Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Civil liberties and terrorism

The January 2005 issue of "Scientific American" published an article by Michael Shermer in which he explored the profile of a suicide bomber--one that runs contrary to most expectations.

The belief that suicide bombers are poor, uneducated, disaffected or disturbed is contradicted by science. Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, found in a study of 400 Al Qaeda members that three quarters of his sample came from the upper or middle class. Moreover, he noted, "the vast majority--90 percent--came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that's usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways." Nor were they sans employment and familial duties. "Far from having no family or job responsibilities, 73 percent were married and the vast majority had children.... Three quarters were professionals or semiprofessionals. They are engineers, architects and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion."

This analysis led to the question, "how do we try to reduce the likelihood that these people will turn to "murdercide," as he called it.

One method ... says Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger, is to increase the civil liberties of the countries that breed terrorist groups. In an analysis of State Department data on terrorism, Krueger discovered that "countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism." Let freedom ring.

This sounds like a great idea--increasing civil liberties across the Middle East. I would like to believe that our current foray into that region is designed to secure these kinds of rights. But I think we need to begin our crusade for freedom by defending our civil liberties here at home. We can't export freedom while we allow our government to spy on us--while we allow American citizens to be denied their Constitutional rights. Let's spread freedom...and let's begin in America.

Read the entire article here.

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