Ever since the alt-right terror attack in Charlottesville, I keep seeing the same tired (and utterly absurd) argument online. Far-right terrorists, some say, are more dangerous than jihadists. To support this nonsense, they tend to cite garbage studies that, among other things, 1) omit the casualty count from 9/11; 2) omit American casualty counts from overseas terrorist acts; 3) omit American military deaths in anti-terror combat operations; and 4) omit jihadist terrorist attacks against friends and allies. A study that does any of those things is willfully and indefensibly understating the magnitude of the jihadist threat. Consider the following facts:
-On September 11, jihadists hit the mainland United States harder than any foreign enemy since the British Army burned Washington D.C. in the War of 1812.
-In the War on Terror, jihadists have inflicted more civilian casualties in the United States than any great power in any of the great wars of the Twentieth Century.
-They have killed thousands – and seriously wounded tens of thousands – of Americans in combat operations abroad.
-In the absence of American military efforts, they have proven that they can take entire cities, control territories the size of nation-states, commit genocide, and trigger an international refugee crisis that even now destabilizes European politics.
-They strike our NATO allies – nations we’ve promised to help defend – time and again, using bombs, guns, and vehicles to kill and wound civilians by the hundreds.
-Finally, in spite of massive military, intelligence, and domestic security efforts (and in spite of the fact that Muslims make up a tiny percentage of the American population), jihadists still kill more Americans here at home than any other brand of extremist.
(To illustrate the absurdity of studies that purport to measure threats only after the war starts and without consideration of military efforts overseas, consider that by these measures “far-right” domestic extremists would be more dangerous than Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. After all, the Axis powers were only able to inflict a tiny few casualties here at home.)
None of this means that far-right (and far-left) domestic extremists aren’t evil and dangerous. None of this means that law enforcement shouldn’t remain vigilant, especially as extreme political polarization spikes political passions here at home. But domestic divisions cannot and must not distract us from the threat of the foreign enemy. When it comes to terror, there is one and only one apex predator, and it kills in the name of Allah.