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Counter-Terrorism: Declaring War on the Young
   Next Article → PHILIPPINES: Trends

January 12, 2007: A German social scientist (Gunnar Heinsohn) has taken an old truism of American policing, and applied it on a global scale, to explain why there is terrorism and war in so many places. Heinsohn's theory is that when there are too many young men in a country, there will be more violence. This was noted by American crime researchers decades ago. Thus the explanation for the skyrocketing American crime rates from the 1960s to the 90s. This was the era ruled by the post World War II "baby boom." 

Medicines and medical practices (particularly improved water and sanitation) led to a similar baby boom in the developing world in the latter half of the 20th century. Heinsohn demonstrated that when 30 percent or more of a population is aged 15-29, you have too many young men with bad attitudes, and the result is a jump in crime, terrorism and civil unrest. Heinsohn showed that in 90 percent of the 67 of the countries that have the 30 percent "Youth Bulge" (as demographers put it) you have massive unrest. Moreover, 13 of the 27 nations with the largest Youth Bulge are Moslem. In fact, most of the Youth Bulge is found in Africa and in Moslem nations. 

Heinsohn also points that many historical upheavals were attributable, at least in part, to the Youth Bulge. These would include the American and French Revolutions and many other uprisings in places like Ireland and Latin America. The current growth of Youth Bulge can largely be blamed on Western efforts to improve the lives and health of people in the developing world. No good deed goes unpunished.

This "youthquake" problem is taken for granted by many experienced terrorism and criminology experts. But the pattern is not generally recognized as the main cause of unrest. However, historically it appears to be the case. In pre-industrial societies, 5-10 years of favorable weather would create an abundance of food, and a population explosion. There would follow a period of civil unrest and wars as these kids came of age. Zoologists note the same pattern in animal populations. Humans are more complex beasts, but just as the American crime rates began to plunge in the 1990s, as the Youth Bulge disappeared, so will the civil disorders and terrorism now causing so much misery. The one new element is the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which youthful rebels have already used once (the Japanese terrorist attacks with nerve gas in 1995). This has led to the current dispute between those who advocate taking the youthful terrorists head on, and those who prefer to treat the terrorists like a police problem, and basically wait them out. For many in the United States, terrorists using airliners as WMD on September 11, 2001, was justification for declaring war on unruly youth.

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