Dr. Walid Phares is a professor of Middle East studies, an expert on terrorism and the author of Future Jihad. He believes we have entered a "second wave" of terrorism in which we face the threat of suicide bombers who are either native-born Americans or recent immigrants. Dr. Phares says the new message from bin Laden "is to the operatives and jihadists inside the United States. It means, 'Strike when you are ready.'"
Dr. Phares estimates there are at least 200 potential suicide bombers inside the United States right now. To justify this number, he cites evidence that the 19 terrorists in the 9/11 attacks claimed to have had support in this country. "Plus, within four years, how many minds have been recruited by al-Qaida because we are making arrests?" Dr. Phares asks. "We are dismantling cells, but the factories that produce those minds—meaning this indoctrination—[are] both within the United States and also overseas."
Like Peter, Dr. Phares says we do not need to expend our energy worrying about another large-scale attack. What Dr. Phares anticipates in the next terror attack is something like a dirty bomb—an explosion that releases radioactive waste material—or a sniper in a place like a school where we don't tend to have concerns about terrorism. "Imagine if one day, years from now, all of that combined would be done at the same time, on the same day, to break down national security and national economy of the United States. This is a day we have to be prepared for."
As an educator, Dr. Phares says he has witnessed a marked increase in Americans' awareness of the Middle East. Education, he says, is the key to combating terrorism. "It's extremely important in fighting terrorism," he says. "Probably more than the government."