It struck me while writing the previous article how pervasive is the idea that things have a single cause, but we have no reason to believe this, and we know it. To create fire I need to bring together fuel, heat and air. Take any of these away, as any fire fighter will tell you, and you will no longer have fire: all of these causal factors need to be present. So many arguments swing on the fallacy that things have to have single causes: whether terrorism is caused by unscrupulous people and their malignant ideology or attacks on other people’s countries and cultures. Plainly they are both causal factors—everyone feared an increase in terrorist attacks after the invasion in Iraq and in England cash machines tell you to be wary of suspicious packages while ATMs in the Republic of Ireland don’t carry any such warning. Invading other people’s countries is reasonably good predictive indicator that some of the people being so attacked (and they may not reside in the countries being attacked but merely identify with them) will seek to reply in kind by attacking the countries doing the attacking at their vulnerable points. Clearly violent exploitative ideology is necessary too.
While all the causes need to come together to bring about a terrorist attack, it makes sense for us to focus on the causal factors that we control and are responsible for. Once we address these it will become a lot easier (and much more effective) to ask others to address their own contribution to the problem.