Poverty Does Not Breed Extremism in Pakistan, Study Finds

Rob Crilly, Telegraph (London), May 20, 2011

The study, conducted by researchers from prestigious American universities, found no link between poverty and support for militant groups.

The findings undermine a central pillar of the Conservative government’s radical new policy on aid, which will deliver almost £1.4bn to Pakistan over the next five years as part of a strategy to protect Britain from terrorist attack.

On Wednesday, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, spelled out the policy to a jeering audience of police officers, who face pay cuts while extra cash is earmarked for Pakistan.

“If you get aid right in certain parts of the world, such as Pakistan, it will reduce the possibility of terrorism on the streets of the UK,” she said.

Christine Fair, a South Asia expert at Georgetown University and one of the authors of the new paper, said there was no evidence for such sweeping assertions and that her study of 6,000 people suggested that poorer Pakistanis were actually less likely to support extremist groups than more affluent, better educated people.

“The terrorism literature has long held that poverty does not explain terrorism,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

“Yet despite what would be a fairly robust body of literature, both the British government and the American government, have put together this canard that we can buy our way out of terrorism by investing in education and so forth. We simply don’t find this.”

Andrew Mitchell, who became International Development Secretary last year, has repeatedly talked of putting national security at the heart of aid policy.

With domestic budgets being cut, the argument has been deployed to justify continuing to spend money overseas–even in Pakistan, a middle income country where few people pay tax and the government spends more than £4bn on its Army and nuclear arsenal each year.

In March, a review of British overseas declared, “Tackling extreme poverty in Pakistan will help make the UK safer,” as ministers announced they would more than double the amount of cash for the terrorist-hit country–to £446m in 2015, so long as certain benchmarks are met.

However, development agencies such as Oxfam have warned that such moves are wrongheaded and that money should be spent purely to help those in need–not to protect Britain.

The new research, the first of its kind and published by the Social Science Research Network, suggests the money will not even help make Britain more secure.

In an “endorsement experiment”, respondents were asked how much they supported different policies–the use of peace jirgas or reform of school curricula for example.

A test group was told the policies were connected with Kashmiri terror groups or the Afghan Taliban.

The difference between their responses and those of a control group, which was not told of any connection, was taken as a measure of support for the militant groups.

When compared with socio-economic indicators, the researchers found poorer people were less likely to support extremist politics.

The paper concluded that poorer people in Pakistan were more likely to be the victims of suicide bombings and other terror attacks, and therefore were more likely to have negative feelings towards militants.

“This does mean there aren’t good reasons to invest in education and poverty mitigation. There are perfectly good reasons to do that. But if you are doing it with the explicit goal of buying security at home, there is not a lot of evidence,” said Dr Fair.

“None at all.”

Andrew Mitchell, International Development Secretary, insisted that countries lacking education and mired in poverty were the least stable.

“Improving governance, security and the rule of law, matched with better opportunities in terms of education and jobs, means we are lifting people out of extreme poverty and addressing grievances that can lead people towards extremism,” he said.

“It is too narrow to consider this issue simply in terms of financial poverty and extremism. It is vital to consider a wider range of issues that can lead to instability and extremism, including local grievances and poor education.”

Topics: ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • Question Diversity

    Operating under the now-debunked theory that poverty does cause terrorism (much the same paradigm as poverty causes crime), the American Federal government had a program with Pakistan where Pakistani manufactured textiles would be able to be imported into the United States tariff-free. So that the Pakistanis can have “jobs” in order to avoid the “lure” of Al Qaeda.

    Cui bono? The American textile industry, what was left of it, in the South, has now all but gone. Perfect excuse for the big name clothing providers to lower their labor costs.

  • Anonymous

    I was having a conversation with a liberal friend a few weeks ago. We are both university students in our early 20s. Our conversation started when I asked her which classes she had enrolled in for the summer. She replied that she signed up for a couple of sociology classes. I then voiced my negative opinion about the sociology field and described why I feel like it is biased, unproductive and a waste of time. I also brought up an American Renaissance linked news story from a while ago where a sociologist “discovered” a correlation between murder rates and poverty in black (but not white) areas and concluded that murder causes poverty, as if correlating two unrelated variables and implying that one causes the other constitutes valid research. Regular AmRen readers may remember the article that I’m talking about.

    My liberal friend then started to add her input. She described how there really is a link between poverty and crime. She genuinely believed that poverty causes crime. I responded to her contention by mentioning the fact that early American pioneers were dirt poor and came to the New World with nothing, but they weren’t radical criminals who commit crime similar to what you see in urban black areas today.

    Well, she had to take a few seconds to grasp what I said to her. After a pause, she said that it was a different culture and time period. I then drew attention to the fact that she just said a minute ago that poverty causes crime, but now she’s switching her argument and saying that bad culture causes crime.

    What ensued next was my liberal friend going on a ramble for 10 minutes and not making any substantial points. She appeared to use rambling as a substitute for saying something meaningful. Employing red-herrings in an argument is always a way of admitting defeat.

  • Anonymous

    “The findings undermine a central pillar of the Conservative government’s radical new policy on aid…”

    What a joke! The idea of poverty causing terrorism is a tenet of the leftist religions. Any so-called “Conservative” body that advocates this garbage is conservative in name only.

    This article has inadvertently given good evidence for the gradual migration of political ideas, which always seems to flow one way: LEFT.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s the meat of the theory:

    >>

    Andrew Mitchell, International Development Secretary, insisted that countries lacking education and mired in poverty were the least stable.

    >>

    Libya is vastly superior to central African states without oil to underpin their economies, despite the fact that it is essentially the northern most reaches of the Sahara Desert.

    What these people are setting up is the assumption that terrorism can only be ameliorated through ‘state controls’ (i.e. International Intervention).

    Ignoring the fact that, say, Saddam’s Iraq had virtually ZERO terrorist involvements while places like Saudi and Iran, with large educated classes (and very active religious militias, official and otherwise) were and remain the largest sponsors of terrorism, both monetarily and by direct action.

    9/11, the Embassy and Barracks bombins in Lebanon, the Iranian connection to the Berlin discotechque bombings, the attacks in Greece and the Achille Lauro.

    All of these were led by fairly well to do middle class elements, sponsored by relatively (for Islam) open governments.

    Which is where the strongmen-are-bad theory gets turned on it’s head since a strongman has the means to be draconian and the motive to want to stay outside the spotlight in securing his position. A position which is anathema to globalists that are looking to push for world-state rule.

    The question then becomes _where is the money going_.

    >>

    “Improving governance, security and the rule of law, matched with better opportunities in terms of education and jobs, means we are lifting people out of extreme poverty and addressing grievances that can lead people towards extremism,” he said.

    “It is too narrow to consider this issue simply in terms of financial poverty and extremism. It is vital to consider a wider range of issues that can lead to instability and extremism, including local grievances and poor education.”

    >>

    And even given the need to ‘wax the mustaches’ of everyone involved, I still am going to go with the concept of setting up governments in exile for the Taliban and Tribal Lords so that they do not feel dispossessed and so do not immediately attempt to undermine Afghanistan’s government in turn.

    ‘All moneys to be dispersed by the Pakistani ISI’ of course. Just as with the Russian war. Which is what led to the empowerment of their picked-men Taliban extremists to begin with.

    Less a form of jizziya (‘head tax’) than danegeld, it will be maintained, through intermediaries (i.e. this is not British money, it just looks like it) so long as it is politically expedient not to embarrass the U.S. administration with the immediate collapse of our efforts in SWA.

  • NAVY

    Poverty is a central issue in middle eastern terrorism.

    Muslims view the American peoples goodwill toward their countries with hate.

    Muslims cannot stand the fact that American’s could stride across centuries to even offer them help.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know what motives people have for saying poverty causes crime, terrorism, etc. But I don’t think the people making the decisions really believe it. Perhaps the “useful idiot” progressives believe it. But not the one’s calling the shots. I suspect ulterior motives. And I suspect they have their hand in the cookie jar.

  • Anonymous

    You can’t study such a thing “scientifically”. The scientific method isn’t valid for social behavior. I might make a possible exception for certain stereotyped behavior….depression, anxiety and eating disorders and no other disorders (the rest being fraud)….and ONLY because some fruit has been born in the treatment aspect. I say some because most is just lies and nonsense….and with a graduate degree in clinical psychology, I know about these things.

    The closest thing that is an objective method in these fields is statistics but all the logical elements that make up the scientific method are either tossed out the door or impossible to apply.

    These are pseudo sciences, not sciences. Any “study” they come up with means nothing. At best, it’s theory divorced from reality.

    This is an intentional scam, by the way…..attempts to use the prestige of science to give something a reputation not earned.

  • Michael C. Scott

    If – as were are expected to believe – that poverty causes terrorism, why were 15 of the 9/11 hijackers from Saudi Arabia and two from the United Arab Emirates, with only one each from Lebanon and Egypt? Why was Osama bin Laden from a family that had become extremely wealthy in the construction business? It also doesn’t even pretend to explain the Baader-Meinhoff Group and Red Brigades in Germany and Italy, the American Weather Underground or the Unabomber; Ted Kazcenski had been a mathematics professer at Berkely! Likewise, the leader of the Japanese Red Army, Fusako Shigenobu was a university graduate with two Batchellor’s Degrees; her father was a teacher and retired Imperial Army major. Wealthy Japan also produced the United Red Army, a terrorist gang that was so vicious that they lynched half of their own membership in less than three months in 1971-72. France even has a anti-speed camera terrorist group, the Front National Anti-Radars, a member of which accidentally blew his hands off with a homemade bomb in 2008.

    This nonsense “poverty” argument not only fails to address any of these examples, it is directly contradicted by them.

  • Anonymous

    To paraphrase Eric Hoffer “Where people toil from sunrise to sunset they nurse no grievances and dream no dreams”– the truly impoverished have bigger worries than radical causes.

    The painful truth about terrorism is that America has brought its problems on itself. We’ve meddled in others affairs and it’s resented.

    Now we’ve even invaded an Iraq that didn’t attack us, had no plans to attack us and didn’t want war with us.

    Our policy, not poverty, is the cause of extremism. Painful to swallow.

  • Flaxen-headed Strumpet

    Check out the hardscrabble poverty stricken childhood of William Ayers or Patty Hearst or any number of notorious white domestic terrorists in this country.

  • diversity = adversity

    The interaction of conflicting cultures and races breeds extremism. I were not a “racist” before blacks and mexicans came in and started ruining my state.

    When white people are called “ray$iss” just for pointing out the truth, it is a slur the same as the one beginning with “N”. When that happens call your congressman and complain; Call newspapers and complain; self-blog your complaints about the racial and ethnic hatred of white people when they are just trying to exercise their rights and their culture!

    Of course there is no link between regular poverty and extremism.

  • down the bayou

    Giving money to pakistan will only further fund their military. The “poor” peasant pakistanis will never see any of the money except in the new tanks that roll by their houses.

    It certainly won’t stop the military extremists already living in britain, and america, and the rest of europe. Exposure to cultural folk with clashing values and lifestyles only breeds conflict; This conflict breeds extremism. However showering money on the extremists in our country’s will not solve the problem either. Prison will make it worse and we will still be footing the bill. Send them back to their country, or start doing things we don’t talk about.

  • patthemick

    How about this. “Islamic religious devotion causes terrorism.”

    That makes more sense to me since the terrorists come from all walks of life. The leadership never seems to blow itself to paradise I notice. Same as everywhere I guess.