Ever since 9/11 analysts have tried to discover what draws an individual to terrorism, how to identify them, how to prevent them. Ah, not so easy warns Fouad Ajami.
The very "normalcy" of the new terrorists is perhaps their most disturbing characteristic. An official inquiry for the House of Commons into the transit and bus bombings that hit London in July 2005 concedes the difficulty of "profiling" and of detection. The investigations uncovered little that was unusual about the four men who pulled off the deed.
So what to do? Harking back to the early Arab assassins, Ajami offers slight hope, very slight hope.
There is a strand of liberal thinking that aims to explain the terror and succeeds only in explaining it away. Terror is justified if we drown it in the search for "root causes" or if we insist that the terror sprang from "legitimate" grievances. In this vein, nowadays it is maintained that Islamist terror was fed by the rage over the American invasion of Iraq. This argument is off the mark, the product of naivete or of a determined opposition to the war. We should know better. The trail of radical terror, emanating from Islamic lands and Islamic movements, predates the Iraq war. We have three decades of this kind of terror behind us. Our consolation perhaps lies in the fate that awaited the original cult of assassins. In their time, they had fame, and their potential victims feared them. But the world of organized states in the end triumphed, and the fury of the zealots was no match for the determination of mainstream society to shake off the assassins and to defend the normal order of things.
Ethel C. Fenig 10 06 06