Why young people join jihad

People and law enforcement agencies struggle to comprehend how young Americans, Britons, and Europeans repudiate their homes and cultures to join Islamist jihadists.  The number of Americans is estimated in the thousands by CBS News; the number who join the "cause" from Europe demonstrates the same phenomenon.

The reasons cited include teenage angst that triggers a search for meaning and belonging, the humanitarian impulse to help others, and conversion to Islam and the belief in ancient prophecies in the Koran.  Perhaps a portion of the appeal to fight with Arabs harkens back to the startling popularity of T.E. Lawrence, the eccentric British army officer who carried out guerrilla raids against the Turks, who entered World War I against the Western allies.  Britain assigned Lawrence to galvanize the constantly warring Arab tribes, in what is now Saudi Arabia and surrounding territories, against Ottoman Empire rule in the region.

Lawrence, usually dressed in Arab gear, became world-renowned, mostly through the efforts of American newsreel and film producer Lowell Thomas.  After the war, Thomas kept Lawrence in the public eye while he attended the Versailles Treaty conferences in mufti.  Lawrence made headlines by forcing Great Britain to honor promises of independence made to the Arab tribes for helping to defeat the Turks.  Lawrence's derring-do created the wild success of the silent film The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino.  The Arab romanticism of the film set off a craze that lasted two decades – and cemented the lure of Arabs and the desert in the public mind.

The intangible, mysterious romanticism of Arabs seems to have survived as one explanation for the attraction.  It is not nearly as important today as the internet and its pernicious tendency to exploit young minds.  But the overarching cause is the disaffection of young people, cast adrift by criticism of their own culture.  The relentless attack by left-wing radicals to undermine Western civilization in colleges, public schools, the media, and society has kicked the props out from under the self-esteem and patriotism of America's youth.

The anti-American manifesto drummed into young minds declares that their country is racist, chauvinistic, homophobic, and imperialistic.  Older Americans have polluted the air, threatened animal life, exploited workers, mistreated indigenous peoples worldwide, and caused climate change.  America no longer serves as a force for good in international conflicts.

No wonder so many kids seek out the cause of Arab jihadists.  They have been turned against their country.

People and law enforcement agencies struggle to comprehend how young Americans, Britons, and Europeans repudiate their homes and cultures to join Islamist jihadists.  The number of Americans is estimated in the thousands by CBS News; the number who join the "cause" from Europe demonstrates the same phenomenon.

The reasons cited include teenage angst that triggers a search for meaning and belonging, the humanitarian impulse to help others, and conversion to Islam and the belief in ancient prophecies in the Koran.  Perhaps a portion of the appeal to fight with Arabs harkens back to the startling popularity of T.E. Lawrence, the eccentric British army officer who carried out guerrilla raids against the Turks, who entered World War I against the Western allies.  Britain assigned Lawrence to galvanize the constantly warring Arab tribes, in what is now Saudi Arabia and surrounding territories, against Ottoman Empire rule in the region.

Lawrence, usually dressed in Arab gear, became world-renowned, mostly through the efforts of American newsreel and film producer Lowell Thomas.  After the war, Thomas kept Lawrence in the public eye while he attended the Versailles Treaty conferences in mufti.  Lawrence made headlines by forcing Great Britain to honor promises of independence made to the Arab tribes for helping to defeat the Turks.  Lawrence's derring-do created the wild success of the silent film The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino.  The Arab romanticism of the film set off a craze that lasted two decades – and cemented the lure of Arabs and the desert in the public mind.

The intangible, mysterious romanticism of Arabs seems to have survived as one explanation for the attraction.  It is not nearly as important today as the internet and its pernicious tendency to exploit young minds.  But the overarching cause is the disaffection of young people, cast adrift by criticism of their own culture.  The relentless attack by left-wing radicals to undermine Western civilization in colleges, public schools, the media, and society has kicked the props out from under the self-esteem and patriotism of America's youth.

The anti-American manifesto drummed into young minds declares that their country is racist, chauvinistic, homophobic, and imperialistic.  Older Americans have polluted the air, threatened animal life, exploited workers, mistreated indigenous peoples worldwide, and caused climate change.  America no longer serves as a force for good in international conflicts.

No wonder so many kids seek out the cause of Arab jihadists.  They have been turned against their country.