I am extremely grateful for the detailed treatment Peter Bergen gives to America’s so-called ‘war on terror’ in his book ‘The United States of Jihad.’ He paints a picture of a problem that on one hand is too elusive for the massive forces of law enforcement in the United States, but on the other hand is unlikely to directly affect the daily lives of most Americans. He points out that people are 12,000 times more likely to die in a car accident than in a terrorist attack (p. 272). However, we don’t live in fear of driving our cars around. We get in our cars and go without thinking about it.
The stories of the different terrorist attacks in the United States are compelling. The deaths are tragic. So too is the fact that it will likely happen again and the media will jump on the next event and over-cover it just it has the previous ones. The ‘terror’ produced by these incidents is disproportionate to the damage they cause. The tragedy is innocent people do die. Furthermore, the families of those who become terrorists also suffer deeply. And law enforcement suffers embarrassment. Bergen points out of that many of the attacks were carried out by people the FBI had looked at and dismissed as unlikely to commit terrorist acts.
My conclusion, having read Bergen’s book is that evil has always been a part of the human story and will continue to be. In the past evil went by names like slavery, institutionalized racism, genocide, and Jim Crow. Today, evil is named radicalization, Islamophobia, Jihad (that leads to murderous acts), and terrorism. Of course evil has many other names today, but these are a few of the more high profile ones. This age of terror will pass. And evil will find new names. But evil does not win unless we let it.