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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Essay on Understanding the Causes of Terrorism

Understanding the Root Causes of Terrorism
Addressing the problem of terrorist threat in American soil requires understanding of the different causes why it happens.  It is a reality that no matter how the government guards the US territory, it cannot protect itself all the time from a determined, well-funded and well-organized terrorist group.  Even if the FBI investigates and subjects to surveillance every person coming from Arab countries, the reality is that terrorist attack cannot be prevented all the time.  It may be launched by any person.  Indeed, a well-planned terrorist attack is difficult to stop.  It can therefore be said that preventing terrorism by attempting to stop the people who are more likely to commit it is not a feasible and doable solution.  In the same manner, stopping terrorism by concentrating exclusively on military solutions is not also an effective and proactive solution to this problem. 

This view of the ineffectiveness of military solution is supported by different world leaders.  According to Asian and European leaders who met at Copenhagen for the fourth Asia-Europe Meeting, “Since Sept 11, global efforts to fight terrorism have been purely concentrated on military means which have been singularly espoused by the United States, but some countries such as Malaysia have been voicing their determination to include reasons why people resort to terrorist activities in combating terrorism” (“Identifying root causes of terrorism: Our efforts paying off”, 2002)

Taking into consideration the impossibility of preventing persons from committing terrorism and the inadequacy of military solutions to this problem, the solution to terrorism can therefore be found by addressing the causes that give rise to terrorism.  Stopping terrorism means understanding why persons join terrorist groups.  Stopping terrorism means understanding why people are drawn to the ideals of terrorist groups.  Stopping terrorism means convincing others that terrorism is not the solution to the problems of global poverty.    

While terrorism is such a complex issue that cannot simply be attributed to a single factor or cause, it is wise to understand all these factors first before we can prevent terrorism.  It is therefore necessary that solutions to the problem of terrorism must involve solutions to addressing the causes of terrorism.  According to Walter Reich, former director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, some of the underlying causes of terrorism are: Poverty and political despair in Arab and Muslim society; U.S. allegiances disliked by Islamic regimes; and U.S. support of Israel (Alexia Harris, 2007, p.1).

The Asian and European leaders have declared that military action is not the only solution to the problem of terrorism.   While the United Nations and the individuals nations should not back down from terrorist threat.  It must be stressed that engaging in direct fighting against terrorist does not solve this problem.  Terrorism continues to thrive in the midst of the United States society not because of its leaders and members.  Killing every terrorist leader and member will not therefore stop this problem as the ideology will remain.  Until the ideology is stopped from spreading then recruitment of terrorists will not stop and funding will continue. 

Tim Garden, a former director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, proposed a very simple yet a very good solution to the problem of terrorism.  He said that “people don't like to hear this, but here goes: The military may be needed to help, but most of all it's about education and economics" (Tod Richissin, 2007)

Lack of Education as the Root Cause to Terrorism
One of the reasons why there is not much progress in the fight against terrorism is that the public wants immediate results.  The public sentiment is that terrorism will be stopped only by detaining, arresting and killing all of its leaders.  This is however not the case as terrorism cannot be stopped by detaining, arresting or even killing its leaders.  A new breed of terrorists will be born who are younger and more violent than their predecessors so long as the problem is not addressed at its cause. 

One of the long term solutions to terrorism is an educated citizenry.  Presently, however, the connection between education and terrorism is still unpopular.  There is however some who support the importance of education in the fight against terrorism.  According to Governor Tom Ridge, “If you want to respond to terrorism and you want to fight back, then you create an educated citizenry” (Michael Rubinkam, 2001).

Highlighting the role of education in maintaining peace was stressed by Bassem Awadallah, Minister of Finance, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Committee on Senate Foreign Relations.  At present, the Middle East is faced with a serious challenge on unemployment.  It is estimated that there will be 146 million workers who will seek employment by 2010 and around 185 million by 2020.  Complicating the unemployment problem are the problems of hatred, bigotry and violence.  These are in turn compounded and made more complicated by lack of opportunity.  It must be stressed that education is central in allowing people to get better opportunities in their life.   Thus, Bassem Awadallah stressed that the true solution to terrorism is to modernize the educational system, to encourage creative thinking, problem solving and to trust students to make the right judgment. 

Education is not only important in terms of giving better opportunities to people living in
poverty and in Third World countries.  Education may likewise serve as a defense against Islamic groups who take advantage of the people’s lack of education and ignorance.  Terrorist groups recruit young individuals who were not able to finish their education.  Because they are ignorant and they lack opportunity, these circumstances can easily be manipulated by terrorist groups so as to convince the young people to join their groups.  According to Al-Aly Nizar (2003), extremist groups are constantly looking for recruits among the illiterate and the ignorant.  “We need the authorities to understand how dangerous illiteracy is. Every illiterate youth is vulnerable to some kind of deviation and drift."

The lack of educational opportunities is a serious problem in the Middle East.  Statistics shows that 27% of men in Arab states are illiterate.  The statistics is worse for women as only 50% of women can read and write (Capitol Hill Press Releases, 2005).   In Pakistan, only 39% of women are literate while only 63% of male are literate (Capitol Hill Press Releases, 2005).  Taking into account the literacy problem in Muslim countries and the fact that extremist and terrorist groups take advantage of their condition, it becomes not only the duty of the United States but even its moral obligation to make educational assistance programs a government priority.  Thus, instead of spending millions of dollars for guns and ammunition and military spending, it is suggested that part of this funds should be channeled to education assistance programs in these countries.  The dollars which the United States has been spending for weapons, ammunition, and warfare can be utilized to fund the outdated and poorly-funded education systems in Eastern and South Asian countries.  In focusing on helping Third World nations rise from lack of education and opportunity we do not only stop terrorism but we also make this world a better place.  A strong educational system is there one of the most effective solutions to countering terrorism. 

Poverty as the Root Cause of Terrorism
When individuals do not have opportunity because they did not have adequate education, the most likely thing to happen is that they will remain in poverty.  Just like their parents, they will continue to suffer from poverty only that their situation will be worse than their parents and the generations before them.  According to the United Nations, poverty is a global problem that threatens world security, jeopardizes international efforts to end violent conflict, instability and terrorism.  According to Thalif Deen (2005) quoting from Jeffrey Sachs, "When people lack access to food, medical care, safe drinking water, and a chance at a better future, their societies are likely to experience instability, and the unrest spills over to the rest of the world."

Thalif  Deen (2005) added that presently, there are more than one billion people worldwide who live on less than one (1) dollar a day.  Another 2.7 billion struggle to survive on less than two (2) dollars a day, while 11 million children die each year from preventable causes like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia (Thalife Deed, 2005). 

According to Bangladesh Foreign Affairs adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury (2007) the war on terror is a war against poverty.  Iftekhar stressed that poverty, hunger, injustice, disaster, and displacement are the root causes of menace and fighting terrorism means combating these disorders.  It is this vicious cycle of poverty that drives people to commit crimes and become desperate terrorists and suicide bombers. 

Taking into account the present problem of global poverty and the fact that these people are often recruited by extremist groups, breaking the bondage and chain of poverty should therefore be a matter of extreme urgency.  Efforts should therefore be made by the family of nations to help alleviate poverty in Third World countries by helping create employment opportunities. 

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