Why Lots of Terrorists Are Engineers

Illustration for article titled Why Lots of Terrorists Are Engineers

The underpants bomber was an engineer. So were eight of the 25 terrorists involved in 9/11. In fact, half of all known "violent jihadists" reach higher education, and 44 percent of them are engineers. Uh, that looks like a pattern.


Even though engineers are obviously highly prized by terrorist recruiters for their skills, the reason, according to Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog writing in New Scientist is that they tend to have a more rigid, conservative mindset, and at least in Middle Eastern countries, there've been fewer jobs for them, so more of them have gone radical.

All of the engineers I know are just alcoholics. [Sphere]



A big reason for this is cultural.

In Middle Eastern countries, "Engineer" is a highly revered title, on par with or perhaps more prestigious than "Doctor" is in the US. A side effect is that the term is often widely misused in the Mid East, as everyone wants their job title to have the letters "Eng" in front of it, sort of how "technician" and "associate" are abused in the west.

A greater proportion of Middle Easterners with the means for a higher education opt for engineering fields than in the US and many other western countries.

The other part of the equation is that most of the best (or at least internationally renowned) institutions are in Europe & North America, so a Middle Easterner with an advanced technical degree is likely to have been educated in the West- and is therefore an ideal recruit for a terror organization looking to place their operatives in the West.

Subtle accent, Western dress, familiarity with Western culture, etc. definitely makes for a much more effective terrorist than the stereotypical uneducated goat herder from the Afghan mountains, who would stick out like a sore thumb in an airport.