State vs. Non-State Terrorism

STATE vs. NON-STATE TERRORISM….There’s all sorts of interesting stuff in Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer’s Washington Post article about the Bush record in the war on terror today, but running through it all is a thread that I’ve mentioned before: George Bush’s outmoded focus on state sponsors of terror (the “axis of evil”) vs. John Kerry’s focus on al-Qaeda and other non-state terrorist groups as the real problem of the 21st century.

Again: it’s not that they aren’t both important. But we’re not fighting World War II and we’re not fighting the Cold War. Radical Islamic terrorism is a fundamentally different problem than either of these previous enemies, and it’s not, at its core, state-centric. This is the key blind spot that prevents Bush from effectively prosecuting the war, and it’s the key piece of understanding that suggests Kerry could do better.