People ask, “What is up with home-grown terrorist kids? How can they enjoy all the freedoms of a rich and democratic society and still want to blow up America (or England or Spain or wherever)?”
I think a major reason why “home grown” terrorists exist is that precisely BECAUSE they are growing up in the west, they have no idea how fucked up Muslim countries’ governments are, and no idea the amount of Muslim-on-Muslim violence that goes down, even when infidels are not involved. And I’m not saying this to bag on Arabs or Muslims. I’m just repeating what the Arab Spring protesters were saying about their own countries.
Put another way, if you live in a middle-east country, you might love Allah and hate the American and Israeli governments, but at the same time, every day of your life, you’ll be dealing with other folks who are downright jagoffs, who happen to be Muslims. Maybe it’s the secret police, or maybe it’s just a noisy neighbor or a waiter at a restaurant who has an attitude. And you’ll read daily about fights that your sect (Sunni, Shiite, Sufi, Alawite, etc.) is having with another sect WHO ARE ALL HUGE DICKS AND WRONG ABOUT RELIGION. Plus, you'll likely every day see your own politicians invoking the name of Allah to justify whatever corruption they are doing, and you’ll become cynical about that.
So even though you’ll get a daily dose of "us-vs.-them, good-vs.-evil" rhetoric from your local imam or TV host, you’ll instinctively balance that rhetoric with your daily life experience, like I said above. But “home-grown” terror kids, lack the cynicism about real-life problems in Islamic countries, experience that would allow them to think critically about these messages.
In other words, home-grown terrorists just get the “AMERICANS ARE KILLING INNOCENT MUSLIM CHILDREN” part, rather than the “SO ARE OTHER REPRESSIVE MUSLIM GOVERNMENTS” part. And probably the jihadi come-back is "Well, you see, any Muslim government that is corrupt is only corrupt because it's influenced by the West, and really infidels are to blame." But I would bet like 200 yen that most Muslims who buy that bullshit are not living in those countries, but instead living in the West.
Like all ideologies (including the American idea that democracy can be spread with guns and bombs (which even other white-people countries find bizarre) ), everything seems simple the further you go into the abstract, and everything gets much more morally complex and fucked up when you try to implement the ideology in practice.
All that talk on jihadi forums about “CHILDREN DIED FROM USA BOMBS AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT, YOU POSER?” seems fairly black-and-white . . .The obvious answer is, “Well, I have to join the jihad and avenge the dead children! It’s us Muslims vs. them infidels!”
But what happens to all that us-vs.-them when you enter village politics in some redneck shithole town where there are like 10 different tribes and 3 versions of Islam and family feuds that go back centuries, and all this guns-and-money being shipped in by foreign governments to fuel Muslim-on-Muslim fighting? And all sides concerned insist that they are the only ones truly doing the will of the Almighty?
Who is “Us” and who is “Them”?
And to further morally complicate things, . . . . in places like Afghanastan, Syria, and Lebanon, most of that money is actually coming in from other Muslim countries, who you’d think should be trying to STOP the fighting. If you grow up in a middle-east country, you’ll know that the USA is not the only government who is giving military aid to corrupt regimes, and that this money is NOT used for religious purposes but just for power.
But again, if you’re some American or British kid whose immigrant parents never honestly explained to you exactly WHY they left their home country and how corrupt it was, and instead your head is full of bullshit websites that only discuss the religious aspects of jihad, and never the political agendas, then not only will you be brainwashed, but even native Middle-east Muslims would consider you a simpleminded idiot.
The fact is even if you are ready to die for jihad, chances are, by the time you make it through the recruitment phase and the training camp. . . . and you finally get to the front lines. . .. you’ll wind up working for some dickbag local warlord who gives 10% of a shit about Islam and 90% of a shit about fucking underage prostitutes, extorting the (Muslim) locals to within an inch of their lives, and whose idea of a fun weekend is smuggling 3 million dollars worth of khat. And you’ll be dying for HIS aims, not for Allah. And you’ll most likely be killing like – best case scenario – 1 or 2 Americans and 20 Muslim locals who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Who is “Us” and who is “Them”?
(ironically, or maybe not, this is the exact same problem faced by US troops you're trying to kill! The US troops who are doing counterinsurgency in those countries: "Which warlord do I bribe vs. which do I assassinate? When should I try to "win hearts and minds" and when should I take out a wedding party?")
Regardless of which side you're on, thinking you are fighting a global battle for world domination/salvation and the ultimate final victory of good over evil is way more fun than fighting for small incremental local changes in the real world. Not only does local real-world change take longer, but you have to be accountable for the results. Double fail!
On the other hand, the attraction of thinking in big, abstract, global terms is twofold: You elevate your own importance and the purity of your ideals while at the same time blithely ignoring all the corruption, counterproductive side-effects and moral-slash-physical quagmires that happen when you try to implement those ideas.
For example, here are two ways of describing life at a forward operations base in Afghanistan: “Going on foot patrol 90 minutes a day just to get shot at or blown up by an IED, before running back to base, then doing the same thing again tomorrow, forever.” Compare that to: “Saving the world for democracy while nation building and employing state of the art counterinsurgency strategy!” Which of those sounds better to you? They are both describing the exact same thing, just at different levels of abstraction.
While I disagree with the view that “The American GWOT (global war on terrorism) is just as religiously motivated as jihadi violence”, I would say there’s a grain of truth. The grain is: both the crazy imams and also chicken-hawk American national security goofballs like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and T. Friedman tend to see things in terms of abstract ideals and are living in this wacky dream world to the extent that they are willing to send people off to die for abstractions. Which sounds religious to me!
So, in summary, I set out to bag on home-grown terrorists but wind up bagging on my own government.