August 18, 2010


Exaggerating the Jihadist Threat (Romesh Ratnesar , 8/18/10, TIME)

The story of the past decade in the Muslim world is that of the widespread rejection — or "refudiation," to borrow a phrase — of terrorism. A study by the Pew Research Center earlier this year found that support in Muslim countries for suicide bombings has fallen precipitously from post-9/11 levels. One-third of Pakistanis believed terrorism was justified in 2002; now just 8% do. For all our anxiety about the rise of religious extremism, no government in the Arab world has been toppled by forces sympathetic to al-Qaeda since 2001. And though some militant Muslims surely wish us harm, their ability to actually inflict it has eroded; it has been more than five years since the last successful al-Qaeda attack in the West.

The eclipse of al-Qaeda has come about largely through revulsion at the jihadists' indiscriminate slaughter of fellow Muslims, from Indonesia to Iraq. And yet we have failed to notice. A Gallup poll taken in June found that Americans still believe terrorism is a bigger threat to the future well-being of the country than health care costs, unemployment and illegal immigration. (Only the federal debt was deemed an issue of equal seriousness.) America's post-9/11 obsession with terrorism, the belief that we are locked in an epic ideological struggle with radical Islam, has stretched our resources to the limit and distracted us from higher-order priorities. National myopia poses a bigger challenge to the U.S.'s long-term stability than terrorism ever will.

What does this mean for the mosque near Ground Zero? However the dispute is ultimately resolved, its impact on the "threat" posed by radical Islam will be negligible. That's because the threat is receding on its own. Allowing a place of worship to be built in lower Manhattan will constitute neither an American triumph nor a defeat. It will simply tell the world that this nation, wisely, has decided to move on.

Almost 50 years later the same crazies thought Japanese ownership of Rockefeller Center represented losing WWII. And you don't need Google Maps to recognize that 30 Rock is more than a few blocks from Pearl.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 18, 2010 12:03 AM
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