Since 9/11, America has been absorbed by a full-on hysteria over terrorism, a panic that has taken the form of overt and covert wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere, with billions of dollars spent and very little to show for it. Every day the press produces new articles about the ISIS boogyman, throwing a new spin on a well-worn topic. In reality, terrorism has never been an existential threat to the United States.

Over dinner with a retired operator I served with during the heyday of time-sensitive targets in Operation Iraqi Freedom, I said, “We join the military seeing ourselves very much in the tradition of the soldiers who scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc or stormed Omaha Beach, but the reality is that our war just isn’t as important.” ISIS represents America’s darkest fears about Arabs, Muslims, and the Middle East in general, but at the end of the day they are little more than a farce—inept jihadis running around with rusty AK-47s.

Contrary to media reports that there were 500 ISIS terrorists holed up in Ramadi, my military sources reported that there were “100, tops” when the Iraqi Army moved in. When Sinjar was invaded by ISIS, it was with only 50 pickup trucks, meaning that about 200 fighters forced the retreat of the Peshmerga and the evacuation of a city with a population of around 100,000 people. ISIS is a joke, a threat largely of our own imaginations. Meanwhile, America’s real enemies have yet to emerge from the shadows.

The most dangerous threat to American national security is not terrorism, but rather the People’s Republic of China.