Thomas believes al-Qaida is trying everything they can to defeat the United States in Iraq. "After all, they don't want to rule Nevada," he says. "They want to rule Saudi Arabia and Syria and Lebanon, and they know the resonance they will get if they can defeat America in the heart of their world would be enormous."
Even if we begin to defeat al-Qaida in Iraq, however, Thomas thinks we still face the possibility of an attack. "I think the most dangerous and vulnerable time for us is if we actually start to defeat them in collaboration with other Arabs and Muslims," he says. "I'm not saying defeat, but I think that what it will do is prompt them to want to throw the Hail Mary pass—the "Hail Muhammad" pass—where they try to do something so spectacular that it will disguise what will be a fundamental and strategic defeat in their world. That's what I think is the most dangerous moment for us."
Dr. Phares says the case of "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, who was apprehended by fellow passengers on a flight while trying to light a bomb hidden in his shoe, is an example of how educated people are the best defense we have against terrorism. "Imagine the shoe bomber before 9/11," he says. "He would be fixing his shoe, and if you looked at him, you would be sued. After 9/11, he's trying to do something. Not the FBI, not the agencies, but the passengers were on top of him."
In addition to education and trust, Dr. Phares has another motto on how to fight terrorism: "Live in courage," he says. "If they know we are in fear, [the power of al-Qaida and others] will increase."