When I ponder the greatest threats to the United States, the first thing that comes to mind is Islamic terrorism. No doubt this is the case for most Americans. Since the early 1990s, religious terrorism, most notably driven by Muslim fanatics overseas, has emerged as a major source of violence. According to the Global Terrorism Index, religious terrorism is now the “main driver” of terrorism in the world. This is disconcerting because religiously motivated acts of violence tend to be both more lethal and indiscriminate than past forms of terrorism perpetrated by nationalists, anarchists and Marxists. In this sense, Dempsey is absolutely correct that our situation is more dangerous, even if statistics suggest an overall decline in violence.
This being said, when I consider the greatest threats to human civilization, it’s the United States that stands out above other potential risks. And I’m not the only one: According to a 2014 global survey, the world as a whole voted the United States to be the No. 1 threat to world peace “by a large margin.” Even some of our closest allies identified America as the most significant menace. This is an astonishing result that suggests that a reinterpretation of American exceptionalism may be in order: Perhaps we are exceptional after all, but not in the ways we’d like to think. The world is scared of us.