Poverty Is Not a Cause of Terrorism, Radical Islam Is

During the Progressive Era in America (1900-1920), it became common to excuse crime by blaming the crime on the environment in which the perpetrator was raised rather the evil within the perpetrator’s heart. Even the most heinous of acts could be overlooked if it could be demonstrated that the one who committed the act was raised in a home with an abusive father, a low appreciation of education, or even worse — poverty.

And while the Progressive Era disappeared via America’s involvement in World War One, progressives never did. They are still among us, educating our children in universities and passing laws in the halls of Congress that ultimately put the victim on trial by giving the criminal a myriad of “justifiable” excuses for why he did what he did.

Since ascending to the White House, President Obama, a progressive if ever there was one, has exemplified this leftist habit of excusing dangerous behavior by the way he has responded to terrorists and terrorism. This was made crystal clear over the past weekend, when Obama used his weekly radio address to blame, at least in part, the flight 253 terrorist attack on “poverty.”

On Saturday, January 2, 1010, Obama admitted Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s ties to a broad terroristic cause, and even that U.S. intelligence knew Abdulmutallab had traveled to Yemen to “[join] an affiliate of al-Qaeda.” But the President also offered an excuse for Abdulmutallab’s terrorist bent by reminding his listeners: “We know…Yemen [is] a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies.”

While no would argue against the assertion that Yemen has many poor people within its porous borders, the question we need to answer is causal not empirical. In other words, does poverty cause terrorism in other countries where people are financially stricken?

If so, why aren’t the poor within our own inner cities blowing up buildings, attacking airliners, or detonating themselves in crowded areas?

The bottom line is this — Poverty is not a cause of terrorism, but radical Islam is. In other words, Osama Bin Laden wasn’t driven to Jihad by poverty but by ideas, and those ideas flourish in countries where radical Islam flourishes, regardless of socio-economic factors.

This means Obama’s response to the terrorism flowing from Yemen ought not be financial in nature: It ought not be the Democrat’s normal, shoot-from-the-hip response of throwing money at a problem with the assumption that such funds will make everyone happy. During Bill Clinton’s Presidency, warlords in Somalia taught us that any aid we send in this situation will most likely be confiscated by radical Islamists who will let the Yemenis starve while they use the monies to fund international Jihad, and their own comfort.

Instead, our response must include taking it the terrorists militarily wherever (and however) we can reach them. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s use of Special Forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere is a perfect model for this, as are the unmanned drones the Air Force can currently float above enemy camps, and from miles away send in precision strikes that remove threats before they reach our shores.

We should also lean on Saudi Arabia a bit, as Yemen is their neighbor not ours. Why can’t the same Saudi Arabia that couldn’t wait for President George H.W. Bush to save their oil during Desert Storm step up now and save American lives by helping put an end to the influx of “deadly insurgencies” in Yemen?

Making excuses for terrorism may be the progressive thing to do, but it won’t be successful, for the problem is ideological, rather than financial in nature. We must admit that the threat ultimately flows from hearts and minds which are under the sway of radical Islam, and while we battle on that front, we must press “allies” like the Saudis to do their part to make this world a safer place.