"I'm just an American boy - raised on MTV
And I've seen all those kids in the soda pop ads But none of 'em looked like me So I started lookin' around for a light out of the dim And the first thing I heard that made sense was the word Of Mohammed, peace be upon him."
~ John Walker's Blues  by Steve Earle
As is often the case, artists feel and express the true nature of things in this world way before the media and academics do. With his ballad about John Walker Lindh , the notorious "American Taliban ," alternative country music artist Steve Earle captured the essence of what motivates the middle class terrorists and revolutionary zealots of our day.
According to a declassified intelligence report just released  to the English press, the former head of Scotland Yard's counter-terror unit says that Al-Qaida is heavily recruiting middle-class, UK-born college students.
The verisimilitude of this insight leads me to believe it is probably true for two principal reasons.
First, converts are nearly always more zealous and unquestioning about their faith than people who were born to and raised in it. The converts, living in London or its suburbs, only know Islam from the Imams and proselytizers. The average non-elite working class Muslim immigrant is under no illusions. An auto-mechanic from Egypt or Yemen knows the nature of Islamic society, because he or she has lived in it. They've seen it as it is, warts and all.
We have all seen these kinds of people. The pseudo-Native American Colorado University professor Ward Churchill  is a good example. He glommed onto a false identity  as a Native American, for which he has no evidence other than it seemed cool to him.
Or some of the gangsta rap artists who masquerade  as former OG's  "straight outta Compton " who in fact are the middle class sons and daughters of college-educated professionals. When what they are really is phonies and bullshitters who claim have the street cred of a ghetto ex-gang member.
The second reason the Al-Qaida recruiters would seem to have an easier time with the college types is that all the sneaking around, carrying secret messages, hiding out in safe houses, smuggling arms and explosives, and the rest of it all seems really cool to a certain kind of adolescent mindset, especially that of many young men.
I know it was for me. I went through US Army Basic Combat Training after my sophomore year of high school because making milkshakes at the neighborhood Dairy Queen for minimum wage or something similar (as my friends all were) seemed so boring and lame. Shooting automatic weapons, running through obstacle courses, throwing hand grenades and such seemed so much cooler. I hate to think what I'd do if I were 17 years old today.
As with the 1960's terrorist inclined radicals such as the Students for a Democratic Society  offshoot the Weather Underground , the thought of getting a BBA degree and then being an accountant or a middle management wage slave at General Motors or Detroit Edison for the next three decades doesn't have the same allure or romance associated with it as does being a Warrior for God  or some other ideology does, plus it pisses off mom and dad too.
The thought of being in control of a cell of computer literate, multilingual, educated, and well-mannered, but very gullible and uncritical operatives must seem like a dream come true to the Islamist zealots and sociopaths who would try to recruit them for Al-Qaida and the other groups.
The nature of war being what it is, the degreed men and women will be the officer class of the struggle. The actual suicide bombers and the rest of the cannon fodder will still be the depressed, poor, and desperate underclass denizens for whom heavenly rewards, not to mention a $25,000 "death benefit"  paid to their families, is the principal motivation. Very chic, eh?
It makes sense to me. Usama bin-Laden is a college educated engineer, his principal advisor  is an Egyptian-born eye surgeon, and so forth all down the chain of command too. Relatively safe in his cave fortress in eastern Pakistan , bin-Laden can direct his minions around the world via e-mail, satellite phone, fax, and all the rest of the global communication infrastructure the infidels of the West have constructed. What amusing irony they must see in all that too. Plus, it is safer than actually doing something dangerous yourself.
Like America 's own Chicken-Hawk  and Neo-Conservative  political classes think, why fight yourself when you can bribe, manipulate, or compel your underclass to die in your place? This al-Qaida and Western elites have in common with each other.