I’m not an economist. But both my father and cousin are economists, so from my conversations with them I have picked up a respect for the power of economics to improve the world.
Economics has penetrated into law and political science. However, one particular branch of politics – international relations – continues to make decisions based on hidden assumptions. The military-industrial complex in the US, for example, has persuaded politicians that a war half-way across the world is somehow a threat to American “national interests”. Benjamin Friedman wrote a brilliant article about the problems with such an anti-empirical approach here.
Could the application of economics in the area of foreign policy be useful in finding causal relationships between American involvement overseas, and incidents of terrorism against American citizens? While it has long been believed by experts in the field that American involvement overseas leads to “blowback” against American interests, I wonder if it would be possible to do a regression analysis to support this claim?
Ivan Eland wrote a superb paper investigating this question. Eland’s paper, while good at setting out the qualititative evidence, doesn’t use economic techniques.
So here’s my question: is it possible to study the link between US intervention overseas and terrorism against Americans using statistical techniques? What if someone wanted to investigate the extent of US involvement in the Post WWII World (as measured by various proxy measures, e.g. number of countries occupied, defence spending) and then compare that to the number of terrorist attacks on US citizens or property from 1945-2008?
What kind of data would they need? A book by University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape uses a data-set of sucide terrorism incidents from 1980 through 2003.