By Fareed Zakaria
The recent tragic terror attack in New York was the kind of isolated incident by one troubled man that should not lead to generalizations. In the 16 years since 9/11, the city has proved astonishingly safe from jihadi groups and individuals. And yet, speaking about it to officials on a trip to Singapore, a major global hub 10,000 miles away, the conclusions they reach are worrying. “The New York attack might be a way to remind us all that while ISIS is being defeated militarily, the ideological threat from radical Islam is spreading,” said Singapore's home minister, K. Shanmugam. “The trend line is moving in the wrong direction.”
The military battle against jihadi groups in places like Syria and Afghanistan is a tough struggle, but it has always been one that favored the United States and its allies. After all, it’s a contest between the combined military forces of some of the world’s most powerful governments against a tiny band of guerrillas. On the other hand, the ideological challenge from ISIS has proved to be far more intractable. The terrorist group and ones like it have been able to spread their ideas, recruit disaffected young men and women and infiltrate countries across the globe. Western countries remain susceptible to the occasional lone wolf, but the new breeding grounds of radicalism are once-moderate Muslim societies in Central, South and Southeast Asia.