Head-to-head: International terrorism more serious than domestic threats
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Head-to-head: International terrorism more serious than domestic threats

According to a recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups operating in the U.S. grew 14 percent from 2014, an unprecedented amount. It’s also worth noting that anti-government “patriot” groups — armed militias animated by conspiracy theories — grew by the same amount.

With all of the domestic problems that the United States has, why does international terrorism still get so much attention? The reason is because it’s the biggest existential threat to our country.

The answer to who is the biggest threat, however, may be surprising.

A report from the Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute says that Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat Al-Nursa, is the greatest foreign terror threat in the long term.

Al-Nursa is much more dangerous than domestic terrorism in three major ways. First, Al-Nursa represents a collective, organized threat from a group with ever-expanding capabilities. Where a domestic hate group may organize insensitive demonstrations, or even killings, their evil is nothing when compared to the evils that Al-Nursa is able to create. Not only is Al-Nursa a more connected group, but it also has greater outreach and power.

According to the report, “Al-Nusra is quietly intertwining itself with the Syrian population and Syrian opposition,” and furthermore, Al-Nursa is “a spoiler that will almost certainly cause the current strategy in Syria to fail.” This means when a new government takes hold of Syria, should that ever happen, Al-Nursa will likely have agents inside of it.

This makes Al-Nursa deadlier twofold: first, Al-Nursa, who’s holding “coercive power” over several groups who could come to power, has the potential to manipulate and use government power and will always know what the government is planning. This means a Syrian government is more likely to sponsor terrorism, and a terrorist group with insider-only knowledge of the local and national governments.

Lastly, Al-Nursa represents a growing threat to the world economy, which would undeniably send the U.S. economy spinning downward. Passivity abroad or any sort of retreat will destroy international order more quickly and harm the world economy extensively.

Al-Nursa is a group with better connections and larger aspirations. So while the number of hate groups may be climbing dramatically, no hate group or bunch of antigovernment conspiracy theorists can control government or impact the world economy like Al-Nursa can.

Look at it this way — if hate groups are like a middle school bully, Al-Nursa is like seven armed, middle-aged men bubbling with anger.