Political Animal

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.

The War Is Over….Sort Of

THE WAR IS OVER….SORT OF….The war with Iraq started on Wednesday, March 19, and today, exactly six weeks later, George Bush will announce that the fighting is officially over. Not bad!

Of course, precision on this matter is an elusive thing since it turns out that in this postmodern world “fighting is over” is not the same thing as “victory”:

Bush will avoid using the word “victory,” aides said.

….”If we say the war is over, it makes it more difficult to pursue [former members of Saddam’s regime],” said Anthony Clark Arend, professor of government and foreign service at Georgetown University. He has written a book on international law and the use of force.

The Geneva Conventions also call for the release and repatriation “without delay” of prisoners of war at the close of hostilities.

Via Dan Drezner, it looks like the war in Afghanistan is over too, although here again “victory” is an elusive concept. As Dan notes, the situation in Afghanistan is pretty far from peaceful and the country itself is pretty far from stabilized:

If the end of major combat operations means that the U.S. is about to make a major push towards building some semblance of an infrastructure for Afghanistan, that’s great. If it’s a signal that America’s work is done in that part of the world, that’s disastrous.

Yep. Maybe it’s just me, but I sure don’t get a real sense of commitment from Bush toward either of these countries, which is incomprehensible since the whole point of these wars has been to build stable, more tolerant countries that are less likely to breed terrorists.

At least that’s what I thought the point was. I wonder if President Bush agrees?


WIRETAPS….Orin Kerr over at the Volokh Conspiracy tells us today that John Ashcroft ? as mandated by law ? has reported to Congress about how many FISA wiretap and physical search applications were made in 2002. The number is up 25% from 2001.

What’s more interesting, though, is that 1,228 applications were made, and FISA approved….1,228.

What kind of court approves every single wiretap request made? Shouldn’t they have turned down at least one of them just so they could pretend there was some oversight here?