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A mother and son in Pisac, Peru, where health-spending cuts have contributed to a 13% rise in infant mortality. Photo: Sergi Reboredo/VW PICS/UIG via Getty Images

Recent terrorist attacks in Kashmir, North Sinai and Bogotá have put their respective government’s security policies under the microscope.

The big picture: In the wake of such attacks, there are strong political incentives to reassure the public with highly visible, forceful measures. In developing countries, however, beefing up security often comes at the steep cost of spending cuts to social welfare programs.

Background: Although terrorism in Western countries receives extensive media attention, the vast majority of attacks occur in poor countries that struggle to pay for national security. These locales often also have fragile social service systems that can worsen quickly after funding cuts.

  • For each Peruvian soldier killed by the resurgent "Shining Path" rebels, more than 70 infants die in subsequent years due to resulting cuts in health spending — contributing to an estimated 13% increase in Peru's infant mortality rate.
  • In Iraq, infant mortality more than doubled after severe health budget cuts related to war, terrorism and sanctions.

Between the lines: Deteriorating social welfare in countries strained by conflict can exacerbate a downward spiral: Social cuts weaken economic growth and drive a loss of confidence in government, which reduces political stability and leaves marginalized communities susceptible to anti-government recruitment.

Filling the welfare gap in these countries yields large dividends. More investment by international donors and the private sector could enable countries to maintain health and education services in the face of conflict.

  • Yes, but: If poor governments expect that the U.S. and other big donors may fill their coffers after terrorist attacks, it could create perverse incentives. The global community would have to find an approach that both helps end conflicts and mitigates their impact in the meantime.

The bottom line: The media often focuses on the immediate effects of terrorism — especially sensational attacks with high casualty counts. But the indirect effects may be even greater, as poor communities face the long-term implications of disruptions in vital services.

Renard Sexton is a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University's Empirical Studies of Conflict Project. Rachel Wellhausen is an associate professor of government at the University of Texas, Austin. Mike Findley is a professor of government at the University of Texas, Austin.

Go deeper: Read the authors’ full study, with more analysis on Peru.

Go deeper

Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize marijuana in 2024

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Lawmakers in Virginia on Saturday approved compromise legislation that would legalize marijuana in 2024, putting the state a step closer to becoming the first in the South to end prohibition on the drug, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Why it matters: The legislation will make Virginia the 16th state to legalize marijuana, per Politico. It would add to a slate of laws that have seen Virginia move in a more progressive direction during the tenure of Gov. Ralph Northam.

Scammers seize on COVID confusion

Data: FTC; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Scamming has skyrocketed in the past year, and much of the increase is attributed to COVID-related scams, more recently around vaccines.

Why it matters: The pandemic has created a prime opportunity for scammers to target people who are already confused about the chaotic rollouts of things like stimulus payments, loans, contact tracing and vaccines. Data shows that older people who aren't digitally literate are the most vulnerable.

12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia groups was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.