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A nation must think before it acts.
Abstract: Youth radicalization by Islamist extremists poses a domestic security challenge for Jordan, a key U.S. ally and crucial link in the campaign against the Islamic State. Jordanian policies aimed at neutralizing this jihadi threat have long emphasized bolstering the government’s policing capabilities and control over society. Yet ongoing terrorist attacks carried out by Jordanian youths suggest this conventional approach is not working. Economic deprivation, substandard education, and the presence of radical Islamist discourse are part of the problem, but the fundamental concern is that Jordan’s booming youth population has no emotive attachment to Jordanian identity and thus little stake in political order. Recent research by the authors in Jordan makes clear that young Jordanians are susceptible to radicalization not just because Islamist radicalism seems so strong, but because the political alternative—everyday life as a Jordanian citizen—is so weak. This creates a compelling argument for more political engagement with youngsters as part of a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy.