The Bush administration has repeatedly argued that the root cause of terrorism is political oppression, and that democracy in Iraq will result in decreased terrorism.
I'm wondering whether there is any actual evidence to support the idea that democracy results in decreased terrorism.
- Pakistan, before Musharaff's coup, was a democracy. It was also one of the most important sponsors of terrorism in the world. Its system of madrassas churned out a colossal number of extremists, and lets not forget that Pakistan is responsible for installing the Taliban in Afghanistan.
- Indonesia and the Philippines have some of the most active Islamic extremist movements in the world, and according to reports serve as the home of a large number of Al-Qaeda cells.
- We see terrorists freely operate in Afghanistan, conducting attacks on a weekly basis.
In summary, its not uncommon to see Islamic insurgencies in democratic states, and the only democratic Islamic state in recent history was one of the most succesful exporters of terrorism.
Now I believe a correlation exists between measures of terrorism and measures of political freedom. But this does not mean anything; indeed, the idea of democracy originated with a set of cultures that were not prone to terrorism (at least, not the kind of terrorism I am discussing here), so it is hardly surprising that such a correlation is there. Even if correlation did equal causation, it would not be clear from the data whether democracy results in less terrorism, or whether places not prone to terrorism are more likely to become democratic.
So I'll repeat the question: has any good evidence been provided that the spread of democracy is a good way to combat terrorism?