August 28th, 2013
09:25 AM ET

For U.S., Syria is truly a problem from hell

By Peter Bergen

What is widely recognized as the most authoritative study of the United States' responses to mass killings around the world - from the massacres of Armenians by the Turks a century ago, to the Holocaust, to the more recent Serbian atrocities against Bosnian Muslims and the ethnic cleansing of the Tutsis in Rwanda - concluded that they all shared unfortunate commonalities:

"Despite graphic media coverage, American policymakers, journalists and citizens are extremely slow to muster the imagination needed to reckon with evil. Ahead of the killings, they assume rational actors will not inflict seemingly gratuitous violence. They trust in good-faith negotiations and traditional diplomacy. Once the killings start, they assume that civilians who keep their head down will be left alone. They urge cease-fires and donate humanitarian aid."

This is an almost perfect description of how the United States has acted over the past two years as it has tried to come up with some kind of policy to end the Assad regime's brutal war on its own people in Syria.

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From Benghazi to Boston: The state of the jihad
July 16th, 2013
12:58 PM ET

From Benghazi to Boston: The state of the jihad

By Peter Bergen

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado. Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad."

Every July in the lush, green mountains of Aspen, Colorado, many of the top present and former U.S. national security officials and other experts gather to discuss how the war against al Qaeda and its allies is going.

Ahead of last year's Aspen conference, I wrote a piece for CNN provocatively titled "Time to declare victory: Al Qaeda is defeated." And I then spoke on a panel at Aspen where I tried to make the case for this position.

I'm not sure too many of the folks in Aspen were convinced. (If they had been, it would hardly seem necessary to travel back to Aspen again this year!)

Since last year's Aspen conference, a group of men only very loosely aligned with al Qaeda attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four U.S. diplomats and CIA contractors.

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Filed under: Aspen Security Forum • Benghazi • Boston Bombing • Terrorism
Opinion: Why terrorist bombings rare in US in past decade
April 16th, 2013
12:56 PM ET

Opinion: Why terrorist bombings rare in US in past decade

By Peter Bergen

Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden - From 9/11 to Abbottabad" and a director at the New America Foundation. Jennifer Rowland is a program associate at the New America Foundation.

It's too early to tell who is responsible for Monday's bombings in Boston. Yet after an incident like this, everyone is looking to find out who did it and why.

One possible guide is recent history: In the years since the 9/11 attacks, dozens of extremists have plotted to use explosives to further their causes in the United States.

Of the 380 individuals indicted for acts of political violence or for conspiring to carry out such attacks in the U.S. since 9/11, 77 were able to obtain explosives or the components necessary to build a bomb, according to a count by the New America Foundation.

Of those, 48 were right-wing extremists, 23 were militants inspired by al Qaeda's ideology, five have been described as anarchists and one was an environmentalist terrorist.

But in the years since 9/11, actual terrorist bombings in the U.S., like the ones at the Boston Marathon, have been exceedingly rare.

Read Peter's full take on cnn.com/opinion.

 

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Filed under: 9/11 • Terrorism