Our focus on only one type of ideological terrorist risk creates what economists call availability heuristics, where fears about the frequency of events come to frame an inaccurate understanding of them. With everything from terrorism to vehicular accidents, our risks are broader than our fears dictate.
The rise of violent extremism is only at the early stages, and if the West wants to stem the flow of volunteers to these ruthless groups, Western countries should make a concerted effort to engage and understand the nuances of their Muslim communities, especially the families from which these volunteers are coming.
The public discussion about the causes of violent extremism has focused mainly on the socioeconomic and political conditions that exist in Arab countries. But we must also carefully consider how the events in the wake of World Wars I and II have impacted the psychological disposition of the Arab population throughout the Middle East.
The United Kingdom's search for Jihadi John, the masked, British-accented fighter who appears in videos and beheading of foreigners condemned to death by the Islamic State, the jihadist group that controls a swath of Syria and Iraq, has highlighted the significance for militants of soccer as a recruitment and bonding tool.
Critics of the coalition may see military action as a threat and think that it will only intensify the problem. However, such critics seem to be ignoring that it was the inaction towards the atrocities in Syria and the failed state in Iraq that resulted in the swelling of ISIS's ranks from a few hundred to nearly 30,000 according to the latest estimates.
ISIL leaders have connections in the black market of international finance. The real intelligence needed to understand what is going on in the region is not targets for the U.S. Air Force, but the type of financial intelligence General Petraeus tasked General McMaster to find in Afghanistan in 2010.