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What Makes a Terrorist?

Who becomes a terrorist and – more importantly – why? Answering these questions is a key to defeating terrorism. Poverty and lack of education have been the conventional scapegoats. And while they may have some impact, in his new book What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism, economist Alan Krueger demonstrates that there is little empirical evidence supporting this claim. Instead, his analysis shows that political oppression and a lack of civil liberties are the principal culprits.

On the anniversary of September 11th, Krueger joined Daniel Benjamin, Brookings senior fellow and former National Security Council director for counterterrorism, and Philip Gordon, Brookings senior fellow in foreign policy, to discuss the real roots of terrorism. The discussion was part of the “Governing Ideas” series, moderated by Brookings senior fellow William A. Galston. The series, hosted by Brookings’s Governance Studies program, is intended to broaden the discussion of governance issues through forums on timely and relevant books on history, culture, legal norms and practices, values and religion.

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