 'partly free'. Despite having lower per capita incomes and GDP, more than 60% of African countries meet this standard. (111)
Natan Sharansky, a famous Soviet Dissident and Israeli politician writes in 'The Case for Democracy' (a book read and lauded by President Bush), that the motivations of unelected regimes and elected ones are often similar - to stay in power. But the actions taken by the two governments are vastly different. Generally, an unelected regime will expend a great deal of energy on brainwashing, propogandizing, and actively suppressing it's citizens. Sharnaksy argues that a key tool in supplementing this task is creating an external threat. In other words, internal stability is more easily achieved by creating external enemies. In Free Societies this political fearmongering is still attempted (the draft myth) and often directed at opposing political parties, but is limited in scope by the inquires of an independent press and the freedom of public discourse. In Closed Societies, with a controlled media, citizens will often accept the leadership of a regime if they believe an external source is responsible for the dire conditions present in their country, or presents the greater threat. To a lesser degree this can also occur in Free Societies. For example, during both World Wars US citizens accepted rationing and cutbacks in consumer goods with little protest. (154)
Almost every totalitarian regime in history has created these external enemies in order to help maintain power over their people. In the same way that the Soviets funded Communist insurgencies around the world, the Arab states fund religious insurgencies. Just like Hitler and Stalin preached hatred of the Jews, Arab regimes call for the destruction of Israel and broadcast anti-Semitic rhetoric. Saddam Hussein was a great admirer of Stalin and the hyper-controlling, top-down, socialistic economic system has been adopted, to varying degrees, by all the Arab governments. The hated, ever-present religious police of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Taliban are the mirror image of the equally hated and feared expansive network of government informers of Saddam Hussein, Castro, Kim Jung Ill, and the Soviet Union. This is why such a glaring contradiction exists between the diplomatic friendliness enjoyed between the United States and some Arab countries and the propaganda they force feed their citizens. These Regimes are willing to publicly smile (in our media) as they accept our aid, weapons, and petro-dollars in return for 'stability', as they privately suppress dissent via internal suppressions and these artificial external enemies. In reality, this 'stability' we create by supporting these undemocratic regimes has achieved the opposite of it's intention. In other words, the destructiveness resulting from the external instability of these regimes has clearly surpassed any 'gain' achieved by their internal stability. Moore's allegations are, again, 180 degrees from the truth. We didn't go to war for oil - we remained in a hypnotic, fallacious 'peace' for so long because of oil! (154)
This disturbing tendency of Free Societies to appease Closed Societies is not new. Because Free Societies are peaceful societies, they fall prey to 'sound bite diplomacy', and politicians are always keen to avoid any charges of 'warmongering'. Ronald Reagan was denounced as such by his political opponents and the mainstream press as was Barry Goldwater and George W. Bush. All three men, respectively, did, would have, and (hopefully) will triumph over Closed Societies by bringing clarity to the policies of Free Societies. The difficulty of bringing a Free Society to necessary action is a testament to the polar strengths and weaknesses of a Free Society.
Note that (with only a few outlying exceptions) no two democracies have ever fought a war. The contradictory public statements vs. private actions of Closed Societies can mislead the media and citizens of Free Societies as to the intentions and motives of the Closed Societies. President H.W. Bush was very concerned about the possibility of 'instability' during the break-up of the Soviet Union and even made a (poorly received) speech in the Ukraine advocating against the reckless nationalism of the Soviet Republics. The same mistake has been repeated in the Middle East. For example, US and Israeli politicians celebrated as Palestinian Authority chairman Yassir Arafat shook the hand of Israeli Prime Minister Simon Peres while he was simultaneously encouraging and/or plotting the murder of Israeli civilians. (154)
The constant U.S. media reporting of the 'anger of the Arab Street' is often just regurgitating what is being broadcast on state television in these repressive countries. For some reason there is little speculation whether this 'anger' is directed at the United States because of our support for their unpopular, corrupt governments, rather then our policies towards Israel or Iraq. Why is it that the people under the government that we most openly oppose, the Iranian theocracy, are the most (allegedly) pro-American in the region? (154)
Moore is right about the pattern of softness the United States government has followed in dealing with the Saudis (and the entire Middle East). His error lies in linking this problem exclusively to the Bush administration. The problem of Saudi and Arab terror funding, including Al Qaeda linkage, has been a bipartisan issue that the United States has refused to face for decades. Saudi and Arab think tanks and lobbyists curry favor with the political elite of both parties, often hiring members of Congress when they retire.
In an under reported June 30th editorial in the Washington Post, Senator Jon Kyl, Chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, offers an explanation why 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi:
But for Saudi nationals, we looked the other way. Because Saudi Arabia is a rich country -- and, perhaps more important, because it is considered a U.S. ally -- before Sept. 11, 2001, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs at the time, Mary Ryan, had relaxed the visa application rules, even to the point of implementing "Visa Express," an unprecedented program that literally delegated visa processing to travel agents to speed it up. The basic legal requirement that applicants provide accurate and persuasive information was ignored. (78)
Unfortunately, the State Department does not seem to have learned much from the experience. It continues to maintain that its pre-Sept.11 visa policies in Saudi Arabia were reasonable because of a lack of specific intelligence indicating otherwise. (78)
In fact, the Sept. 11 commission found that two other suicide volunteers were turned down because al Qaeda feared they would have trouble, as natives of Yemen, getting visas of their own. (78)
This same money has flooded into Presidential libraries of all past presidents. For example, Conservative columnist Robert Novak notes:
Bill Clinton not only received a $750,000 speaking fee for going to Saudi Arabia in January but came back with a hefty pledge for his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., according to high-ranking Saudis. Estimates range from less than $1 million to $20 million. (53)
Before September 11th a critic can only claim that President Bush perpetuated this pattern of complacency. Since, Bush is the first president that has acted decisively on it and, ironically, is later criticized by Moore for doing so.
On August 5th 2002 a story appeared in the Washington Post and began:
A briefing given last month to a top Pentagon advisory board described Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States, and recommended that U.S. officials give it an ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States. (16)
The story was quickly disavowed by senior Bush administration officials (17) and the murky situation quickly faded from public memory (18). Whether the story was leaked to pressure the Saudis, to gauge public opinion, or just uncovered by a resourceful journalist remains unclear. Whatever the case, it shows that serious options were being discussed. During recent months, a huge spike of Al Qaeda related violence has taken place in Saudi Arabia leading to speculation that there was a cease fire agreement between the Saudis and Al Qaeda. Rumors swirled about payoffs and subtle support given to Al Qaeda by various senior members of the Saudi government. (21) True or not, the present battles indicate that whatever official ties there were between Saudi intelligence and Al Qaeda are now broken. What occurred is certainly worth investigating. It was and probably still is true that Al Qaeda's main source of funding comes from individuals in Saudi Arabia. Even so, contrary to popular belief and past policies, strengthening and/or supporting the Saudi regime will probably not result in the defeat of the support (private or public) that encourages terrorism for the reasons described in the proceeding paragraphs.
In fact, on November 6th 2003, President Bush gave a historic speech calling for democratic reform in the Middle East (15). The President and other member of the Administration have also indicated their hope that a democratic Iraq will aid this spread of freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East.
* In Conclusion, the differences between all of these 'causes of terrorism' may just be a matter of semantics/definitions. Socialism, tyranny, oil, weakness of free societies, and economics pressures are basically all on the same side of the same coin. Change one and the whole coin is likely to flip. Notice that poverty, Islam, US intelligence failures, and 'aggressive' US Middle East policies are not listed among the root causes of terrorism. This was purposely done because they are not. :)
oh and this is an excerpt from a 'conservative' review of Fahrenheit 9/11, which is why Moore is mentioned.
I don't find any mention of the original source of the Mideast hatred: the half-brothers Ishmael (the Moslems) and Isaac (the Jews), both of whom claim Abram/Abraham as their father--this is the true root of the terrorist hatred of the Jews and now the USA, we being their fair-weather friend but the best they've got.
I'd like mine cinnamon, please.
well, i don't think thats a cause of the terrorism. I think the things mentioned are much more relevant.
The following GNI data confirms the story:
United States: $37,610
Israel-Palestine: $16,020 (without oil)
Saudi Arabia: $8,530 (mostly from oil)
Source of data:
Failed governments + failed citizen leadership + total human corruption + no Reformation + no Revolution = miserable lives for billions of people.
interesting stats. And I bet those arab states nearby the oil states attain some 'spillover' of oil wealth from their wealthy neighbors (as they spend their $), as well as having smaller oil stocks of their own. (syria especially was involved in oil for food scams and an illegal pipeline)
also, if israel-palestine was broken down into Israel and Palestine - i bet the divide would be even greater.