January 12, 2010:
The Taliban have developed a curriculum that combines sex, religion and Islamic radical preaching, to produce suicide bombers. The object of all this is to induce young Afghans, or Pakistanis, to willingly be suicide bombers. The basic pitch is that if you die in defense of Islam, you go straight to paradise, and an eternity of sex and luxurious living. The indoctrination work is done in religious schools, and parents send their sons anyway, because the students do get some education, and their parents don't have to support the kids in these boarding schools. Parents know that only a few percent of the young men are convinced that being a suicide bomber is the way to go. But twenty percent or more of the students are attracted to being a paid gunman for the Taliban, and, often drug gangs as well.
One of the little discussed tragedies of Islamic terrorism is the fact that most of those it attracts are the least capable. Islamic terrorism is not only an act of extremism, but also of desperation by those who have few other prospects. It's an international organization because Islam, in general, has not been amenable to taking advantage of new technology and economic opportunity, except for cable TV and the Internet. That's why the Moslem world has lagged so far behind the rest of the world in the last century. Religious leaders are reluctant to discuss the possibility of Islam being part of the problem, although many educated Moslems are becoming more aggressive in seeking out cultural problems, and proposing solutions. Terrorism is not seen as a practical way out by most Moslems, but the threat of retribution by Islamic radicals makes it dangerous for Moslems to speak up. Even in the West, Moslems face sharp criticism, or worse, if Islamic radicals are publicly maligned.
International terrorist organizations are nothing new. They have existed since the 11th century. The first one, back when the world was a smaller place, was the Hassassins (or "hashasheen") of 11th century Iran. The training was similar to what the Taliban use today, except for the liberal use of hashish to provide a taste of paradise. Back then, a minor noble with a grudge, and excellent organizational skills, created this network of suicide assassins. The Hassassins thrived, and killed, for many decades until the Mongols came along and destroyed their impregnable mountain fortress. The Mongols were not afraid of suicide assassins, but were annoyed by them. Back then, annoying the Mongols was almost always fatal. Our current crop of suicide terrorists do not provide a single fortress to go after, so the Mongol approach of overwhelming force applied to one objective will not work. But the fearless Mongol attitude towards terrorism should be remembered.
Teenage boys, and their parents, are becoming aware of the bad bargain the religious schools provide. But as long as the Pushtun tribal territories, on both sides of the Afghan border, are so poor, taking a chance on these religious schools will continue.