The Making of a Terrorist: Recruitment, Training and Root Causes, ed. James J.F. Forest (Praeger Security International, 2005)
PREFACE TO VOLUME THREE
A wide variety of topics can be explored within the general category of “root causes of terrorism.” Further, there is also a considerable diversity of opinion about what this term means. The themes chosen for this volume are meant to represent this diversity, rather than encompass the entire spectrum of possible topics. The chapters are organized into three general areas: those dealing in the realm of politics, those addressing socioeconomic or religious dimensions, and those which either transcend all these simultaneously or address topics outside them.
Part I: Political Dimensions
In the first chapter of this section, Erica Chenoweth (a terrorism researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder) examines the assertion that terrorist groups take haven in weak, failed, and collapsed states—and particularly those without a strong tradition of democracy. She contends that this assumed relationship between non-democracy, state weakness, and terrorism is deficient. Levels of democracy do not necessarily diminish the likelihood of terrorist development. Instead, the political stability of the existing regime is the most significant factor affecting the origins of terrorism. Her analysis indicates that politically unstable regimes—regardless of regime type—are more likely than stable regimes to provide hospitable environments for terrorist organizations to develop. The essential argument here is that the “permissive conditions” of politically unstable regimes inhibit domestic institutional mechanisms that could potentially prevent terrorist organizations from taking root in particular countries. Therefore, the international community should seek to provide multilateral, legitimate support to transitioning states in order to provide the institutional framework by which a transitioning state can develop. 
In the next chapter, Paul Pillar—a 28-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence
community and former deputy chief of the Counterterrorist Center at Central
Intelligence Agency—describes how a superpower’s foreign policies can engender
resentment on the part of certain aggrieved populations, and explores the ingredients
that are most likely to be found among policies resented by members of the Muslim
Hassan Abbas, a former government official from
The discussion of
Professor Mohammed Hafez of the University of Missouri-Kansas City also addresses
discontented populations in the
The tendency to resort to militancy is also the topic of the final chapter of
this section, by Professor Eugenia Guilmartin of West Point, which examines
how ideology, personality, and rejection of commonly respected government institutions
play an important role in the making of a right wing extremist in
Part II: Religious and Socioeconomic Dimensions
first chapter of this section, by researcher Susanna Pearce at
Religious doctrine of a different nature is the topic of the next chapter, in
which Professor Michael Barkun of
The next several chapters of the volume address issues of a more economic orientation,
beginning with a discussion on the relationship between terrorism in the
In the next chapter, Stanford University Professor Paul Ehrlich and Michigan
State Professor Jianguo (Jack) Liu address the persistent
demographic and socioeconomic factors that can facilitate 9/11-type terrorism
and make it easier to recruit terrorists. In particular, their analysis highlights
the important and complex relationship between demographic variables and political
instability in the developing world. For example, increased birth rates and
the age composition of populations in these countries affects resource consumption,
prices, government revenues and expenditures, demand for jobs, and labor wages.
Differences between developing countries and the developed world are striking—for
example, the total fertility rate of Jews born in Israel is under 3, approaching
replacement level, while that of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is over 7, the
highest of any national-level entity. The implications for these trends on terrorism
and terrorist recruitment suggest that without dramatic action, the demographic
and socioeconomic conditions in Islamic nations in the Middle East, South Central,
The following chapter, by MIT researcher Vanda Felbab-Brown, explores the intersection of terrorism and the global drug trade. Her analysis of the Taliban, the Peruvian insurgent group Sendero Luminoso, and the Colombian insurgent group FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) reveals how drug cartels have used terror to protect their profits, while the demand for (and cultivation of) drugs supports terrorism. Specifically, terrorist groups derive three sets of gains from their involvement with the illicit economy: increased physical capabilities (money and weapons); increased freedom of action (the ability to optimize tactics and strategies); and increased political capital (legitimacy, relationship with the local population, the willingness of the local population to withhold intelligence on the terrorist organization from the government, and the willingness to provide intelligence about government units to the terrorist organization). In essence, as long as a global drug trade exists—in which there is high consumer demand and lucrative rewards for production and trafficking—terrorist groups will continue to profit from this trade, and can be expected to commit violent acts in order to protect these profits.
The final chapter of this section also deals with the global economy, but from a much different perspective. Professor Michael Mousseau, of Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey, draws on research by economic historians to show how two distinct norms of economic integration—contracting and reciprocity—give rise to two distinct political cultures that legitimate, respectively, liberal democracy and collective authoritarianism. In liberal democracies, economic transactions are based on contracting, which requires a recognition of the equal rights of strangers, as well as religious and cultural tolerance. In contrast, economic environments where reciprocity is the norm—as is the case for many developing nations—trust and cooperation is based more on in-group beliefs and values, loyalty to in-group leaders, and distrust of outsiders. From this perspective, one begins to see how globalization has contributed to exacerbating conflict between the developed and developing worlds—particularly when free trade between the developed and developing world hurts the local economy and worsens the conditions of the urban jobless, increasing the dependency of millions who blame the foreigners for their conditions.
Part III: Alternative Views on Root Causes of Terrorism
This final section of this volume begins with internationally renowned political theorist Benjamin Barber’s chapter on the relationship between terrorism and interdependence. He argues that the contemporary struggle against terrorism can be seen as the collision between two forces: one, an integrative modernization and aggressive economic and cultural globalization, which can be called McWorld; and the other, a fragmentary tribalism and reactionary fundamentalism, which can be called Jihad. As globalization has led to increasing interdependence, he argues, we must learn to contain and regulate the anarchy that foments both the destructiveness of terrorists and the injustices of global capital. Only the globalization of civic and democratic institutions is likely to offer a way out of the ongoing war between Jihad and McWorld, and this requires a new understanding of global democratic interdependence.
A globally interdependent perspective is also the subject of the next chapter, authored by two officers of the U.S. Army: Dr. Cindy Jebb, a Colonel and Professor at the U.S. Military Academy, and Madelfia Abb, a Lieutenant Colonel and Instructor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Their chapter explores the intellectual framework of human security, and draws from living systems theory to illuminate definitions and concepts that are then applied to the human, political, and terrorist systems. Their analysis reveals how failed states impact security at the individual level—and particularly, how the process of globalization and failed states create, sever, and influence the interconnectedness of the three living systems. In essence, they argue, framing the challenge of terrorism through the living systems theory may help policymakers better understand the significance of human security in the fight against terrorism.
From a similar perspective, regarding individual human security, Bryn Mawr College Professor Clark McCauley’s chapter argues that the rise of the modern nation-state that began with the French Revolution has been accompanied by a slow but steady erosion of the distinction between soldiers and civilians. This has been exacerbated by countless instances of state-sponsored violence against its own citizens. In war against internal enemies, he notes, the modern state has recognized the threat to its own power to justify killing disaffected ethnic and political categories among its own civilians. Such attacks have killed 130 million in the 20th century. In comparison, guerillas and terrorists have killed approximately half a million civilians in the 20th century. Thus, he argues, our understanding of terrorism must include a recognition that a state’s killing of its own civilians is not irrelevant, and may have some influence on how terrorists view the morality of killing noncombatants in pursuit of their political or religious objectives.
The next chapter provides a unique discussion on how dimensions of environment
and geography—specifically, the physical landscape in which terrorists live—can
be seen as root influences for terrorism. Co-authored by Professor Peter Liotta,
Executive Director of the
Finally, Karin von Hippel, a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Defense
Studies at King’s College,
This final volume of the Making of a Terrorist series is perhaps the most ambitious, as it seeks to fill a significant gap in the field of terrorism studies by entering the contested terrain of “root causes.” As these chapters demonstrate, the diversity of topics scattered around this terrain indicates there is still much to explore and learn. With so many roots, facilitators and trigger causes, and so much disagreement about the relative importance of any of them, surely there is ample opportunity for new generations of bright, creative thinkers to engage this field of inquiry.
The views expressed herein
are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the position of the
Roland Paris, At War’s End (