You don't say?
Especially worrisome is the apparent rise of terrorists whose origins seem far from fanatical. ... These terrorists are not desperately poor uneducated people from the Middle East. A surprisingly large share of them have college and even graduate degrees. Increasingly, they seem to be from Britain, like the shoe bomber Richard C. Reid and most of the suspects in the London Underground bombings and the liquid explosives plot. This has left the public wondering, Why are some educated people from Western countries so prone to fanaticism?
The relation between terrorism and education is a question which the Times article never gets around to answering. It then goes directly to reporting Harvard/RAND study findings that educated terrorists are deadlier than uneducated terrorists, which one would have guessed.
They gathered data on Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel from 2000 to 2005 and found that for terrorists, just like for regular workers, experience and education improve productivity. Suicide bombers who are older — in their late 20’s and early 30’s — and better educated are less likely to be caught on their missions and are more likely to kill large numbers of people at bigger, more difficult targets than younger and more poorly educated bombers. ... Experience and education also affect the chances of being caught. Every additional year of age reduces the chance by 12 percent. Having more than a high school education cuts the chance by more than half. There are many examples where young or uneducated terrorists made stupid mistakes that foiled them.
But if the NYT punts, blogger and Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw does not. He wrote on what little was known on the correlation between educational attainment and terror and noted that while education (or the lack of it) had no discernible impact on a person's decision to become a terrorist, it had a measurable effect on his efficiency once he embarked on a career of murder. He concluded, "So education seems to have negative externalities for this population: It does not reduce participation in terrorist activity, but it increases the efficacy of the terrorists." But academic Robert Pape suggests there is a direct correlation between educational attainment and the decision to become a suicide bomber. In his book Dying to Win, Pape argues that:
“In general, suicide attackers are rarely socially isolated, clinically insane, or economically destitute individuals, but are most often educated, socially integrated, and highly capable people who could be expected to have a good future” (200). Pape discusses problems of data-gathering (201-02). He establishes 462 individuals in his “universe” of suicide terrorists available for analytical purposes (203). Hezbollah suicide bombers in the period 1982-1986 were 71% Christian, 21% Communist/Socialist, 8% Islamist (204-07). In general, suicide terrorists are in their early 20s (207-08). Females are fewer in Islamist groups:
Although I wouldn't want to make too much of Pape's observation, the evidence he cites suggests that a Western educational system, in which a demography of "71% Christian, 21% Communist/Socialist, 8% Islamist" would be found might actually be a more dangerous breeding ground for terrorism than a madrassa. It would at any rate explain the NYT's question: "Why are some educated people from Western countries so prone to fanaticism?" Sometimes one is too close to the question to see the answer.
My bonnie looked into the gas tank
The heart of its contents to see;
I lighted a match to assist her,
oh bring back my bonnie to me