Response to Leon on Suicide Bombers

Leon seems to suggest that I’m proposing a solution to suicide bombers, but I’m not (and apologies to Leon if I’m misreading him).

All I was doing was pointing out that the stereotypes that the pollies and media propogate of the people who carry out suicide bombings (of which London probably was not one) being people who are poor and uneducated is incorrect.

I certainly am not suggesting that the fact that they generally are educated is the problem!

I have no idea if there are any solutions, let alone what they may be. But I certainly think that it’s worth bearing in mind what Menken wrote:

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.

Stereotypes of Suicide Bombers

Leon Brooks writes about discouraging suicide bombers:

At first glance, a look under the surface of any terrorist will show someone with nothing left to lose. But there is almost always a second layer of people who have plenty of physical resources, directing things. It seems to me that the answer is simple: enrich them.

Sadly this will not help, its basic premise that suicide bombers having nothing left to loose is incorrect.

New Scientist published an article called The Making of a Suicide Bomber (you’ll need to be a subscriber to New Scientist or willing to pay to view the entire text) back in May 2004 dispelling myths such as this on suicide bombers, citing a growing body of work showing that suicide bombers generally come from a higher than average economic and educational level than the population they are drawn from.

To quote the article purely on the economic argument that Leon raises, it says:

Yet in a study of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad suicide terrorists from the late 1980s to 2003, Claude Berrebi, an economist at Princeton University, found that only 13 per cent came from a poor background compared with 32 per cent of the Palestinian population in general. In addition, more than half the suicide bombers had entered further education, compared with just 15 per cent of the general population. And in a paper published last year in the Journal of Economic Perspectives (vol 17, no 4, p 119), economist Alan Krueger of Princeton University and the Russell Sage Foundation in New York and Jitka Maleckov�of the Institute for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, showed that Hezbollah militants who died in action in the 1980s and early 1990s were less likely to be impoverished and more likely to have attended secondary school than others of their age.

You can find more with this Google Scholar search.