J.M. Berger notes that when terrorist plotters team up, they usually fail, but the social nature of Islamic extremism makes lone wolves hard to come by:
Every single homegrown plot against the U.S. since September 11 that involved more than one person has failed, most often because law enforcement caught wind of it. Nevertheless, homegrown jihadists keep talking about their plans, and keep getting caught.
Although there are rare individuals who are capable of acting in complete isolation, jihad is ultimately a social and political activity. By its very definition, it is tied to an overwhelming sense of community with the global Muslim Ummah. Being a solitary jihadist is like being a solitary majorette. It's certainly possible, but you're likely to feel foolish marching around your basement in uniform.
The problem with individual jihad is, ironically, its individuality. Although loose lips are probably the most operationally significant manifestation of this failure to conform, it works on the ideological level as well.
Something to keep in mind -- national-security officials have expressed a great deal of worry over radicalization over the Internet, but in practice, they haven't had much success in convincing people to act on their own. Basic psychology backs this up -- it's hard for individual people to embrace this kind of distorted sense of morality in a vacuum. Community reinforcement -- or discouragement -- is really important.
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