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I am no expert on terrorism and wonder whether the supposed experts aren’t either.

Dutch historian and “expert on terrorism” Beatrice de Graaf gave a lecture on Dutch TV on March 11 (or see Utrecht University) about David Rapoport‘s four waves of terrorism (his original article).

Her main message was that people might find some comfort in the idea that waves die out. March 22 saw the bombs in Brussels.

This theory of four waves of terrorism appears to be rather silly. Below gives my common sense rejection.

De Graaf is not the only academic who regards the theory of the four waves as serious. The West is vulnerable to terrorism when its “experts on terrorism” are academics lost in theory. It is okay to sooth people not to worry too much, but intellectuals should present effective approaches rather than fairy tales.

The so-called “four waves”

Jeffrey Kaplan summarizes (and then proceeds in adding his own fifth wave) (while Dutch readers can check Edwin Ruis’s review of March 13):

“Rapoport’s theory, first published on the web before finally finding a home in a printed anthology, posited four distinct waves of modern terrorism (anarchist, nationalist, 1960s leftist, and the current religious wave). Each wave had a precipitating event, lasted about 40 years before receding, and, with some overlap, faded as another wave rose to take center stage. Most terrorist groups would gradually disappear, a few (the Irish Republican Army for example) proved more durable. Rapoport’s theory was elegant, simple, inclusive, and had a high degree of explanatory power. In short, it provides a good academic model.” (Kaplan 2008).

Jeffrey D. Simon holds (and wonders about a fifth wave too):

“David Rapoport’s “The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism” is one of the most important pieces ever written in the vast literature on terrorism (Rapoport 2004).  What Rapoport did in his classic study was take the complex phenomenon of terrorism and put it in a historical context that not only explained different periods of international terrorism, but also set forth theories and concepts that can be used to attempt to anticipate the future of terrorism.  That is no easy task.  There haven’t been many assessments and articles written about Rapoprt’s “Four Waves” theory, although this volume of papers initiates a discourse about his important thesis (See Thompson and Rasler, this volume).  Despite the numbers of scholars, policymakers, and others who have joined the field of terrorism studies after the 9/11 attacks, there does not appear to be a great deal of interest in the history of terrorism.  In today’s instant access and information-overload society, we are inundated with analyses of current affairs but pay scant attention to what we may learn from what has transpired in the past.” (J.D. Simon on the Lone Wolf, likely 2010)

I googled to find some criticism, but didn’t see much, though perhaps I didn’t google well. I noticed a critical text by Ericka Durgahee. I didn’t have time to look into this, and the following are my own common sense short remarks.

The anarchists 1880-1920

The dynasties of Hohenzollern, Romanov and Habsburg collapsed. Perhaps the anarchists didn’t really win because we don’t have anarchy now, but those anarchists were replaced by communists and fascists, and we ended up with two world wars, which isn’t quite “die out”.

Anti-colonialism 1920-1960

The anti-colonialists won. Winning isn’t quite “die out”.

Leftists 1960-1989

Leftism became impopular because of the Great Stagflation (unfavourable unemployment and inflation) and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Young radicals were more motivated by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

In Germany, the police managed to isolate the Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF). In another article, Beatrice de Graaf explains how the Dutch radicals (Rode Jeugd, Krakersbeweging) lost their motivation by incompetence of the Dutch police. The Dutch police intended to adopt the tough German approach, but mismanaged this, and both radicals and the general population got the impression of an atmosphere of tolerance and dialogue. In that atmosphere, potential supporters saw no need for radicalisation, and radicals had the example of the dead-end street in Germany.

These events rather concern the transformation of European society after World War 2. There are pockets of terrorism, but there doesn’t seem much difference between RAF and other groups like IRA and ETA: except that each group requires specific attention for its idiosyncracies.

Religious terrorism 1979-now

Religious violence is of all times. There is no reason to predict that it will pass. This is no wave.

Alternative approach

Terrorists tend to be higher educated who are frustrated w.r.t. opportunities in society. They may feel sympathy with the unprivileged. They may adopt any ideology to recruit others in the resistance against the establishment. To counter this, one must look at society as a whole, create fair opportunity, and encourage people to participate. My own work contains aspects that are key to reduce terrorism.

  • Create a social welfare state that works. See DRGTPE.
  • Make democracy work. See VTFD.
  • Provide for good education, e.g. re-engineer mathematics. See EWS.
  • Let people learn how to deal with the human capacity for abstraction. See SMOJ.
Beatrice de Graaf, soothing Dutch viewers that a wave dies out

Beatrice de Graaf, soothing Dutch viewers that a wave of terrorism dies out

 

H.J. (Johannes) Witteveen (1921) is best known as managing director of the IMF in 1973-1978.

Please note that the Bretton Woods Institutions IMF and Worldbank have wrong names. J.M. Keynes already complained to the Americans: “The Fund is a bank and the Bank is a fund !” (no exact quote). It would be better that the IMF is renamed to World Central Bank and the Worldbank into World Investment Bank, since this would strengthen their role and position also in public perception and discussion.

Following the First Oil Crisis 1973-74 Witteveen created the Supplementary Financing Facility, unofficially known as the Witteveen facility, to channel revenues from oil producers back to the consuming countries, to prevent a liquidity crisis amongst those consumers. The IMF book by James Boughton The silent revolutionassigns a later major role to Witteveen’s successors Jacques de Larosiere and Michel Camessus, but underestimates how Witteveen paved the way.

In the current crisis of 2007+, Witteveen pointed to requirements for a New Bretton Woods (Nov 20 2008, Financial Times). For Europe he advised a similar “facility” again by the IMF rather than the ECB (Aug 22 2011, Financial times, Business Insider).

Recently, Witteveen looked at the Dutch export surplus and the need for an investment strategy in The Netherlands itself.

We can observe that the Dutch surplus exists since 1981. When Germany started copying that, Southern Europe got into problems. I tend to agree with Witteveen on IS-LM but advise at the level of each nation: (a) an Economic Supreme Court, (b) National Investment Banks (NIBs), (c) the overall approach to reduce unemployment as discussed in my book DRGTPE.

My pre-crisis book is Definition & Reality in the General Theory of Political Economy (DRGTPE). My 2007+ papers on the crisis are collected in Common Sense: Boycott Holland (CSBH). A boycott of Holland is warranted because of the censorship of economic science by the Dutch government. That censorship pertains to the issue discussed below, and professor Witteveen’s discussion suffers seriously from not having the material under censorship.

Witteveen had been professor at Erasmus University since 1948. Apparently he never got time for an official farewell, and last week the old fox took the opportunity of a Valedictory Lecture to gather an audience and to present his analysis on that Dutch investment strategy (May 15 2014). The Lecture was published by the Dutch economics journal Economisch Statistische Berichten (ESB May 17 2014 p294-298). I thank the editors for permission to reproduce the lecture with my comments.

Cllick here to read the lecture and my comments on my website.

Witteveen also wrote books on universal sufism (not to be confused with islamic sufism), see his personal website. As a personal remark on my side: my father is also from 1921 but has stopped reading and writing. I am much impressed by Witteveen’s command of economics. Admittedly, Keynes solved these issues by IS-LM itself already in 1936 and by his proposal for an international trade currency (bancor). Our main problem since 1945 has been that politicians arrogantly proclaim to know it better.

Witteveen’s Valedictory Lecture is a major event in economics. It deserves to be treated with much respect and critical comment. It shows that the problem is not lack of knowledge from economic science but that the problem lies in the structure of decision making about economic policy.