There are some good national security analysts at work and CNN’s Peter Bergan is one of them. I just wish that Congress and the American public would pay some actual attention to what Bergan says. He recently published and excellent appraisal of the overall Jihadi threat and I wanted to share it. It clearly defines the lines between local jihadi insurgency and the more threatening pan-global groups who have the ability to attack anywhere including Europe and America. I do think he underestimates the degree to which individuals in certain of the groups would strike at Americans and Europeans if given a chance, in efforts ranging from new plots to bomb airliners to beheading tourists or aid workers within their reach. Bergan’s article actually estimates the size of the global Jihadi threat and I highly recommend it – with one exception:
It wasn’t until I reached the very end of it that I drew back and shook my head at his statement that the historically the jihadi threat is relatively inconsequential. His premise for that statement was to compare it to the 60 million man Soviet and Warsaw pact armies and the Soviet strategic nuclear capability. Based on that he concluded that today’s threat is not comparable to that faced during the Cold War. My objection to that view is that it’s not at all a relative comparison. The Soviets understood the “calculus of force” and by the time they achieved nuclear parity, they were actually quite satisfied by mutual assured destruction. While Stalin was a wild card in the early days, for most of the Cold War any military activity was between surrogates – and the Soviets never used their surrogates to actually attack the American homeland. The Soviets accepted a state of Cold War, in contrast the jihadi movement declared itself to be literally at war with American in 1998 and continues to demonstrate that reality. And as religious zealots, they are subject to no calculus of force nor amenable to a status quo.
Good analysis Peter, but comparing what the Soviets could have done with what the jihadi actually do on a regular basis is off base in my estimate.