The New York Times reported last Friday that “an exodus is underway” in the State Department. The Times didn’t think this was good news; it gave space to one career diplomat who lamented that there was “complete and utter disdain for our expertise.”
This could be the best news to come out of Washington since the Trump administration took office.
We can only hope that with the departure of these failed State Department officials, their failed policies will be swept out along with them. Chief among these is the almost universally held idea that poverty causes terrorism. The United States has wasted uncounted (literally, because a great deal of it was in untraceable bags full of cash) billions of dollars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, and other countries in the wrongheaded assumption that Muslims turn to jihad because they lack economic opportunities and education. American officials built schools and hospitals, thinking that they were winning over the hearts and minds of the locals.
Fifteen years, thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars later, no significant number of hearts and minds have been won. This is partly because the premise is wrong. The New York Times reported in March that “not long after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001…Alan B. Krueger, the Princeton economist, tested the widespread assumption that poverty was a key factor in the making of a terrorist. Mr. Krueger’s analysis of economic figures, polls, and data on suicide bombers and hate groups found no link between economic distress and terrorism.”