What would cause someone to turn his or her back on family, friends, and Western comforts to commit horrific crimes and risk their own deaths? What would be the reason we're seeing a steady stream of young people traveling to the Middle East to join jihadists, including a growing number of young women and girls?
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's extended interview with President Obama shed some light on how Obama can be well-informed, thoughtful, prudent -- yet still be seen as faltering as a foreign policy president. If you compare Obama with George W. Bush (okay -- a low bar), Obama wins, hands down. Unlike Bush, Obama inhabits the reality-based foreign policy space, with no apologies. Unlike Bush, he has no messianic zealots among his advisers. He gives the kind of well-considered responses that suggest a president who carefully engages with truly difficult policy conundrums. Yet at the end of the day, he often comes across as vacillating and indecisive -- an impression that can be fatal in his dealings with allies, adversaries, and of course electorates.