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Monday, June 21, 2010


By Randall Terry

I am currently in a Masters Program on International Relations. The material is at once fascinating and disturbing. One can slowly see how we have gotten into the mess we are in, given the ideologies of those guiding the ship of state.
What follows is a question I dealt with this week, and my answer. You may be as surprised as I was to see "population control" as a proposed solution to terrorism.

Question: "Considering this week’s readings, what are the arguments in favour and against the thesis that poverty 'causes' terrorism? How are these arguments supported?"

The first article we read this week (by Krieger and Meierrieks) convincingly proved - analyzing nearly 100 studies - that poverty is not a cause of current terrorism, with the possible exception of Marxist motivated terrorism, which is now clearly on the decline with the break-up of the Soviet Union.

As I read “Some Roots of Terrorism; Population and Environment,” by Paul R Ehrlich and Jianguo Liu, I became more and more disturbed. It read like a polemic, written by someone with an agenda, not facts.

Early on, the authors admitted they might be shooting an arrow, then painting a bull’s-eye around it: “We emphasize that we do not consider these socioeconomic and demographic variables to be the only determinants of terrorism and we are not sure whether they are the main determinants of terrorism.” (p.3)

But that did not prevent them from building their argument on sand. Beyond their immediate admission that perhaps their thesis is flawed; their words were belligerent in a way that belied a separate set of goals.

Consider these quotes:

“And while a sane energy policy giving heavy weight to conservation and renewable sources would doubtless reduce the threat of terrorism, it would also threaten America's love affair with gas-guzzling SUVs and the energy interests that guide much of the foreign and environmental policies of the U.S. government.” (p.2)

I ask: What empirical data do we have that “renewable resources will doubtlessly reduce the threat of terrorism?”

They increased the shrillness of their tone:

“Furthermore, while the influence of cultural factors is difficult to evaluate, at the very least it seems unlikely that some potentially important ones, such as religious fundamentalism or attitudes towards globalization (Barber, 1995), will change rapidly. Indeed the very strictness of religious fundamentalism may make it extremely resistant to change (Iannaccone, 1994) and may promote a willingness to die for beliefs, which at one time was a feature of western religious tradition (Gregory, 1999). Indeed, one could claim that in the western world today, a cultural fundamentalism surrounds the use of automobiles and SUVs, especially in the United States.” (p.5)

In my opinion, this is not scholarly writing on the topic at hand. To construct a false argument that those who drive SUVs are similar to religious fundamentalists who are willing to die for their beliefs is silly, not scholarly. At best, it is an articulate tirade. I guessed then that I was not reading something written by a scholar from the field of international relations.

So I looked again at the name of one of the authors: Dr. Paul R Ehrlich.

Dr. Ehrlich is the author of two truly offensive, contemptible books: The Population Explosion, and The Population Bomb.

Dr. Ehrlich is a professor at Stanford who has openly called for government tyranny over individuals concerning mandatory, coercive birth control (ala China.) In my studied opinion, he is not to be trusted as a scholar fit to discuss poverty and terrorism.

In fact, he has called for government terror, or at least tyranny, over its citizens.

I hope you will forgive my bluntness. I have quarreled against his agenda for much of my adult life. Here is a sample quote from his 1968 (debunked, but nonetheless “brave new world”) book; judge for yourselves what type of coercion or “terror” (i.e., from our first weeks’ readings, the use of force of a government against its own people) he would like to compel people to not have children. Also note that his “scholarly research” and predictions proved quite inaccurate. Here are quotes from the prologue of his book, The Population Bomb:

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970's the world will undergo famines--hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate, although many lives could be saved through dramatic programs to "stretch" the carrying capacity of the earth by increasing food production. But these programs will only provide a stay of execution unless they are accompanied by determined and successful efforts at population control. Population control is the conscious regulation of the numbers of human beings to meet the needs, not just of individual families, but of society as a whole.

Nothing could be more misleading to our children than our present affluent society. They will inherit a totally different world, a world in which the standards, politics, and economics of the 1960's are dead. As the most powerful nation in the world today, and its largest consumer, the United States cannot stand isolated. We are today involved in the events leading to famine; tomorrow we may be destroyed by its consequences.

Our position requires that we take immediate action at home and promote effective action worldwide. We must have population control at home, hopefully through a system of incentives and penalties, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail. We must use our political power to push other countries into programs which combine agricultural development and population control. And while this is being done we must take action to reverse the deterioration of our environment before population pressure permanently ruins our planet. The birth rate must be brought into balance with the death rate or mankind will breed itself into oblivion. We can no longer afford merely to treat the symptoms of the cancer of population growth; the cancer itself must be cut out. Population control is the only answer.

He has not backed off of this tyrannical agenda; and as was clear in this article, he and his co-author try to weave “population control” into the fight against terrorism.

They state: “The relationship of population growth rates to political instability is both important and complex (Goldstone, 1991).” (p.5)

They then bring the population argument front and center: “While disproportionate numbers of young males will be one result of rapid population growth in many developing nations, many believe that growth itself now retards development, widening the rich-poor gap (e.g., Mimouni, 1992) and increasing the distress of those being left behind. Others (e.g., Courbage, 1994; Fargues, 1997), however, see issues related to population structure as more critical causes of stress in Arab societies.” (p.6)

And then, they make the leap of faith that it is birth rate itself that helps breed terrorism: “Disparities in population growth rates among different peoples (e.g., ethnic groups, religions) may also exacerbate the conditions that breed terrorism.” (p.6)

Then they give us the “doomsday scenario” - and the call to population control - that merely replay Ehrlich’s 1968 book:

“If we are correct, however, without dramatic action the demographic and socioeconomic conditions in the selected Islamic nations in the Middle East and South Central Asia could continue to generate terrorism and terrorists for many decades to come.” (p.8)

So, what is his solution to terrorism? The U.S. and other “rich nations” should reduce the number of children they have, and then export birth control to these poor nations, so that they do not breed so many potential terrorists.

“There is one overriding conclusion we would draw…[The U.S. should] assume that our hypothesis that economic macro factors do help to promote terrorism is correct. The United States and other rich nations should then move as rapidly as possible towards an energy-efficient economy…and speed the reduction of their own population sizes to more satisfactory and sustainable levels…(p.8, emphasis added) “While setting an example, the United States could also increase its pathetic level of international aid, and carefully target that aid on efforts that would change social and demographic conditions (e.g., increase employment and help to lower fertility rates) in developing countries…This will require innovation, care, and tough diplomacy, and could not be done overnight. That is all the more reason for changing American attitudes, announcing our good intentions, and showing the changes to be genuine by getting started right now.” (p.9)

He is right about one thing: it would require “tough diplomacy,” and outright brute force and coercion, to get people who believe that their children are a gift from God and their greatest “wealth,” to allow men like Dr. Ehrlich to come bearing gifts of sterilization.

If bin Laden and other terrorists caught wind of this man’s agenda for their fellow Muslims, Ehrlich might be responsible for spawning – not limiting - more terrorist attacks against the very people that seek to control the lives and families and destinies of people (like Muslims and others) who love and value children.

In conclusion, the authors never proved their case – and basically admitted so – but they still want us to build foreign policy on their population control agenda.

Works Cited:
Paul R Ehrlich, & Jianguo Liu. (2002). Some roots of terrorism. Population and Environment, 24(2), 183.

The Population Bomb quoted at: http://brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/91

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