The prevailing perception of the threat from international terrorism is that it emanates chiefly from one group, al Qaeda, it is tied to a territorial presence in South Asia, and it is driven by a fixed ideology bent on inflicting maximum damage on the West. The perception stems more from Western fears and the legacy of past experience than from actual trends in terrorism. The real threat is more diffuse and decentralized, not embodied in any one group or piece of territory, and has more malleable goals and tactics.

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