The world may have gotten smaller in the technological sense, but the United States continues to sit an ocean away on either side from most of earth’s other nations.

The geographical separation in turn has led to bouts of isolationism, most notably with regard to the situation in Europe that culminated in World War II. And it took an attack on our own soil – albeit, on an island some 2,500 miles from the mainland – to involve us directly in that conflict, two-plus years after Hitler’s tanks rolled into Poland.

The modern-day Pearl Harbor, so to speak, occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, in this case launching the “war on terror,” as the administration at the time called it. The results of those efforts are mixed, according to Thomas Sanderson, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Transnational Threats Project.

When Sanderson presented the program “ISIS and Al-Qaeda: Degraded, But Still Deadly” on Oct. 19 at Peters Township Public Library, he brought the expertise of having conducted field research on terrorism in more than 60 countries. To the program, itself, he brought a thorough and fascinating, if not quite reassuring, perspective to what goes on across the oceans.

Part of his talk tried to put audience members in the shoes of would-be terrorists by explaining why they choose that path. Sanderson cited two primary motivators: “pushed by conditions at home” and “pulled by opportunities on the battlefield.”

On the homefront, their parts of the world tend to offer no prospects in the way of jobs, services or a meaningful education. Their governments are repressive and corrupt. They feel no dignity.

Much of that can be remedied by waging their own form of war, especially when ISIS can make this pitch to young Muslims: “Don’t you want these deeds in your scales when you come before Allah?”

Certainly, the United States faces myriad internal problems, and this nation is no closer to correcting most of them than it is to countering the Allah question.

But it would not seem to be in our best interests to ignore the plights of those who face the types of problems listed by Sanderson. The less we try to provide what help we can, the more likely they are to be pushed and pulled, right into the ranks of those who threaten our safety.

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