We’re fighting a war against jihadists in an atmosphere of staggering popular, media, academic, and governmental ignorance. We constantly hear authoritative statements that any given military action “recruits terrorists” or that poverty “breeds terrorism” or that terrorism gives voice to the voiceless . . . statements that betray fundamental ignorance of the actual way that terrorists join movements, the relative prosperity of many contemporary terrorists, and the presence of multiple, viable political alternatives to terror. In conversation after conversation, I find myself rebutting casual observations even by educated and informed citizens about, for example, the role of martyrdom in the al-Qaeda mindset, the commitment of the terrorist foot soldier to the cause, and even the religious and ideological purity of many real-life terrorists.
Perhaps this is yet another symptom of a military that is increasingly walled-off from the civilian population, but it is striking that our nation lives in such ignorance even as hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens have had direct, personal contact with terrorist violence and with jihadist cultures.