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San Diego Professor Discusses Radicalization

Evening Edition Host Peggy Pico speaks with UC San Diego economics professor Eli Berman, who explains how an individual may become radicalized.

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President Barack Obama told the nation Sunday that the U.S. will destroy the Islamic State and defeat terrorism. His rare primetime address was in response to last week's shooting in San Bernardino where a couple carried out an attack that left 14 people dead.

Obama said there was no evidence the shooters were directed by a terrorist organization overseas or that they were part of a larger conspiracy.

"But it is clear that the two of them went down a dark path of radicalization embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West," Obama said. "They stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition and pipe bombs. So this was an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people."

UC San Diego economics professor Eli Berman, author of "Radical, Religious and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism," said Obama faces a challenge.

“He had to, on one hand, reassure people,” Berman told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. “On the other hand, he had to recognize there is an urgent threat. I think he tried to find that balance. I think he could’ve been clearer of what the nature of the threat is to Americans.”

Berman said he believes ISIS has changed its strategy. He said the group has provoked the French, British and Russians.

“That means we are now at a higher level of risk than we were in the summer of last year,” Berman said. “We’re safer than the Europeans in many ways but we do have this vulnerability.”

He said the vulnerability in the U.S. is the access to firearms. The worst-case scenario would be to have a trained terrorist enter the U.S. and have access to assault rifles, Berman said. In the San Bernardino shooting, the attackers weren’t traditionally trained fighters, he said.

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