Many Muslims believe that Jihad is an internal struggle. This is supposedly the ‘greater Jihad’. However, historically this has not been the case. "For most of the fourteen hundred years of Muslim history, Jihad has been most commonly interpreted as ARMED struggle for the advancement or defense of Muslim power." (B. Lewis)
This is enough time for a basic concept to actually become culturally based. Cultural change is the most difficult and turbulent of all change. Thus it would be very, very difficult to reverse.
The Koran mentions Jihad in the context of ‘internal’ struggle in about 5% to 10% of the references concerning Jihad. The other 90% concern armed Jihad and warfare. No wonder Jihad was (And is by many) most commonly interpreted as armed struggle. In addition, the reward for Jihad is booty in this world and paradise in the next. Booty was generally how armies were paid until the rise of the nation-state and professional armies. This did not occur until Islam had been established for more than 700 years. The concept of booty as it was generally known is inappropriate with the concept of Jihad as an internal struggle. Jihad may have been intended to be an internal struggle, but the reward system in this world makes it a foreign policy. This can and has caused wars.
Imams wield the power of a modern government. Jihad is one tool that gives Islamic leaders the powers of a nation-state. Jihad helps provide many Imams the ability to field their own personal militias. Another way of looking at it: If priests were able to form and lead armed combat units, many governments would have to go to war against the Catholic Church. As they should.
The waging of war is the responsibility of governments, not ‘religion’. Naturally, wars are fought over issues like this one. The Islamist ‘terrorist’ organizations of today are in fact the Islamic ‘army’ in action. These very same organizations speak of jihad in the context of armed struggle. Many have declared war against the U.S. and Israel already. (Declaring war as if they are the leadership of a government) In fact, the ‘Nation of Islam’ is at war against ALL modern governments. Jihad is not the type of issue that negotiation can resolve. People will wage war to resist or resolve. Negotiation could not convince the South to give up slavery. It took open warfare to rid the United States of slavery. Nor will negotiation change the interpretation of jihad. Better healthcare and better economic opportunities are not going to change anyone’s mind on this issue. Economic opportunity will not revoke the authority that Imams have that enables them to field these ‘jihadist armies’, nor will it win the war against these organizations.