Victor Davis Hanson had a great piece on why pre-modern terrorists are so hard for a post-modern industrial society to defeat. He gives three reasons, the first being that in a global market, where the profit motive trumps ideology, the terrorists can get up-to-date weapons and equipment. Here are the other two reasons:   

“Second is the enemy’s desire and ability to kill the requisite number of Westerners in sufficiently savage fashion-hanging their corpses on a bridge or executing them on the Internet-to cause large-scale demoralization on the home front. Savagery is a force multiplier: the more horrific the carnage on the suburban televisions of America, the better.

“Losses, and the nature of how they are inflicted, are more critical even than the duration or financial cost of these new wars. Few worry that we have had American troops in the Balkans for nearly a decade-simply because they are not dying or being tortured on the Internet.

“Nihilism is likewise a terrorist plus. Traditional doctrine insists that blowing up Muslims at an Islamic funeral or beheading innocents will eventually turn the populace against such nightmarish terrorists. Perhaps. But in the short term, such grotesqueries may sooner turn off a refined Western public whose support is critical for the continuation of the war. The more likely response is no longer, “We must defeat such savage bullies,” but rather, “Why would we want anything to do with a society that produces such monsters?”

“Third, there is the problem of new global communications-another advantage for insurgents who want to exhaust the West. It is often said that had the weeks in the hedgerows after D-Day (June to late July 1944) or the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 to January 1945) been televised each hour on CNN or Fox-with real-time email and cell phone communications with beleaguered soldiers in the field-we would never have won either battle. Both victories saw horrific casualties as a result of intelligence failures and sheer incompetence, but our culpable generals counted on enough of a window of public ignorance to rectify their mistakes and continue the battle.”