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.

Frustration

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.

Conclusion

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 http://www.riskmanagementmonitor.com/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.

Image: www.defense.gov

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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/lox/1236590751

North Korean Ballistic Missile Test

Recently, the North Koreans tested two ballistic missiles. Not much information is known about these weapons. However, it is known that the test of the first ballistic missile failed while the test of the second missile is still being evaluated for success. It is believed that the weapons have a range of 3,000 km or 1800 miles. This range is enough to hit South Korea, Japan, and Guam. More information about North Korea and their nuclear weapons program can be found at BBC.

Image: ASDFGHJ (talk) File:South Korea (orthographic projection).svg: User:Ksiom File:South Korea (orthographic projection).svg Created: 10 July 2009

How will Russia Respond to NATO Troops?

Although news about the Ukraine war has disappeared from American news headlines, the war still rages on. According to USA Today, around 2,400 service men and women have died in the Ukrainian War. The Russian government still denies that they are supporting separatist troops in Ukraine despite evidence that shows the contrary.

As a result of Russia’s increased aggressiveness, several states, including Poland, have requested more support from NATO. NATO has responded by announcing that more troops will be deployed near the Russian border, particularly throughout Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland. According to NATO defense ministers, the increase in troops are meant to deter Russia from engaging in further conflict with its neighbors.

It will be interesting to see how Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, will respond to the increase in NATO troops. Will he use this to fuel anti-American propaganda? Will he simply send more troops to the Russian border? Or, will he do both? Probably both.

Sending more NATO troops to the Russian border may deter Russia, but it may also heighten tensions with Russia. It seems like President Putin has been trying to show the strength of Russia by intervening in Ukraine and annexing Crimea. Sending more troops to the Russian border would allow Vladimir Putin to once again demonstrate Russia’s strength by showing that Russia can stand up to the US.

Putin may also send more troops to the Russian border to gain political points. If the citizens in Russia believe the Russian propaganda about NATO and the US, then they are likely to be fearful of an increase in NATO troops at the Russian borders. Vladimir Putin could keep high approval ratings by capitalizing on this fear. For example, if he sends more troops to the Russian border then he could tell Russians that he is protecting them from the US.

Putin could also use the increase in NATO troops to spread propaganda about how the US is threatening and bullying the Russian people. Overall, the increase in NATO troops at the Russian border is an interesting strategy that should have interesting consequences.

Oil Prices and the Global Economy

The European Central Bank provided some interesting information about today’s oil prices and the global economy. The report basically explains that low oil prices may not be positively effecting the global economy because oil prices have been driven lower due to a decrease in demand rather than a decrease in supply.

During the beginning of 2015, oil prices were decreasing due to decreases in supply. It was predicted that a supply driven decrease in oil prices would positively effect the global economy. However, in late 2015 oil prices fell due to decreased demand. Simulations have suggested that demand driven decreases in oil prices negatively effect the global economy. For example, it is estimated that a 10% supply driven fall in oil prices increase world GDP by 0.1% to 0.2%. On the other hand, a 10% demand driven fall in oil prices decrease world GDP by more than 0.2%. Simulations also suggest that the impact of both of these forces in one year would cancel each other out and result in nearly a zero percentage effect on GDP.

While world GDP may not be positively effected by demand driven decreases in oil prices, these lower oil prices do benefit oil importing states, such as the US. However, the benefit has been small and has not outweighed the negatives that are brought onto the world economy. These negatives include oil exporting states experiencing significant declines in GDP growth and currency depreciation. These problems faced by oil exporting states cause spill over effects that impact trading partners and global economic activity [1].

When viewed from a macro perspective, the current decrease in the price of oil is not good. A demand driven decrease in oil prices means that the economies of oil producing states are not growing as quickly. As a result, the world economy suffers. The following charts provide further information about oil exporting states, GDP growth, and oil prices.

ECB_Pic

Read the European Central Bank’s report: ECB_Economic_Bulletin

The Danger in Trump’s Trade Proposals

Are Donald Trump’s international trade proposals really that bad? Yes, yes they are. Let’s take a look at a few of Donald Trump’s international trade proposals.

  1. 20% tax on imports
  2. 15% tax for outsourcing jobs
  3. Donald Trump appointing himself as the United States Trade Representative

20% tax on imports
A 20% tax on imports is a tariff. Tariffs may sound like they would protect American jobs and industries, but tariffs are actually harmful. High tariffs decrease foreign competition and protect inefficient industries which leads to industries becoming even more inefficient. This means that tariffs basically bail out inefficient industries. This bail out is paid by Americans through the increased costs of goods and services. The increased costs of goods and services could lead to a decrease in the demand of goods which could cause people to lose their jobs.

15% tax for outsourcing jobs
A 15% tax on companies that outsource jobs may sound like a good idea. After all, it would help to ensure that people don’t lose their jobs to outsourcing. However, this tax would have effects similar to a tariff. It would promote inefficiency and keep prices high.

Donald Trump appointing himself as the United States Trade Representative
If Donald Trump became president, it would be a terrible idea for him to appoint himself as America’s trade representative. Besides him not having enough time to be the United States Trade Representative due to various presidential duties, Donald Trump does not have the expertise to be the United States Trade Representative. The current United States Trade Representative, Michael Froman, has extensive experience in international economics and public policy. Donald Trump on the other hand is a business man, he does not have much experience in international economics or public policy.

Image: Mr Donald Trump New Hampshire Town Hall on August 19th, 2015 at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, NH by Michael Vadon https://www.flickr.com/photos/80038275@N00/20724485306

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement has been at the center of much political disagreements. Some people claim that the TPP is harmful to the US while others disagree. The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has prepared a report on the TPP. The report provides information about the TPP’s potential impact on the US’ economy and specific industries.

Overall, the USITC found that the TPP would positively effect the US economy and specific industries. However, this impact would be somewhat small. The USITC estimates that real annual American income would be .23% ($57.3 billion) higher due to the TPP. Real GDP would be higher by .15% ($42.7 billion) and employment would be .07% (128,000 full time jobs) higher. Several US industries will also experience positive gains. For example, the US poultry industry would experience an increase in the price competitiveness of exports. Also, the US dairy industry would experience slightly higher output (by 1.3%) if the TPP were to be adopted.

The USITC’s report can be found here.

 

Image: https://usitc.gov/

A Look At The Global Economy (June 2016)

The global economy is expected to grow at a moderate pace for the next few years. The Conference Board predicts that world total GDP growth rates will hover around 2 and 3 percent over the next ten years. Throughout the rest of the year, it is expected that the output of mature economies will slow down while output is expected to marginally improve in emerging markets, such as Russia and Brazil. [1] The data tables provide a look at world total GDP, GDP by state and region, projected GDP, and labor productivity growth.

View Data Tables


Sources
[1] The Conference Board. “Global Economic Outlook 2016” bbc.com/news/business-15198789

[Image Source: What does weak US wage growth mean for the global economy and US rates? CMC Markets 3rd July https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-kIzITgerk]