Terrorism by the numbers

By now you have probably seen or heard the breathless reports that incidents of terrorism were up worldwide in 2006. This is the MSM’s take-away on the State Department’s Country Report on Terrorism 2006. However, as Matthew Sheffield explains, the validity of this take-away depends on the meaning of worldwide. The numbers show a sharp increase in terrorist attacks in Iraq, where 2006 was a bad year indeed, and these attacks cause the total number of attacks and deaths to have increased world-wide. However, if one factors out the Middle East, which in the State Department’s report does not include Afghanistan, there is no increase. If one also factors out Afghanistan, there’s a decrease. Terrorist episodes are down in South Asia, Central and Latin America, and Europe (there’s been virtually none in North America for several years). The media is justified in presenting the aggregated picture, but not in pretending that progress has not been made in most of the world.
To the extent that the State Department numbers militate in favor of a particular course of action for 2007, that course is to continue prosecuting the Bush administration’s overall strategy against global terrorism, but to develop new ways to take on the terrorists in Iraq. This is what the administration has decided to do.
JOHN adds: The numbers are also consistent with the fact that al Qaeda has proclaimed Iraq the central front in its war against civilization. It is reasonable to surmise that this focus has contributed to the decline in terrorist incidents in other parts of the world. Likewise, if al Qaeda were no longer tied down in Iraq, it is reasonable to expect that terrorism in other parts of the world would increase.
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