Rehab the terrorists -- with love

So what is to be done with ex-terrorists? Can they ever be recycled safely? On Friday night on PBS NOW. I take a look at the unusual answer that Saudi Arabia has been developing to the question: Treat the boys nice—and rather more than nice, if necessary. At the rehab facility I visited in Riyadh, I met bearded jihadis off the jet from Gitmo who’d been enticed to reform with the offer of a car, a job—and even a wife.

Sixty thousand riyals (some $18,000) is the going rate for an arranged marriage in Saudi these days. But once you have convinced your minders that you have genuinely turned over a new leaf, the Ministry of the Interior will pay for your new bride—and the deputy minister may even come to your wedding.

This policy makes perfect sense if, like certain psychiatrists, you think that jihadi violence is linked to the sexual frustrations of young men in a society that blocks sex before marriage. But it also stems from a peculiarly Saudi tradition of conciliation. The House of Saud built its Arabian empire on the basis of ruthless holy warfare—and on being very nice to those who surrendered. The present king, Abdullah, is the product of a marriage between his father, “Ibn Saud,” and a widow from the Rasheed clan, the Al-Sauds’ bitterest enemies.