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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Terrorism: Getting Better, or Worse?


An interest of mine, which I will post on periodically.  Just a few preliminary comments below.

Some things you read in the press every year about the magnitude of terrorism miss the point: many more Americans die from falling TV sets than from terrorists every year (as one article claimed) but a terrorist act can have a psychological and political impact far exceeding its body count.  This is common sense.  Only one man died at Dealey Plaza in 1963.

Most reports you see suggest global terrorism is on the rise, although I've found official US government reports somewhat ambivalent on this.  The annual State department report
 http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/225886.pdf
doesn't even try to make a judgment.  Only four states are now "State Sponsors of Terrorism."  I wonder if Iran comes off the list this year as part of the nuclear negotiations.

The START project at the University of Maryland--National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism--claims the numbers are going up worldwide, but I suspect it changed its methodology.  One thing is clear: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan host about half of all terrorist acts.  Syria for some reason doesn't make the START list.  IHS Jane's has its own accounting: 
LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The number of attacks by non-state armed groups around the world has rapidly increased in just five years, according to the IHS Jane’s 2013 Global Terrorism & Insurgency Attack Index from IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS), a leading global source of critical information and insight. “In 2009, a worldwide total of 7,217 attacks were recorded from open sources. In 2013, that number increased by more than 150% to 18,524,” said Matthew Henman, manager of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (JTIC), which carried out the study. - See more at: http://press.ihs.com/press-release/aerospace-defense-terrorism/global-terrorism-insurgency-attacks-rapidly-increase-five-#sthash.0XbrxuYO.dpuf
Sunni terrorists--and they are the main global threat--are turning more toward sectarian and local concerns, and are focused less on international jihad.  One big exception in 2013 was the In Amenas gas facility attack in Algeria, which aimed at killing lots of "westerners."  

Syria has become the world's principle "bug zapper" for killing Sunni terrorists.  Amazing how Washington policymakers now grudgingly appreciate Assad's role in this.
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