Month: July 2016

Why Do People Become Terrorists?

Many people consider terrorists to be insane. But are they actually insane? There has not been any evidence that terrorists are mentally unstable individuals. In fact, terrorist organizations often do not recruit mentally unstable individuals for security reasons. So why do people join terrorist organizations? While research has not found any psychopathology or general theory of why people become terrorists, research has found that there are several reasons individuals may be drawn to terrorist careers, including feelings of frustration, a search for belonging, and a need for identity.


In Tore Bjørgo’s book, Root Causes of Terrorism: Myths, Reality and WaysBjørgo explains that frustration may arise from systemic disenfranchisement or the inability to successfully complete endeavors. Many individuals may become terrorists during the process of externalizing their sense of frustration on a certain political actor. More simply put, the individual will search for an external actor, such as the West or the U.S., on which to displace his/her frustration. This process will allow the individual to view the world in more of a black and white way that makes the world easier to understand and seem more predictable.

The Search for Belonging

Similar to cults, terrorist organizations can also provide individuals with a sense of belonging. Belonging is one of the most fundamental and important human needs. A lack of belonging could cause someone to experience cognitive dissonance. For example, if an individual believes all jihadist are freedom fighters but this individual lives in a society that says differently, the individual may experience cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the process of having conflicting attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs. These conflictions cause the individual to feel discomfort. In order to stop this discomfort and restore balance, the individual alters either their attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. An article from Psychology Today explains that as the individual tries to regain balance, the individual may seek admission into groups that reaffirm the individual’s beliefs. One of these groups that reaffirm the individual’s beliefs may be a terrorist organization.

The Need for Identity

The terrorist identity can provide individuals in search of identity with a function in society. For example, people that join terrorist organizations may believe that they are fighting for a great cause. Additionally, theperceived benefits of joining a terrorist organization – social status, possible access to wealth, and close interpersonal interactions – may outweigh the social sanctions against terrorism. Perceived benefits of joining terrorist organizations would most likely outweigh social sanctions when the individual either does not have strong social ties or the individual’s social environment condones or promotes terrorist behavior. This could explain why some people that commit terrorism are first seen as loners.


There is still much research to be done on the causes of terrorism. As of now, there is no overall explanation to explain terrorism. However, in regards to recruitment, terrorist organizations seem to be similar to cults. For both cults and terrorist organizations most members join in hopes of finding belonging and identity.

Image: Nathan Bachuss. Marsh Report Shows Continued Demand for Terrorism Coverage

The Problems in China’s Economy

China’s economy has been slowing down. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported that the GDP of China’s economy has dropped from 7.2% at the end of 2014 to 6.4% in June 2016. Despite China’s economic slow down, the Chinese economy is still doing fine. However, there are some problems in China’s economy, including the misallocation of capital and rising private debt. These problems are important to analyse because both could create larger economic problems for China that could lead to financial instability.

The Misallocation Capital

In an effort to increase economic activity in China, the Chinese government has increased the number of new project approvals. This has led to capital being over-allocated to the production of coal plants. For example, the New York Times has explained that several coal plants are being built-in China that could potentially operate at 5,500 hours per year. However, the amount of coal plants in China surpass demand by so much that these coal plants operated at an average of only 4,300 hours. Next year, these factories are expected to operate at an average of 3,600 hours. It is important to note that the Chinese government has been trying to fix this misallocation of capital. Beijing has published guidelines to stop the approval of new coal plants, however, the new guidelines do not apply to coal plants currently under construction.

Ghost cities are another result of the misallocation of capital in China. Ghost-cities are cities that have nearly zero inhabitants. In China, rapid development and the misallocation of capital has led to the development of many ghost cities. Other states going through rapid development, including Brazil and India, have also built ghost towns and cities, but not to the same degree as China. This is because in China municipal governments can easily and cheaply buy rural land to build cities. According to the Wall Street Journal, this leads to government officials building cities for prestige or to provide jobs to friends. Also, the ghost cities built-in China do not cater to the needs of the general population. For example, the cities do not have many necessities, such as schools or hospitals.

Conch Bay is a ghost city in China. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images/NPR)[3]

Conch Bay is a ghost city in China. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images/NPR)[3]

Growing Debt

In order to ensure the growth of China’s economy, Beijing has continued to increase demand by increasing credit. In other words, the Chinese government has continued to encourage corporations, many of which are state-owned enterprises, to borrow more money so the corporations can spend more money. This may have increased the size of China’s economy, but it also increased Chinese debt. In fact, The Economist explains that at the end of 2015 private debt was about 240% of GDP. With this increase in debt, private companies are less able to invest in projects, due to the increase in interest payments that come along with an increase in debt. Additionally, many state-owned enterprises are not earning enough to service their debts.

Protection From Financial Instability

Just like any other state’s economy, China’s economy has its faults. China’s misallocation of capital promotes wasteful spending and increases debt. Additionally, growing debt in China could cause a decrease in aggregate demand. Both of these factors could lead to a recession or could cause other economic problems. However, China’s GDP is still high when compared with many other states. The Chinese government also has a surplus, a large amount of foreign exchange reserves, and China’s debt is mostly owned domestically. All of these factors protect China from financial instability. But financial instability in China is not implausible. It is important to look at the problems in China’s economy and research the best policies to address issues in China’s economy. If these problems continue to go unaddressed then there will be a higher likelihood of financial instability affecting China and the World in the future.

Image: The Economist, BIS

Leaving American Troops in Afghanistan

On Thursday July 6, President Barack Obama announced that he will leave 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan when his term as president ends, instead of his previous promise of 5,500 American troops. Obama says that he came to this decision after consulting with military experts in Afghanistan. At first glance, it may seem like this is a terrible idea. After all, more American lives will be at risk in a foreign country. However, I think slowing the American troop removal from Afghanistan is a good idea.

Slowing the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan would help ensure a situation similar to the current situation in Iraq doesn’t happen in Afghanistan. Although a lot of factors besides the withdrawal of troops have contributed to ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq, such as systemic disenfranchisement and political corruption, slowing troop withdrawal in Iraq could have slowed the growth of ISIS in Iraq in Syria. The main reason for this is that American troops could have supported ISIS’ opponents and possibly stopped ISIS from spreading into Syria.

Slowing the American troop presence in Afghanistan is a good and safe decision. It would help ensure that extremist organizations are not able to gain a stronghold in Afghanistan and it would allow the US to have more accurate intelligence information pertaining to Afghanistan. More information about the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan can be found at the Associated Press.


Financing Terrorism: Front Organizations

Terrorists can’t carry out operations without money and support. So where do they get money and support from? One of the ways terrorist organizations obtain funds and support is through the use of charity organizations and front companies.

Some front companies are unknown for the simple reason that these organizations are fronts, meaning they are fraudulent businesses that give the appearance of being legitimate. These front organizations can be very dangerous because they can direct a large amount of money and resources to terrorist organizations. There is evidence that many terrorist organizations, including Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS, have benefited from front companies and illegitimate charity organizations.

According to Martin Rudner, a political scientist at Carleton University, Hizbullah has received funds from Bonyad-e Shahid (the Martyrs Foundation), a charitable front organization. The US Treasury Department has also explained that the Global Relief Foundation, another charitable front organization, has provided support to al-Qaeda. ISIS has also received support from front organizations in Spain. In fact, Spanish journalist Itxu Díaz has explainedthat Spanish police have been investigating alleged front companies and their involvement in laundering money to ISIS after discovering that criminal gangs have been shipping weapons and Islamist uniforms from Spain to Syria.

More information about front organizations and terrorism can be found at the US Treasury Department’s website.

Image: Lachlan Donald Money Laundering