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Terrorism and Popular Support: A Matter of Interests
Daniel L. Parrott and David A. Anderson, 4/1/2013

Foreign Policy’s Value-Based Missteps

Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to highlight a misalignment in the United States strategy to defeat al Qaeda, in the current National Strategy for Counterterrorism (NSCT, 2011), the National Security Strategy (NSS, 2010) and the National Defense Strategy (NDS). At the heart of this misalignment in strategy is an over reliance placed on universal values. This focus on values is problematic for two fundamental reasons: first, whether “universal” or not, it has detracted from U.S. interests while reinforcing a perception of validity of al Qaeda’s religion-based propaganda. This misunderstanding emphasizes the religious-based argument that al Qaeda has used since 1996 in defining their struggle in terms of freedom from influence and religious persecution. In addition, it detracts from the importance of interest, a focus on values also allows for a justifiable claim of western hypocrisy by al Qaeda when the United States acts in its own interests instead of in support of its values. Instead of values, the United States should speak to shared interests and act on those common interests.

This paper operates on the premise that human behavior is incentive-based and that groups of people are driven to support organizations and causes based on what is in their best interests. Without common political goals and interests, a population will not support a terrorist group or any other organization for that matter. It is the relationship of interests (of the population) to provider (organization, terrorist or otherwise) that determines whether people support terrorist organizations. We believe that the support of a population for either the terrorist or the counterterrorist is based on the answer to two fundamental questions. First, which group (terrorist or counterterrorist) will be able to get me (the population) the better deal? Second, which group is going to win? In order to get at the crux of these questions in relationship to U.S. efforts to defeat al Qaeda, the following two questions will be addressed via hypothesis testing of variables based on human needs theory.

1) The population’s opinion of the United States and their support for terrorism

2) What drives a population to withdraw support for terrorism?

Why not values?

To understand why a strategy based on values instead of on interests will not work, it is important to understand what the different cultures involved actually value. For the purposes of this paper, the cultures discussed will be those pertinent to America and to both non-Western Muslims and the Arab World. “Arab World” is the shorthand term for “twenty-two countries, many races, and a number of fascinating religious and ethnic minority communities, each with its own traditions…these 350 million souls all share a single language and with it the common culture, shared values, and a view of history that language conveys.”[1] In both populations, religion plays a primary role in the determination of values, but overall “Arab and American values are strikingly similar.”[2] Below are the results of a 2002 poll where Arab and American respondents were asked to rank a list of eight values provided to them in order of importance.

 

How important to you are each of the following concerns?

Arab Rank

Order of Importance

American Rank

Quality of work

1

Family

Family

2

Quality of work

Religion

3

Friends

Job Security

4

Marriage

Marriage

5

Job Security

Friends

6

Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy

7

Religion

Leisure Time

8

Leisure Time

Source: James J. Zogby, What Arabs Think: Values, Beliefs and Concerns (Utica, NY: Zogby International/The Arab Thought Foundation, 2002).

Out of the eight values, only two were displaced by more than two spots when ranked relative to one another; friends (three higher for Americans) and religion (five lower for Americans). The differing priorities of religion may be superficial though, because once Arab and Americans were compared based on attendance at religious services, “the rank order was quite similar.”[3] In another question on the same poll, the similarities between Arab and American values were more evident:

How important is it to teach each of the following values to children?

Arab Rank

Order of Importance

American Rank

Self-respect

1

Responsibility

Good health and hygiene

2

Self-respect

Responsibility

3

Good health and hygiene

Respect for elders

4

Self-reliance

Achieve a better life

5

Respect for elders

Self-reliance

6

Serious work habits

Religion/faith

7

Respect for authority

Serious work habits

8

Achieve a better life

Obedience

9

Creativity

Creativity

10

Tolerance for others

Tolerance for others

11

Obedience

Respect for authority

12

Religion/faith

Source: James J. Zogby, What Arabs Think: Values, Beliefs and Concerns (Utica, NY: Zogby International/The Arab Thought Foundation, 2002).

When asked what values are important to teach to children, both cultures place four of the same values in their respective top five. In addition, nine of the twelve values are ranked within two spots on each of the respective polls, with religion again being the largest discrepancy between the two polls with a difference of five spots, tied with respect for authority. Based on the similarities in the values of the two peoples, it is my belief that any disparity between the cultures of the Arab World and America are unlikely to explain support for terrorists or violent extremists. In fact, based on the assertion that the basic social function of values is to motivate and control the behavior of group members,[4] we believe that any differences between the two cultures is less likely to be explained by a clash of civilizations and more likely to be explained by a clash of policies.

Terrorism: U.S. Policy

National Strategy for Counterterrorism (NSCT): In the past few years, some (such as Francis Fukuyama) have argued that the nature of the present war (GWOT) is poorly named at best and a misrepresentation of reality at worst.[5] The current National Strategy for Counterterrorism (NSCT), published in June of 2011 concurs by clarifying that although the word “war” is still used by the United States government, “we are not at war with the tactic of terrorism or the religion of Islam. We are at war with a specific organization – al-Qaida.”[6] The NSCT defines the United States’ ultimate objective is to “disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately defeat al-Qaida…to ensure the security of our citizens and interests”[7] and is “guided by core principles: Adhering to U.S. Core Values; Building Security Partnerships; Applying CT Tools and Capabilities Appropriately; and Building a Culture of Resilience”.[8] It is the application of the principle of core value adherence and the building of security partnerships that this paper will discuss in a fight not only against terrorism but also in a struggle to gain legitimacy and support amongst the same populations that could most aid the United States or al Qaeda. Although the NSCT discusses our values it does not take into account the values and interests of other nations, even those nations whose partnership is required in order to defeat the global threat of al Qaeda. When discussing values, the NSCT makes the assumption that all terrorists have to offer is “injustice, disorder, and destruction” while the “power and appeal of our values enables the United States to build a broad coalition to act collectively against the common threat posed by terrorists.”[9] If all terrorists have to offer truly is “injustice, disorder, and destruction,” it is unlikely that the resident population would provide any support to the terrorists. In addition, if the terrorists were bringing about the type of chaos suggested in the NSCT, it is also unlikely that any of the population’s interests would be met. What the NSCT does not address at all is what the United States should do if our terrorists truly are the population’s freedom fighter and are acting in support of the population’s interests. In fact, instead of acting in support of a population’s interests to drive a wedge between terrorists and their support base, the NSCT describes how it is in the interests of the United States to “build habits and patterns of counterterrorism cooperation” with partners who “may not share U.S. values or even our broader vision of regional and global security.”[10] In short, the NSCT suggests an environment where the United States, full of values and ideals, ensures security of the United States by defeating al Qaeda using partnerships with nations which may not agree with our vision of regional security while the population isn’t mentioned to any degree.

National Interests and Universal Values: Less than a year after President Obama’s speech in Cairo, the U.S. National Security Strategy focused on the renewal of “American leadership so that we can more effectively advance our interests,”[11] and defined those interests as: the security of the United States; a strong U.S. economy; respect for universal values; and an “international order advanced by U.S. leadership.”[12] The introduction of a system of universal values into the national security strategy was not necessarily a true list of values, but mere guidance on how America (and Americans) should behave in order to protect or achieve our interests. For example, the promotion of democracy; “the United States supports the expansion of democracy and human rights abroad because governments that respect these values are more just, peaceful, and legitimate. We also do so because their success abroad fosters an environment that supports America’s national interests.”[13] So, if America only supports values in order to support our own national interests, are they really American values? And if the values of the American government are only as good as the interests that they support, are they legitimate?

National Defense Strategy: In January 2012, the United States President and Secretary of Defense again defined national interests as: the security of our Nation, prosperity for our population through a free international economic system, and a just international order.[14] In this document, the most recently published of those to be discussed; the United States has appeared to back away from the values argument articulated in the National Security Strategy of just two years prior. Interestingly though, is that while American values are not mentioned, the interests that are expressed are not only in terms of benefits, but in costs as well. Our strategy to protect our national interests expanded beyond the requirement to defeat al Qaeda to the deterrence of future aggression through the “capability to impose unacceptable costs on the aggressor.”[15]

Data and Methodology

Dependent Variable (DV): In order to investigate whether the United States’ strategic focus on values vice interests is beneficial in the current war against al Qaeda, the dependent variable will be the degree of support a population provides for suicide bombing (DV) (see Appendix 1).

Independent Variables (IV): In order to determine if a correlation exists between the interests of a population and that same population’s support of terrorism, multiple variables are investigated with the understanding that any one variable is unlikely to be the primary causal factor. For the purposes of this study, Clayton Alderfer’s ERG (Existence, Relatedness, Growth) Theory of Motivation was used to choose the independent variables.[16]

With the exception of the first independent variable (IV-1), the interests that will be employed as independent variables were all chosen based upon established motivational needs as well as the amount of available data. In order to avoid a critique of Alderfer’s theory which does not consider religion in motivating human behavior,[17] the independent variables will be analyzed exclusively against some of the most basic of human needs. For the purposes of this study, those human needs are required to be operationalized using available data with the understanding that people are most interested in the things they require for existence. These can be broadly divided into a short term existence, operationalized by an assessment of quality of life (Appendix 2, Annex B) and longer term existence (to include the survival and prosperity of a bloodline or way of life). For long term prosperity (at and beyond mere survival), some degree of economic freedom (Appendix 2, Annex C), the ability to improve one’s life through educational means (Appendix 2, Annex D) and an environment that presents a realistic degree of security (Appendix 2, Annex E) in order to achieve any of the above is required.

Independent Variable 1: An individual’s view and opinion of the United States; the assumption is that the less favorably a population views the United States, the more likely that population would be to support terrorism. This variable is included as a control variable since it is so closely related to the dependent variable and not related directly to any particular interest of the population. The expectation is for the dependent variable to change inversely proportionally to IV-1, thus a negative correlation.

Independent Variable 2: The quality of life in a country as measured by two different methods, IV-2A and IV-2B. IV-2A is a measure of the amount of dissatisfaction that an individual feels towards their own country and its perceived direction. IV-2B is each nation’s Human Development Index composite score. Much like IV-1, this variable does not directly relate to any one particular interest. IV-2 instead is intended to be a gauge of a population’s overall level of dissatisfaction with their current situation. IV-2A does not seek to explain why an individual is not satisfied, just that they are not satisfied. The expectation for IV-2A and IV-2B is a negative correlation between the independent variable and the dependent variable.

Independent Variable 3: The economic situation in a country as operationalized by the perception of the economy and by the actual economic conditions. IV-3 is composed of IV-3A and IV-3B. IV-3A is the perception of the economy in a country, as measured by the Pew Global Attitudes Project. IV-3B is the economic reality of a country as quantified by the Heritage Economic Freedom Index, completed annually. IV-3A and IV-3B will be compared individually to the dependent variable, but the topic of economy will encompass both the perception of the economy by individuals and the performance of the economy by indices. The expectation is for a negative correlation between IV-3 and the dependent variable so that as the economic conditions improve in a country, the support for terrorism declines.

Independent Variable 4: The education in a country as quantified by the Human Development Index, particularly its Education Index (HDI-E). The expectation is that as education quality and availability increases, support for terrorism decreases. In a multiyear study, it is expect that increases in education will be a casual factor for increases in economic health within a country. Because of the scope of the study, the confounding characteristics of IV-3 and IV-4 are noted but no attempt to rectify will be made. Like IV-3, a negative correlation is expected with IV-4.

Independent Variable 5: The safety and security of a country as measured by three different methods. IV-5A is the security of a nation as measured by the Legatum Prosperity Index’s Safety and Security Index. IV-5B is the number of terrorist attacks by country annually. IV-5C is the number of terrorist victims by country annually. “Victims” encompasses both killed and wounded losses. The individual components of IV-5 will be compared individually to the dependent variable, but the topic of security will encompass components of terrorist attacks, number of terrorist victims and the overall security index rating. For all security concerns, the expectation is a negative correlation so that as an individual feels safer, the support for terrorism will decrease.

Measurement of Variables

Dependent Variable:

DV: A population’s support of the use of suicide bombing as a terrorist tactic

1. Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2011. Dataset not yet released.

2. Question: Some people think that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. Other people believe that, no matter what the reason, this kind of violence is never justified. Do you personally feel that this kind of violence is often justified to defend Islam, sometimes justified, rarely justified, or never justified?”

3. Data: Compiled from those in each nation answering “Often Justified” or “Somewhat Justified”.

Independent Variables:

IV-1: Favorable view of the United States

1. Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2011.

2. Question 3A: “Please tell me if you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of the United States.” 3.Data: Compiled from those in each nation answering “Very favorable” or “Somewhat favorable”.

IV-2A: Quality of Life-Dissatisfaction with own country

1. Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2011.

2. Question 2: “Overall, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in our country today?”

3. Data: Compiled from those from each nation answering “Dissatisfied”.

IV-2B: Quality of Life-Human Development Index

1. Source: United Nations Human Development Index and found at: http://hdr.undp.org/en/

2. Data: The Human Development Index is based on three indices: health (life expectancy at birth), education (mean years of education and expected years of schooling) and living standards (gross national income per capita).

IV-3A: Economic Situation-Perception

1. Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2011.

2. Question 4: “Now thinking about our economic situation, how would you describe the current economic situation in (survey country)-is it very good, somewhat good, somewhat bad or very bad?”

3. Data: Compiled from those from each nation answering “Very Good” or “Somewhat Good”.

IV-3B: Economic Situation-Evaluation

1. Source: Heritage Foundation Economic Freedom Index, 2011; built by the Heritage Foundations and found at: http://www.heritage.org

2. Data: Index composed of ten freedoms: Property Rights, Freedom from Corruption, Government Spending, Fiscal Freedom, Business Freedom, Labor Freedom, Monetary Freedom, Trade Freedom, Investment Freedom and Financial Freedom.

IV-4: Education

1. Source: Education Index from United Nations Human Development Index and found at: http://hdr.undp.org/en/

2. Data: The Education Index is based on mean years of schooling (of adults) and expected years of schooling (of children) and is one of the three indices on which the Human Development Index is built.

IV-5A: Security-Safety and Security

1. Source: Safety and Security Sub-Index of Legatum Prosperity Index, found at: http://www.prosperity.com/safety.aspx. The index was only compiled beginning in 2009, so it will only be represented for 2009, 2010 and 2011.

2. Data: The Safety and Security sub-index combines objective measures of security with subjective survey responses about personal safety.

IV-5B: Security-Number of terrorist attacks

1. Source: Worldwide Incidents Tracking System , compiled by National Counterterrorism Center and found at: https://wits.nctc.gov

2. Data: Generated annual attack report

IV-5C: Security-Number of terrorist victims

1. Source: Worldwide Incidents Tracking System , compiled by National Counterterrorism Center and found at: https://wits.nctc.gov

2. Data: Generated annual victim report

Hypotheses

In order to test this theory, multiple hypotheses will be presented to understand the role that individual interests and phenomenon play in the degree that a population supports terrorism. This paper does not argue that the above list of independent variables is all inclusive and a series of confounding variables will be identified after the data is presented and analyzed. The effort for each of these hypotheses is to isolate each potential variable for its relevancy to al Qaeda’s potential and popular support.

HYPOTHESIS 1: The degree to which a population favorably views the United States has an impact on the degree that same population supports terrorism.

HYPOTHESIS 2: The general level of satisfaction within a country’s population has an effect on the population’s support for terrorism.

HYPOTHESIS 3: The economic conditions present within a country’s population have an effect on the population’s support for terrorism.

HYPOTHESIS 4: The education potential present within a country has an effect on the degree of support that a population provides for terrorism.

HYPOTHESIS 5: The level of terrorism related violence in a country has an effect on the degree of support that a population provides for terrorism.

Case Study Selection: In order to determine if a population’s support for terrorism is correlated to the interests of a population being met, qualitative case studies are used, along with data from a number of polling organizations between 2005 and 2011. Process tracing will be used to link causes (e.g., poor economic development) and outcomes (e.g., support for terrorism) in selected populations. The populations are defined by their nationality as reflected in available polling data.

Employing stratified sampling criteria Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Pakistan were selected as case studies. The first of four criteria eliminated those nations that do not have a Muslim majority population; of the five countries selected, the Muslim population makeup ranged from 70 percent to 96.35 percent in 2004.[18] The year 2004 was selected because it was the year prior to the start of the collection of observations for this study, between 2005 and 2011. The second criterion eliminated those nations which are not part of the Arab World, defined by James Zogby and Zogby International Polling. This reduced the available country samples to twenty-two Arab-speaking nations. An exception was made for Indonesia though. This exception was based on one crucial criteria; its position as the most populous Muslim nation. The third criterion required that the country be specifically polled by the Pew Research Center as part of its Global Attitudes Project on multiple occasions between 2005 and 2011. This criterion allows for the tracking of a population over time in relationship to the dependent variables. The last selection criteria was whether the government of the nation had to be legitimate and not have undergone any major violence or warfare between 2004 and 2011. This last criterion eliminates Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and South Sudan, while permitting Egypt since the changes and violence associated with the Arab Spring occurred after the polling was completed for the release of data in 2011.

Findings and Analysis

Hypothesis 1

H1: The degree to which a population favorably views the United States has an impact on the degree that same population supports terrorism.

Variables:

DV: The percentage of support for suicide bombing in each of the subject countries, for all years that answers were reported by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

IV-1: The percentage of respondents who have a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the United States for all years that answers were reported by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

Hypothesis 1 Method: To discover if a correlation existed between the DV and IV-1, the two variables were graphed together with the x-axis as IV-1 and the y-axis as the DV. Data was not available for Egypt (2005) or Lebanon (2006) the graphs have four data points each for those years.

Hypothesis 1 Findings: With all data points plotted, a negative correlation was found between support for terrorism (DV) and a favorable view of the United States (IV-1) for 2005 and 2006 (plotted with linear trend lines, Fig. 1A). Of note, between 2005 and 2006 the slope of the relationship became more pronounced (“steeper”), demonstrating a stronger correlation between favorable views of the U.S. and a reduction in support for terrorism. However, a positive correlation was found from 2007 to 2011 (plotted with linear trend lines, Fig. 1B). Over time, the strength of the positive correlation weakened as evidenced by the slope of the graphed lines becoming less steep from 2007 to 2011.

Hypothesis 1 Analysis: Because of the change from a measurable negative correlation to a positive correlation of roughly the same intensity, the data does not present a workable model capable of forecasting a population’s support for terrorism based on the degree in which country’s population views the United States. However, the data presents one outlier nation that skews the overall results. Within the solid circle of the graphed data in Figure 1B are all of the data points relevant to Lebanon from 2005 to 2011. A likely confounding variable to explain Lebanon’s position outside of the statistical norm is the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese War and subsequent rise of Hezbollah’s stature amongst the Lebanese population. Over the seven year span of this study, Lebanon has displayed a relatively stable percentage of its population with favorable U.S. views (approximately 50%) and relatively stable support for terrorism (approximately 38%), most other nations have demonstrated decreasing levels of U.S. favorability and of support for terrorism. When data is presented without Lebanon, the overall correlation of favorability to terrorism support can be investigated. Based on the data, it appears there is at best a weak negative, and most likely no, correlation between a population’s favorable view of the United States and terror support.

Hypothesis 1 Recommended Area of Continued Study: Due to Lebanon’s outlier status as represented by the data relevant to both IV-1 and the DV, an understanding of the internal causal factors that create an environment where Lebanese can see the United States in a favorable light while supporting terrorism to a greater extent than other middle eastern nations. Possible explanations include: Lebanon’s religious makeup, Hezbollah’s role in Lebanese politics, and regional pressure because of the historically aggressive relationship between Hezbollah and Israel. In addition, Indonesia showed a marked increase in favorable views of the United States after 2009 while overall support for terrorism remained relatively unchanged (see dashed circle in Figure 1C). This positive change in favorability is what the United States seeks worldwide, but with an accompanying decrease in terror support that Indonesia does not display. The question then becomes, is there a minimum that can be expected from the United States in regard to support for terror? Is there a point of diminishing returns where, no matter how positively a foreign population views the United States, the cadre of terror supporters shrinks no more?

Hypothesis 2

H2: The general level of satisfaction within a country’s population has an effect on the population’s support for terrorism.

DV: The percentage of support for suicide bombing in each of the subject countries, for all years that answers were reported by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

IV-2A: The percentage of respondents from each nation who are “dissatisfied” with the current condition of their respective country for all years that answers were reported by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

IV-2B: The Human Development Index (HDI) composite score for each country for all years between 2005 and 2011.

Hypothesis 2 Method: Hypothesis 2 has two independent variables, one measured by polling (IV-2A) and one by an international index (IV-2B). The purpose is to compare not only the two independent variables to the dependent variable in order to discover if a correlation exists, but also to investigate whether terror support is more closely linked to perception, as conveyed by polling, or by data, as depicted by the HDI scores. To discover if a correlation existed between the DV and IV-2A, the two variables were graphed together with the x-axis as IV-2A and the y-axis as the DV. To discover if a correlation existed between the DV and IV-2B, the two variables were graphed together with the x-axis as IV-2B and the y-axis as the DV. Data was not available for Egypt (2005) or Lebanon (2006) the graphs have four data points each for those years.

Hypothesis 2 Findings: When the available data was plotted, no correlation was easily discernible between IV-2A and the DV (Fig. 2A). A negative correlation between the variables was evident in three years; 2005, 2006 and 2011, while a positive correlation was apparent in one year and no correlation was obvious the remaining three years (2008, 2009, and 2010). A similar lack of association between IV-2B and DV was presented when the available data was plotted on a separate graph (Fig. 2B). Interestingly, the years in which a negative correlation was present in regards to IV-2B were similar, but not identical to IV-2A. For example, the only year that changed from a negative correlation with IV-2A to a positive correlation with IV-2B was 2011, no year changed from positive to negative. What both series of independent variables did demonstrate was an outlier in the form of Lebanon (solid circle in both Fig. 2A and 2B). To investigate if a correlation exists between support for terrorism (DV) and the quality of life of a population (IV-2A and IV-2B), the data was again plotted, exempting Lebanon. When Lebanon was removed from the graphical representation of the data, a negative correlation was evident for all years for both IV-2A (Fig. 2C) and IV-2B (Fig. 2D).

Hypothesis 2 Analysis: Overall, there is a weak correlation between the two independent variables and the dependent variable. However, the data presents one outlier nation that skews the overall results. Within the solid circle of the graphed data in Figures 2A and 2B are all of the data points relevant to Lebanon from 2005 to 2011. Much like in H1, likely confounding variables to explain Lebanon’s position outside of the statistical norm is the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese War and subsequent rise of Hezbollah’s stature amongst the Lebanese population. Over the seven year span of this study, Lebanon has displayed a high, but relatively stable percentage of its population with dissatisfied with the current status of their country (approximately 88%), steady but slight improvements in HDI scores and relatively stable support for terrorism (approximately 38%). Most other nations have demonstrated similar percentages of dissatisfied populations and HDI, but a decreasing amount of support for terrorism. With the exclusion of Lebanon, the data presents a reasonably strong negative correlation between the quality of life in a country as measured by the population’s perception (IV-2A) and the United Nations’ Human Development Index (IV-2B). The graphical representation of the data demonstrates the expected reaction of a population’s support for terrorism when compared to the quality of life as it affects the same population. Also, both independent variables can be correlated in parallel to the dependent variable. For both IV-2A and IV-2B, as the quality of life improved (through either metric; perception or index) the support for terrorism declined. With the exception of Lebanon, which was bound by a set of confounding variables unique to its location and relationship with Israel and Hezbollah; there is a defined negative correlation between the quality of life in a country and support for terrorism.

Hypothesis 2 Recommended Areas of Continued Study: Due to Lebanon’s outlier status as represented by the data relevant to both IV-2A, IV-2B and the DV, an understanding of the internal causal factors that create an environment where Lebanese can see the United States in a favorable light while supporting terrorism to a greater extent than other middle eastern nations. Possible explanations include: Lebanon’s religious makeup, Hezbollah’s role in Lebanese politics, and regional pressure because of the historically aggressive relationship between Hezbollah and Israel. The data seems to point towards the conclusion that quality of life is a determining factor in whether or not, and to what degree, a population supports terrorism. In order to validate this assumptive conclusion, Lebanon’s status as an outlier in regards to the two independent variables would have to be satisfactorily explained. The most concise answer though, is that Lebanon presents unique difficulties in fitting within broad-based paradigms.

Hypothesis 3

H3: The economic conditions present within a country’s population have an effect on the population’s support for terrorism.

DV: The percentage of support for suicide bombing in each of the subject countries, for all years that answers were reported by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

IV-3A: The percentage of respondents from each nation who describe the current economic situation in (survey country) as “very good” or “somewhat good” for all years that answers were reported by the Pew Global Attitudes Project. No data was collected in 2005 or 2006 for any of the countries associated with this study.

IV-3B: The Heritage Foundation Economic Index (HFEI) composite score for each country for all years between 2005 and 2011. No data for Egypt in 2005 or Lebanon in 2006 exist for the HFEI, the associated graph has four data points for each of those years.

Hypothesis 3 Method: Hypothesis 3 has two independent variables, one measured by polling (IV-3A) and one by an international index (IV-3B). The purpose is to compare not only the two independent variables to the dependent variable in order to discover if a correlation exists, but also to investigate whether terror support is more closely linked to perception, as conveyed by polling, or by data, as depicted by the HFEI scores. To discover if a correlation existed between the DV and IV-3A, the two variables were graphed together with the x-axis as IV-3A and the y-axis as the DV. To discover if a correlation existed between the DV and IV-3B, the two variables were graphed together with the x-axis as IV-3B and the y-axis as the DV.

Hypothesis 3 Findings: The third hypothesis of this paper is unique in that the perception within a country is at odds with the empirical data, presented by the Heritage Economic Freedom Index. Over the course of five years and among the five studied nations, there is a negative correlation between a population’s favorable perception of the economy and its support for terrorism (Fig. 3A). Interestingly, while a population is less likely to support terrorism as their perception of the economy improves; that same population over the same timeframe is more likely to support terrorism as the economy actually improves, as quantified by the HEFI (Fig. 3B). When considering the relationship between the HEFI and support for terrorism, there is only one year (2009) when a positive correlation is exchanged for a weakly positive correlation. In addition, Lebanon’s high support for terrorism and comparably low favorable economic perception again create a representation of Lebanon as an outlier (solid circle in Fig. 3A). Put more concisely, Lebanon is less likely than the other four nations to change over time, creating a statistical anomaly.

Hypothesis 3 Analysis: In a frustrating sign for foreign policy makers and followers of international trends, it appears that the perception of a nation’s economy has a more consistent and foreseeable effect upon terror support than the actual status of that economy. The results, apparent when IV-3A is graphed (Fig. 3A) coincides with the expectation that a population supports terrorism as a vehicle for change in an environment when violence may be required for that change in the population’s interests. On the other hand, the graphical representation of IV-3B (Fig. 3B) could be demonstrating that a peaceful environment in the five countries of this study is only a status quo because the population does not have the fiscal means to support terror while their economy is poor. When the economy improves, it actually could enable an increase in support for terror as more resources become available or as the desire for change, incited by terrorism, becomes stronger.

This relationship between IV-3A and IV-3B creates a paradox for the United States and international agencies. Security, as defined by a maintenance of terrorism below an undetermined “acceptable” level will remain an international interest, but if a more stable economy has the potential to actually increase terrorism then how is the international community to counter terrorism with financial aid or a “whole of government” response? In addition, does the correlation between economic perception and reduction in terror support show the way for a future information operations campaign or provide a direction for where international aid and United States support should be directed?

Hypothesis 3 Recommended Areas of Continued Study: Unlike the first two hypotheses, H3 does not present a country as a significant outlier. Instead the juxtaposition of economic perception and economic measurement upon support for terrorism opens doors for continued study. In regards to economic perception, additional efforts perhaps should be applied to the means that populations use to make their determination of economic satisfaction and how a government can understand those metrics in order to satisfy their public. Additionally, in order to explain the difference in outcomes between perception and the available indices, study to ensure that the correct metrics are being used to determine economic freedom, growth and stability may be required.

Hypothesis 4

H4: The education potential present within a country has an effect on the degree of support that a population provides for terrorism.

DV: The percentage of support for suicide bombing in each of the subject countries, for all years that answers were reported by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

IV-4: The United Nations Human Development Index uses an Education (HDI-E) composite score for each country for all years between 2005 and 2011. No data for Egypt in 2005 or Lebanon in 2006 exist for the HDI-E; the associated graph has four data points for each of those years.

Hypothesis 4 Method: Hypothesis 4 has one associated independent variable, measured by an international index (IV-4). To discover if a correlation existed between the DV and IV-4, the two variables were graphed together with the x-axis as IV-4 and the y-axis as the DV.

Hypothesis 4 Findings: With all data plotted as determined by the method described above, there is a positive correlation trend between education and support for terrorism in seven consecutive years (Fig. 4). In addition, the degree of correlation (as determined by the slope of the trendline in figure 4) remains relatively constant throughout the timespan of this study, making H4 perhaps the most statistically significant of the hypotheses reviewed thus far. This hypothesis produced results unlike the graphical representations in H1, H2 and H3 in that although there are data points that lie outside of the trendlines, those data points are not concentrated or grouped by nation.

Hypothesis 4 Analysis: Based on the available data and the graphical depiction of the dependent variable when plotted against the independent variable (IV-4), it is possible to conclude that an increase in educational prospects is related to a similar, proportional increase in support for terrorism. The positive correlation does not match the expectation that terror supporters and possibly terrorists themselves are uneducated brutes with few other options. In addition, this study intentionally did not choose western (America or European) nations or terrorists themselves to preclude inclusion of “lone wolf” type terrorists. This hypothesis’ correlation does correspond with anecdotal evidence regarding education and the membership of violent extremist groups, such as early founder Sayyid Qutb, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s medical education and the Muslim Brotherhood’s college recruitment. Unfortunately, there is limited data on the education of supporters of violent extremism and/or terrorism. The assumption would be that only those members of a population who don’t understand the ramifications of terrorism (violence, loss of revenue, loss of life) would support terror. I propose, based on the findings of H4, that the educated populations who support terrorism do so with the understanding that although terrorism will be violent, they (the population) will still benefit from the change to the status quo. In other words, by supporting terrorism, the educated population places themselves in a position of moderate on a theoretical continuum ranging from terrorist on one end and government on the other. As a moderate, the population is in position to gain concessions from both sides and be in a better position regardless of the outcome. Previous studies, especially Ethan Bueno de Mesquita’s Conciliation, Counter-Terrorism, and Patterns of Violence: A Comparative Study of Five Cases,[19] discuss the benefits that moderates within an ideologically heterogeneous terrorist organization gain when they accept concessions granted by a government. Based on the data in regards to H4, I contend that a population can act with the same characteristics as the moderates within a terrorist organization by seeking to maximize their own gains in an environment of terrorism and governance.

Hypothesis 4 Recommended Areas of Continued Study: The limitations of this study to five nations over seven years prevent an investigation in regards to H4 over a broader scope of populations. Although it is unlikely the correlation of education and popular support for terrorism extend across all nations, it is likely that regardless of location a population will act in its own best interests by seeking to maximize its gains. To test this follow on theory, additional study would be required, most likely grouped by environment (i.e. African nations, Asian nations, etc.) since the nations in this study were grouped by religion because of al Qaeda’s ties to Islam.

Hypothesis 5

H5: The level of terrorism related violence in a country has an effect on the degree of support that a population provides for terrorism.

DV: The percentage of support for suicide bombing in each of the subject countries, for all years that answers were reported by the Pew Global Attitudes Project. IV-5A: The Legatum Prosperity Index’s Safety and Security Index (LPISS). The LPISS is only available for years 2009-2011 and combines objective measures of security with survey responses about personal safety.

IV-5B: The number of terror attacks per year per nation as reported by the National Counterterrorism Center’s Worldwide Incidents Tracking System.

IV-5C: The number of terror victims per year per nation as reported by the National Counterterrorism Center’s Worldwide Incidents Tracking System.

Hypothesis 5 Method: Hypothesis 5 has three associated independent variables, measured by an international index (IV-5A), and two international tracking databases (IV-5B and IV-5C). The purpose is to compare not only the three independent variables to the dependent variable in order to discover if a correlation exists, but also to investigate whether terror support is more closely linked to domestic security, as conveyed by data, as depicted by the LPISS scores or the degree of terror-related violence, as related by terrorist attacks and victims. To discover if a correlation existed between the DV and IV-5A, the two variables were graphed together with the x-axis as IV-4 and the y-axis as the DV. The same procedure was repeated for IV-5B and IV-5C.

Hypothesis 5 Findings: When all available data was collected and graphically displayed, the scale of Pakistan’s terror created difficulty with discerning an overall trend. With all five nations represented graphically, IV-5A presents no obvious correlation between domestic security and support for terrorism (Fig. 5A). Inversely, with Pakistan included in the data for IV-5B and IV-5C, a negative correlation was initially observed, but only because of the overwhelming terror-related violence when compared to the other four nations involved in this study (Fig. 5B and Fig. 5C). To investigate if a correlation does exist and masked by Pakistan’s level of violence, which could be confounded by the efforts of the United States both in Afghanistan and Pakistan to combat terrorism, al Qaeda and the Taliban, a second set of data and graphs was completed without Pakistan included. In these graphs, a negative correlation is evident in regards to IV-5A (Fig. 5D), but no correlation is evident in either IV-5B (Fig. 5E) or IV-5C (Fig. 5F).

Hypothesis 5 Analysis: Although one of the independent variables demonstrates a degree of negative correlation between security and support for terrorism (IV-5A), the other two independent variables provide no degree of correlation and no outliers, with the possible exception of Pakistan. When compared with another hypothesis, particularly H3, some insight may be gained. In review, in the analysis for H3, the public’s perception of the economy was negatively correlated to support for terrorism, as expected; while the actual economic status was positively correlated, which was neither expected nor congruous with perception. For H5, a similar phenomenon may be occurring. Because the Legatum Index is partly based on subjective measurements such as a fear of walking alone at night and partly composed of empirical data, it seems likely that IV-5A’s negative correlation between security and support for terrorism is the most relevant correlation in regards to H5. In contrast, the two database-related independent variables, IV-5B and IV-5C, present no correlation and provide no model for future research. Much like with the economy, the perception of a population’s security in their home (country) has more of an impact on if, and to what degree, a population supports terrorism than the actual security of their country, as determined by number of attacks and victims.

Hypothesis 5 Recommended Areas of Continued Study: Beyond international relations, foreign policy and terrorism, an area of continued study would be what causes the formation of a perception by a people that does not coincide with the empirical data of the same situation.

Conclusions

We found no correlation between a population’s opinion of the United States and their support for terrorism (H1). Although all case study countries had a positive correlation present, this was solely attributable to Lebanon’s outlier status. Once the outlier (Lebanon) was removed from the study populations no correlation remained.

Well, what drives a population to withdraw support for terrorism? In an attempt to answer this question, the remaining four hypotheses focused on the interests (needs or desires) of the population, with some unexpected results. Support for terrorism declines in the countries studied if conditions within a country improve (IV-2B) and the local economy is perceived as improving (IV-3A). Unexpectedly, support for terrorism will also decline if a population becomes more dissatisfied with the conditions of the direction their country is taking (IV-2A) and support actually increases when the local economy improves (IV-3B) or education improves (IV-4). In addition, although an improving security situation does weakly correlate to less support for terrorism, there is no discernible correlation to actual violence as measured by attacks or victims. Because of the lack of correlation (IV-5B and IV-5C) and the inherent complications of using aspects of terrorism as both the dependent variable (support for) and independent variable (IV-5A), the degree of security alone cannot be considered as correlated, either positively or negatively, to a population’s support for terrorism.

Overall, the results of this study provide some insight for U.S. foreign policy development by indicating what has worked to decrease terrorist support. As such, the United States should allocate minimal resources in hopes of improving America’s image, because they won’t pay for themselves. Second, work to defeat the narrative of al Qaeda and other violent extremists. As long as al Qaeda can make a coherent argument that the United States is out to destroy Islam or that the U.S. is at war with Muslims, it seems likely that public opinion (and, following that, public support) will, at a minimum not swing to the side of the United States. It is the narrative, tying together terrorists and a population with the common thread of religion (no matter how frayed) that may help to explain the discrepancy between the public’s perception of the country’s condition and economy, with the assessed quality of life and economic conditions. The U.S. is already working to some degree on defeating al Qaeda messaging, but the results of H2 and H3 demonstrate that something more than cold numerical results drive public opinion.

Additionally, the discrepancy between perception and reality of H2 and H3, highlight what could be a cultural difference that leads to misplaced resources and evaluations of progress. Regardless of how much money and resources the United States expends in an attempt to fracture the bond between terrorists and their supporters, the data indicates that gains are more likely to occur by changing perceptions and not through quantitative measures. What will not work to change perceptions is a continued linkage of United States foreign policy to U.S. values. These connections to values, especially for concepts as a population’s right to choose its government and adherence to universal human rights, only open the door widely for future legitimate cries of hypocrisy when America chooses to act in its own interests; especially security and economic interests. Based on the findings of this paper, the United States can cleave support from terrorist organizations by acting in support of particular common interests; however, binding actions to values can obscure common goals behind a haze of perceived insincerity.

Endnotes

1. Zogby, J. J. (2010). Arab Voices: What they are saying to us, and why it matters. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 77.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid., 101.

4. Parsons, T. (1951). The Social System. Glencoe, Il. : Free Press.

5. See http://www.brook.edu/dybdocroot/Comm/events/summary20030514.pdf for a summary of Fukuyama’s comments, made at a Brookings Institution forum in May 2003.

6. United States. National Strategy for Counterterrorism. Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President, 2011, 2.

7. United States. (2011, June 29). Fact Sheet: National Strategy for Counterterrorism. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/06/29/fact-sheet-national-strategy-counterterrorism.htm

8. United States. National Strategy for Counterterrorism. (Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President, 2011), 4.

9. Ibid., 5.

10. Ibid., 7.

11. United States. (2010). National Security Strategy. (Washington: White House), 1.

12. Ibid., 7.

13. Ibid., 37.

14. Panetta, L. E., Obama, B., & United States. (2012). Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense. (Washington, D.C: Dept. of Defense).

15. Ibid., 4.

16. Alderfer, C. (n.d.). ERG Theory of Motivation. Retrieved from http://www.managementstudyguide.com/erg-theory-motivation.htm

17. The Middle Road. (2010, April 5). Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs-An Islamic Perspective. Retrieved from http://tmr123.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-an-islamic-perspective/

18. U.S. State Department. (2004). International Religious Freedom Report, 2004. Retrieved from http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/rel_isl_per_mus-religion-islam-percentage-muslim.

19. Ibid.

 

*

Appendices

Appendix 1

Annex A: Dependent Variable

Support for Terrorism as a Percentage of the Population

Country

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Egypt

 No Data

28.0

8.0

13.0

15.0

20.0

28.0

Indonesia

15.0

10.0

10.0

11.0

13.0

15.0

10.0

Jordan

57.0

29.0

23.0

25.0

12.0

20.0

13.0

Lebanon

39.0

 No Data

34.0

32.0

38.0

39.0

35.0

Pakistan

25.0

14.0

9.0

5.0

5.0

8.0

5.0

 

Appendix 2

Annex A: Hypothesis 1, Independent Variable-1

Favorable View of the United States

Country

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Egypt

 No Data

30.0

21.0

22.0

27.0

17.0

20.0

Indonesia

38.0

30.0

29.0

37.0

63.0

59.0

54.0

Jordan

21.0

15.0

20.0

19.0

25.0

21.0

13.0

Lebanon

42.0

No Data 

47.0

51.0

55.0

52.0

49.0

Pakistan

23.0

27.0

15.0

19.0

16.0

17.0

12.0

Appendix 2

Annex B: Hypothesis 2, Independent Variable-2A

Dissatisfaction with Country

Country

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Egypt

No Data 

42.0

51.0

57.0

67.0

69.0

34.0

Indonesia

64.0

73.0

77.0

68.0

58.0

56.0

61.0

Jordan

30.0

44.0

42.0

47.0

52.0

64.0

54.0

Lebanon

59.0

No Data 

92.0

92.0

87.0

86.0

87.0

Pakistan

39.0

58.0

57.0

73.0

89.0

84.0

92.0

 

Annex B: Hypothesis 2, Independent Variable-2B

Human Development Index

Country

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Egypt

0.611

0.618

0.626

0.633

0.638

0.644

0.644

Indonesia

0.572

0.579

0.591

0.598

0.607

0.613

0.617

Jordan

0.480

0.483

0.493

0.495

0.499

0.503

0.504

Lebanon

0.711

0.713

0.721

0.726

0.733

0.737

0.739

Pakistan

0.673

0.678

0.685

0.692

0.694

0.697

0.698

Appendix 2

Annex C: Hypothesis 3, Independent Variable-3A

Favorable Perception of Economy (%)

Country

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Egypt

No Data

No Data

53.0

44.0

27.0

20.0

34.0

Indonesia

No Data

No Data

23.0

20.0

48.0

50.0

38.0

Jordan

No Data

No Data

44.0

39.0

33.0

30.0

33.0

Lebanon

No Data

No Data

9.0

10.0

11.0

13.0

13.0

Pakistan

No Data

No Data

59.0

41.0

22.0

18.0

12.0

 

Annex C: Hypothesis 3, Independent Variable-3B

Heritage Economic Freedom Index

Country

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Egypt

55.8

53.2

54.4

58.5

57.9

59.0

59.0

Indonesia

52.9

51.9

53.2

53.1

53.4

56.0

56.0

Jordan

66.7

63.7

64.5

64.0

65.4

68.9

68.9

Lebanon

57.2

57.5

60.4

59.9

58.1

60.1

60.1

Pakistan

53.3

57.9

57.2

55.5

56.9

55.1

55.1

Appendix 2

Annex D: Hypothesis 4, Independent Variable-4

United Nations Human Development Index-Education Composite

Country

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Egypt

0.519

0.528

0.536

0.544

0.522

0.560

0.560

Indonesia

0.526

0.535

0.557

0.562

0.578

0.584

0.584

Jordan

0.675

0.679

0.686

0.699

0.704

0.710

0.710

Lebanon

0.679

0.681

0.687

0.690

0.695

0.695

0.695

Pakistan

0.358

0.358

0.374

0.378

0.383

0.386

0.386

Appendix 2

Annex E: Hypothesis 5, Independent Variable-5A

Legatum Prosperity Index: Safety and Security

Country

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Egypt

 

No Data

 

No Data

 

No Data

 

No Data

-1.15

-1.35

-1.2

Indonesia

 

No Data

 

No Data

 

No Data

 

No Data

-0.32

-0.19

-0.6

Jordan

 

No Data

 

No Data

 

No Data

 

No Data

-0.14

-0.67

-0.5

Lebanon

 

No Data

 

No Data

 

No Data

 

No Data

-1.99

-1.82

-1.1

Pakistan

 

No Data

 

No Data

 

No Data

 

No Data

-2.85

-3.18

-3.8