Faisal Shahzad sought to massacre scores of fellow Americans in Times Square with a bomb made of M-88 firecrackers, non-explosive fertilizer, gasoline and alarm clocks.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a U.S. airliner over Detroit with a firebomb concealed in his underpants. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot dead 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood and wounded 29.
Why did these men attempt the mass murder of Americans who did no harm to them? What impelled them to seek martyrdom amid a pile of American corpses?
Though all were Muslims, none seems to have been a longtime America-hater or natural-born killer. Hasan was proud to wear Army fatigues to mosque. Shahzad had become a U.S. citizen. Abdulmutallab was the privileged son of a prominent Nigerian banker.
The New York Times ties all three to the Internet sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemen-based imam born and educated in the United States who inspires Muslims worldwide to jihad against America. But, following Sept. 11, al-Awlaki had been seen as a bridge between Islam and the West.
Now President Obama has authorized his assassination.
What do the four have in common?
All were converted in manhood into haters of America willing to kill and die in a jihad against America. And the probability is high that there are many more like them living amongst us who wish to bring the war in the Af-Pak here to America.
But what radicalized them? And why do they hate us?
Taking a cue from George W. Bush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of the Times Square bomber, "We will not be intimidated by those who hate the freedoms that make ... this country so great."
This was the mantra after Sept. 11. We are hated not because of what we do in the Middle East, but because of who we are: people who love freedom and stand for women's rights.
And that is why they hate us -- and why they come to kill us.
In a way this is a comforting thought, because it absolves us of the need to think. For no patriotic American is going to demand we surrender our freedom to prevent fanatics from attacking us.
The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens advances a parallel view. We are hated, he says, because of our popular culture.