George Orwell wrote in his seminal tome, 1984, "The object of terrorism is terrorism ... Now do you begin to understand me?"
Unfortunately, we live in a world where too many still do not understand.
After the recent terrorist attacks in Boston, there was immense incredulity when the ethnic nationality of the perpetrators was made known. The act did not make sense to many, because terror has so often been explained merely as a product of national conflict, or as a logical reaction to "oppression" or "occupation." Even al Qaeda, we are told, is merely reacting to America's role in the Muslim world.
Neither the United States in particular, nor the West in general, has played a significant role in the decades-long war in Chechnya. The usual talking heads were left scratching their heads -- even after more evidence of the bomber's Islamist ideology came to light.
Modern terror connected to an extremist Islamist mindset is simply something that many in the West are unable or unwilling to truly understand. Our opinion-shapers will look into every possible angle of a terrorist's background and history to find some way to explain away, or on occasion sympathize with, the perpetrators' motives.
We ignore terrorists' ideology at our own peril. While their acts are inhuman, these people are human and we must hold them accountable for their actions -- not treat them as a mere tool of retribution for other misdeeds. Ignoring their ideology will mean that we can never fully understand the implications behind these attacks.
We would not accept Christians meting out vengeance against Muslims for massacres and church bombings in Nigeria, or the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Why do we accept the argument that perceived Muslim persecution in one part of the world necessitates Islamist violence in another?
In reality, our Islamist enemies' goals are aggressive by nature. Al Qaeda's ideological underpinnings are found in the writings of Egyptian Islamist theorist Sayyid Qutb, which lauded offensive jihad, or a jihad of conquest. There is little that is reactive about this belief system - it is not aimed at defending its rights, but at conquering the world of the disbelievers.