By Seth Mandel
December 4, 2010
There are three myths about terrorists that must be corrected if we are to battle terrorism effectively, according to Col. Matt Venhaus: that Muslim youth become terrorists for economic reasons; that they become terrorists primarily for religious reasons; and that they are recruited by al-Qaeda.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, terrorists are not motivated by poverty; they do not turn to violence in a fit of religious fervor; and al-Qaeda does not actively recruit them–they go looking for al-Qaeda, according to Venhaus.
“If you understand the phenomenon incorrectly then your solution’s going to be wrong,” Venhaus said at panel Dec. 2 at the Heritage Foundation on the role of psychological operations (PSYOP) in strategic communication in warfare. Venhaus, currently at the Department of Defense, spent a year interviewing more than 2,000 “foreign fighters” to determine the reasons young Muslim men were turning to terrorism in such large numbers. In his words, if putting a bomb in your underwear and getting on a plane is the answer, “then what in the heck is the question?”