Shadi Hamid in Foreign Policy:
It is reasonable that we would want to cast such an attack outside the realm of rationality, to tell ourselves that expressions of evil are random and unpredictable; it’s the same impulse many had when faced with the brutality and terror of the Islamic State and other jihadi extremists. To rationalize evil as something irrational makes it easier to take on horrifying news. But to do that here would be a mistake.
I won’t link to the accused shooter’s manifesto. But I think it’s important for analysts and government officials to read it carefully. This is what many of us did when the Islamic State would release its recordings and statements. We tried to understand why young Tunisians would travel to Syria to fight in disproportionate numbers for a group that seemed so ostentatious in its savagery. In the process, the analytical and policy community was able to reach a fairly sophisticated understanding of not just the group’s objectives but also of its particular way of looking at the world, including the end times. In dealing with an apparent global rise in violent white supremacism, we may, once again, be obliged to immerse ourselves in a disturbing, sometimes terrifying universe of thought that will, at least at first, seem foreign.