EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Despair and hope are the powerful forces that drive global terrorism. To better deal with this threat, the West must combine its counterterrorism efforts with harsher responses that will sow doubts in jihadists’ minds about their chosen path.
In the wake of the recent ISIS attack in Barcelona, experts on Islamic terrorism were called on, as they so often are, to explain the phenomenon. This time the experts pointed to a radical imam who had incited second-generation immigrants, organized a terrorist network, and spurred the perpetrators into action.
One major question remains unanswered: Why? Generations of academic researchers have delved and will continue to delve into this issue. In the meantime, it is worthwhile to review some of the factors necessary to deal with the phenomenon of terrorism on a practical level.
As far as the immediate operational aspects of security and thwarting terrorist attacks are concerned, the question of why has no practical significance. It is similar to saving a person suffering from a heart attack. In such an emergency, the saving of a life depends on a series of technical, efficient, and immediate actions, not on inquiries into primary causes of the disease. But once the situation has stabilized, a comprehensive examination of the precipitating circumstances is necessary. One’s way of life might need to change, and the question of “why did this happen?” becomes useful.
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