MAY - 2012 ISSUE

  The Terrorism That Wasn’t
  Disproportionate resources are being expended on counter terrorism operations
After 9/11, many of us worried that terrorism would escalate, transforming our world into a bloody clash of civilisations. Experts warned of an epidemic of violence. Bruce Hoffman, a leading scholar of terrorism, warned that al Qaeda is ‘on the march.’ Bernard Lewis, a senior scholar of Islam, warned that ‘the suicide bomber and other kinds of terrorists have become role models, eagerly followed by growing numbers of frustrated and angry young men and women.’ A cover story in The New York Times Magazine warned that Islamic terrorism had gone ‘viral.’
Al Qaeda fanned fears with repeated threats. “I promise you that the Islamic youth are preparing for you what will fill your hearts with horror,” Ayman Zawahiri swore in 2002. In 2003, he stated: “What you saw with your eyes so far are only the first tactics we are using. The real battle hasn’t started yet.” In 2004: “The Islamic nation, which sent you the New York and Washington brigades, has taken a firm decision to send you successive brigades to sow death and aspire to paradise.”

A decade after 9/11, to our great good fortune, these dire predictions have not materialised.

Al Qaeda and its affiliates continue to carry out attacks, but not nearly so many as the world feared. And most of those attacks have been concentrated in three civil war zones — Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Outside of these three countries, the annual death toll from terrorism has been lower since 9/11 than in the years before 9/11, according to the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland. That source and data from the US National Counter-terrorism Center both calculate that global fatalities from terrorism have fallen by half since 2007.
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