What is the true nature of the threat civilization now faces from radical Islam? Foreign policy analyst Tony Corn bravely addresses that question in “World War IV As Fourth-Generation Warfare,” published in the current issue of Policy Review.

Corn explains the struggle in terms of a conflict within Islam itself: The challenge confronting the West today is at once less than a full-fledged clash of civilizations and more than some unspecified war on terrorism: It is first and foremost an insurgency within Islam, which began in earnest in 1979, and for which the West remained, at least until 2001, a secondary theater of operations. From 1979 on, the revolution in Iran, the invasion of Afghanistan, the re-Islamization from above in Pakistan, the surge of Saudi activism in the Broader Middle East and the concurrent marginalization of Egypt within the Arab world (following the Camp David accords) combined to give birth to a qualitative and quantitative change of paradigm whereby pan-Arabism — the main movement in the Middle East since 1945 — was supplanted by pan-Islamism.

Thus: The West is at war with a new totalitarianism for which terrorism is one technique or tactic among many. .

His most frightening assessment: The challenge for the West can hardly be overestimated: Even if only 1 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims were to end up being seduced by the global jihad, the West and moderate Muslim regimes would still have to deal with some 12 million jihadists spread across more than 60 countries. And if only 1 percent of these 12 million were to opt for “martyrdom operations,” the West would still have to deal, for a generation at least, with some 120,000 suicide bombers.

This is a sobering reality, made all the more urgent by the riots and attacks in response to the controversy over publication of a cartoon in Denmark.

Tony Corn’s essay is an important piece of analysis — the kind of analysis you are not likely to see on the nightly news or in the leading newspapers.