Essay: Terror and Peace: the Root Cause Fallacy

The idea of "root causes" has great political attraction. Some years ago in the U.S., it dominated debate on policy toward El Salvador. It was argued that the Administration's hopes for a military solution were futile because the real causes of the insurrection were poverty, misery and hunger.

Well, yes. Revolutions do need misery to feed on. (There are exceptions. Occasionally there are revolutions of the comfortable, as in the 1960s in the U.S. and France. Such facsimiles, however, are invariably short-lived and harmless.) But these conditions, while obviously a necessary cause of revolution, are not sufficient. If they were, there...

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