Mr. Bergen does a nuanced job here of pointing out the difficulties of tracking lone wolves and the significant warnings missed by law enforcement. He also offers a judicious assessment of controversial F.B.I. sting operations, using often unsavory informants, and the overreach by intelligence agencies in their surveillance efforts.
Peter Bergen has written what in effect are two books about terrorism. Both are valuable. One is a riveting, thoroughly researched account of the evolving state of the threat as a growing number of American citizens join the ranks of foreign terrorist movements—and of how U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies are addressing the constantly shifting threat. The other is a skilled defense of what Mr. Bergen would say is the moderate, middle-of-the-road approach that has characterized the Obama administration’s anti-terror effort.
...an engrossing and edifying book ... It is to Bergen’s immense credit that, without downplaying the threat of Islamist terrorism — home-grown or directed at America by groups abroad — he refrains from overstating it and attempts to maintain perspective.
Bergen’s book is the best one-volume treatment available on the current state of jihad in America ... [he] is perhaps most limited in his analysis of the institutional changes Sept.?11 wrought in America. His sources are predominantly from the F.B.I. and the National Counterterrorism Center.
United States of Jihad sketches succinct cameos of the Americans who have embraced militant Islam ... The stories are grim, and of course — we know how they end. Still, Bergen pulls you in with snappy, conversational writing.
It pays to remember that the whole point of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. As Bergen says, if 9/11 happened because we had our guard down, no one can argue that our guard is down now. It’s so far up, it may be obscuring our sight.
The United States is an exceedingly violent place by the standards of all other developed countries, and, given the litany of cultural pathologies that drive this violence, jihadism is, in this sense, really the least of our worries ... Bergen is clearly aware of this gap between perception and reality, but he saves almost all of his reflections on the matter until the last chapter, which serves to retrospectively color the rest of the book.