When al Qaeda's latest plot was disrupted because Ayman al-Zawahiri initiated a mundane conference call, it only hardened his reputation as an ineffective and intrusive micro-manager. But Zawahiri's critics have it wrong -- red tape can be a terrorist mastermind's best friend.
Policymakers have converged on economic development as a key to ending terrorism, in the belief that poorer people are more susceptible to the appeals of violent groups. In fact, in Pakistan, the poor are less supportive of militant groups than the middle class.
The United States' current approach to counterinsurgency centers on protecting the population, with a special emphasis on political and economic development. But does that development-based strategy work? In a study using data on reconstruction spending and violence in Iraq, the provision of certain government services does lead to a reduction in violence.