The widespread phenomenon of Islamist terror groups and suicide bombers that comprise the Modern Jihad is largely a mess of our own making. The anti-Soviet Jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s that was masterminded by the US is still having repercussions today. The subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union brought poverty and a political vacuum which provided a ripe recruiting ground for Islamists as veterans of the Afghan jihad have moved from one conflict to the next.
In parallel, the West’s oil-led foreign policy has stripped people of control over their natural resources, impoverishing them while buoying up deeply undemocratic and unrepresentative regimes. Through its short-term manipulation of Islamist groups the US has created a monster which is now turning on its creator.
In a book that aims to give a dispassionate, economics-led survey of global terror, Napoleoni lays out this and a whole lot more in a densely woven jigsaw rich with detail. One of the chief obstacles to enforcing post-September 11 banking legislation, she notes, is the disincentive arising from the fact that much of the estimated $1.5 trillion (million million) annual economy of terror flows into the US economy. Ultimately nothing but a radical rethink in foreign policy will avoid compounding an already deeply troubling situation. Napoleoni doesn’t mention it, but we now have a twin driver for change – the urgent need to reduce our dependence on oil if we are to have any hope of avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.