Terrorist Attacks

TERRORIST ATTACKS….Dan Drezner also points today to this Chicago Tribune story about the State Department’s latest report on global terrorism:

U.S. report cites 44% drop in global terror
International terrorist attacks dropped significantly in 2002, and Bush administration officials are increasingly confident that the deadliest Al Qaeda plotters are now on the defensive, a top U.S. counterterrorism expert said Wednesday.

The report has plenty of good news and suggests that multilateral cooperation has made a big dent in al-Qaeda operations. That’s something to be happy about. (And, amusingly, France comes in for high praise for its counterterrorism efforts.)

But before the spin machine burns that 44% number too far into your brain, take a look at this chart from the report. As Unfogged points out, terrorist incidents declined from 355 to 199, a drop of 156. However, virtually all of that drop came in Latin America, specifically from a drop in the number of pipeline bombings in Colombia.

Conversely, the two key al-Qaeda strongholds of Asia and the Middle East tell a very different story. Terrorist attacks in the Middle East stayed the same as the previous year, while attacks in Asia were up. What’s more, despite 9/11 and our subsequent feelings of national insecurity, North America has had by far the fewest terrorist incidents of any region for the past six years. Americans seem to have a hard time understanding this, but one of the reasons it’s so important to for us to work with other countries in the war on terrorism is because they have so much more experience with it. We don’t.

I’d like to think that the State Department is right and al-Qaeda is on the run, but this report looks a little too much like a glossy Fortune 500 annual report that explains all the wonderful things management is doing while trying to distract you from the actual earnings for the year. George Bush said in his State of the Union address that he was interested in results, not in process, but unfortunately this report doesn’t really seem to show any.

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