Most Terrorists Are Nitwits, Ctd

Andrew Exum sizes up Daniel Byman and Christine Fair's argument:

I think the ineptitude is just one side of a wider trend. Keeping the argument to Britain for now; before 9/11, to become an extremist, you had to be fairly committed. There was none of the reflected glamour of being associated with people capable of scaring polite society. In those days, extremists were overzealous, a bit nerdy, waay too into religion and generally uncool. As Chris and Daniel's example of 9/11 lead attacker Mohammed Atta suggests, in such an environment, a potential recruit is more likely to possess a certain awareness, commitment and focus. Of course, there are examples of pre 9/11 Jihadiots, but in general terms, the cause was as cool as chess club and membership reflected that. 

Now that the cause is much more glamorous, many more people want some of the action. So the fact that there are numerous instances of idiocy means that extremists have been able to lots of idiots. And, just one idiot who manages to press the right button at the right time is a huge problem.

But more than that, if you are going to get lots of recruits, most will be idiots but you are also going to get a larger proportion of useful people.

This is how terrorism becomes self-sustaining. With the help of the West.