We keep you alive—for now - Macleans.ca

We keep you alive—for now


The terror attack on Northwest 253: another blow to the “Poverty is the root cause of terrorism” crowd—not that it will shut them up; nothing ever does—and another sad triumph for the Gambetta-Hertog “Engineers of Jihad” hypothesis.


We keep you alive—for now

  1. Perhaps the lesson is that single-cause explanations for terrorism tend to tell you more about the people employing them than the terrorists.

    • I think it is a general principle that nothing ever described as the "root cause" of something is really the root cause of it.

      • Unless the "root cause" is a silly bearded guy disguised as a journalist. Exactly what do you contribute to ANY debate? Get a real job you "fart-in-a-frying-pan" momentarian non-phenomenon.

        That was unkind, yes?

        Yet you should feel privileged that anyone pays attention to your partisan rants — and, of course, you do. Mr. Cheese.

  2. I had not heard of the engineers angle, thanks for that. How they describe engineers in that article also sounds a lot like doctors to me but they don't seem to have as high an incident rate as engineers do.

    I can't find it now, I didn't look very hard tho, but I remember reading article a few years ago about correlation/causation of terrorism and authoritarian governments.

    • the headline is a vast oversimplification of Chretien's point, as is, i suspect Colby's brow beating.

      • Not to mention that Chretien's speech is more than 7 years old.

        • So?

          • So the voices in Colby's head have been going on about this for 7 years.

  3. another blow to the “Poverty is the root cause of terrorism” crowd—not that it will shut them up; nothing ever does

    The "Poverty is the root cause to terrorism" crowd is pretty much just a voice in your head, Cosh. Go do a little googling and you'll find most of the people talking about poverty as a root cause of terrorism are right whingers who have nothing better to do than assault strawmen.

    • "No-one in this world can feel comfortable, or safe, while so many are suffering and deprived" Kofi Annan

      "Underdevelopment and extreme poverty are the breeding ground of violence and despair, thus undermining peace and security for developed and developing countries alike." Han Seung-soo

      “As long as young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up, you are never going to make progress.” Cherie Blair

      McClelland Do you know that everyone can use google and not just you? Do you consider Annan and Blair to be right whingers or are you talking nonsense once again.

      • You can google alright. But you clearly can't understand what you read.

        • But you clearly can't understand what you read.

          …But you go him one better, Robbo, in not understanding what you write.

  4. "not that it will shut them up; nothing ever does"

    Grow up.

    • "Grow up."

      Get smart.

      • I'm not addressing you. I'm addressing the National Post cast-off who wrote that. And I'm serious. It really is time for that group of sneering adolescents to grow the hell up already.

        • You've marginalized youself on this site with your non-contributions to any given discussion Tiggy, in case you've not noticed.

          • What?

          • I think the French Empire just called the English Empire arrogant and imperialistic.

        • I know you're not addressing me. And that "National Post cast-off" makes a really good point.

          • Technically, it's defamatory, since I wasn't cast off from anywhere. I guess McClelland would want me to go kick his ass or something?

          • Well… certainly from this discussion McClelland does think from his ass…

          • I don't dispute that such an exchange took place between you and Robert McClelland. I saw it.
            But, I wonder if you're going to carry it around with you for a long time because 1- you're supposed to be the professional here, so 2- while you may not be a castoff, you may still want to consider growing up a little, 3- though you like to make like he's nothing to you, recalling everything R. McC ever said to you suggests something other than that and 4- repeatedly bringing it up in the comments section seems more than a little on the petulant and tedious side, so 5 – see numbers one and two.

  5. A guy whose dad told the yankees month ago that he'd gone a little crazy gets through security with a bomb strapped to his nuts? Maybe the root cause here was Yankee dumbness?

    By the way, the reason my wife has to by handcreams on the other side of the security wall at Pearson is to prevent the smuggling of just those kinds of liquid bombs this guy got on board. It didn't help deter terrorism, but the shops at Pearson are making a bundle.

    • The Libloggers predictably come out blaming the U.S. for terrorism.

      As we enter a new decade, some things never change.

      • Speaking of never shutting up…

      • Will you be entering the new decade a few days from now, or one year and a few days from now?

  6. "monism" and "simplism". Swings both ways and in every direction.

  7. Not sure that the poverty is the root cause of terrorism and the Gambetta-Hertog “Engineers of Jihad” hypotheses are mutually exclusive.

    • If you're not with the war on engineers, you're against it.

      • Thanks George. Didn't you mean "If yer not fer the war on enjneers, yer agin it"?

        That's actually quite funny….a play on the fellow (and the followers) who tended to simplify difficult or complex situations into a black-white choice that even the dumbest amongst us hopefully couldn't get wrong, juxtaposed with a profession that is characterized as potentially leaning towards terrorism because of their apparent predilection towards oversimplification of a problem and a preference for single choice options.

        And full disclosure…I have a soft spot for the profession of engineering, but not all of its practitioners.

        • I'll actually sleep better knowing it's engineers trying to blow us up. The hapless Mr. Abdulmutallab was likely among their best and brightest – what with being able to find his way to the airport and all.

          • Well, I doubt that he is/was amongst their best and brightest. Over the years I have found that all occupations or professions have folks with a wide range of capabilities to populate their ranks, including engineers, bloggers, columnists, singer/songwriters, parents, doctors, teachers…..

          • Heh. That has been my experience with engineers also.

            What, you want it to work?


  8. That graph is staggering. Obviously, they should just cut out the racial profiling bullshit and just prevent engineers from getting on airplanes. Or intruding on polite company.

  9. That graph is staggering. Clearly they need to cut out the racial profiling crap and just prohibit engineers from getting on planes. Or intruding on polite company.

  10. The "poverty is the root cause of terrorism" is a comforting notion to the libs because poverty is a problem that can be addressed and improved – if not completely solved. Summed up in the phrase, "If we just provided more aid, development, opportunity etc. we could decrease or eliminate terrorism by creating hope and reducing despair"

    On the other hand, abject hatred fuelled by ideology or religious fanaticism has no simple fix. It's a lot harder to face up to the fact that some people hate us for reasons that have nothing to do with economic disparity.

    It has been proven over and over again that most terrorists are middle to upper class and well educated.

    • You've got your "Easy simplistic theory so it makes my opponents little minds comfortable thinking it" story a little backwards there, kiddo!

    • I think it's a no-brainer that any group that actually manages to terrorize something on a scale that the whole world notices can't be dirt poor or they wouldn't have the resources to do it, so I'll agree with the statement "Most terrorists that the world media covers are middle to upper class and well educated."

      If you look at the kind of small-scale ethnic bullying that adds up to something on the scale of genocide like Somalia & Rwanda, where tens of thousands of people are involved, I don't think you'll see a lot well-educated upper-class types. With educated types, it takes a real nutter to be a terrorist, while thousands of uneducated poor people with no prospects can get swept up in a murderous frenzy.

      • I think you're mixing two very different things.

        The state-backed genocide in Rwanda (or Somalia? did you mean Sudan?) was not committed by terrorists. They were acts of government forces or quasi-government militia. And the evil leaders that incited mass killing were neither poor nor uneducated.

        One only has to look at the Nazi leadership who planned the Final Solution. Not exactly an uneducated bunch they were.

        Quite likely that many of the killers were poor, but that's not the point. No one is saying that poverty is the root cause of genocide.

  11. Actually, it isn't logically inconsistent that poverty could still be the root of cause of [phenomenon X] without the person most actively involved in [a specific instance of phenomenon X] himself being impoverished.

    Although of course it shouldn't need to be mentioned, few if any people would probably agree completely with the statement "Poverty is THE root cause of terrorism." (Like other posters, I believe most exist in Mr. Cosh's mind – which would explain the "they never shut up" part). Most would probably realize, however, that poverty is an important factor in how terrorist ideas and methods spread.

  12. Colby meets world, world overwhelms Colby, Colby reverts to nihilism. It's simple, the root cause of everything is ego. In terrorism, poverty is just a catalyst.

  13. leave them alone in THEIR own land simple as is.

  14. Since we are trained to feel squeamish about thinking about race, religion, sex or now, even profession, to allow that perhaps there are some trends, we are getting even longer line ups and search times which will destroy travel. The jihad chappies (mostly males – am I allowed to say that?) are succeeding in destroying our Western standard of living.
    Perhaps it is time to bring in the psychological experts to watch people getting on planes. This begs the question, although they were not trained psychological experts, did anyone on that plane have concerns about the man before he set himself on fire?

    • I hadn't realised our Western standard of living depended on short lineups at the airport.

      Thanks for clearing that up.

  15. Engineers do tend to be socially inept and hang on to an arrogant god-complex from their university days (not all, of course). But, as mentioned in the article's comments, it may also just be that engineers are more competent terrorists. Their methodical nature and attention to detail happens to be useful assets in the "Allahu Akbar" business. So, because the graph only plotted successful attacks, engineers are over-represented. I would suspect that religion, peer group, nationality, gender and age are a more important factors.

    • Where'd you get the idea that the Gambetta-Hertog data set "only plotted successful attacks"?

      • An senior official that would only speak to me anonymously but the info was corroborated by one more unnamed source.

        The report includes various terrorists events and links it to their degrees. (start on page 21).

        The other thing that might be of interest, I read that in the ME children of wealthy parents tend to study engineering and Islamic studies (most of the ME skilled labor and service industry is imported infidels). Universities have always been centers that radicals flock to for recruitment activity. If radical Islam has a significant presence on campus, it would naturally follow that many of their converts would be from the more numerous student groups like Eng and IS. In Canada the green brigade recruits from the relatively large population of liberal arts students (although they are harmless by comparison). Students are more easily manipulated and groomed by savvy activists who are trained to spot vulnerable kids.

        Engineer's personality traits may be part of the puzzle but correlation does not prove causation. Besides any report from a sociology department should always be regarded with suspicion. That academic group is notoriously deranged.

  16. As an engineer, I'd like to point out that a common characteristic of these terrorists is that they are incompetent misfits. All have lacked the ability to change their societies in any positive manner, leading them to resort to violence. These guys are hardly more representative of engineers as a population than they are representative of Muslims. For examples of COMPETENT engineers applying their skills to violence, consider examples of their work such as ICBMs, the AK-47, fighter aircraft, main battle tanks – maybe not the most positive impact on the world, but they're a little more impressive than some idiot who stuffed his pants with explosives.

  17. The "engineers" hypothesis reminds me of two things:

    1. When I was in university, a couple of my (male) dormmates were in engineering, and they were constantly griping about the fact that engineering was, in their view, a completely warped environment. Among the big factors they cited for this was the dearth of women, and the generally warped milieu which results when you incubate a mass of nerdy post-pubescent guys with way too few women and add intense competition and psychotic workload.

    2. Related to the above point, I note that some of the more repressive Islamic societies (e.g., Wahhabist Saudi Arabia) do share something in common with Engineering World: a notable dearth of women relating to men as equals, and a resultant male-dominated culture heavy on sexual denial and frustration.