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By Global Public Square staff
Here on television news, we spend a lot of time and energy talking about terrorism. Last week began with video released of another gruesome murder of an American by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Then Tuesday, we saw the barbaric attacks in a synagogue in Jerusalem.
The new Global Terrorism Index shows that terrorism is indeed on the rise around the globe. The index was prepared by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a non-partisan think tank that analyzed instances of terrorism across 162 countries between 2000 and 2013. It notes that since 2000, terrorism fatalities have increased five-fold, and in 2013 terror deaths were up by 61 percent from just the year before.
But let's delve a little deeper.
It turns out that in 2013, only five countries accounted for 82 percent of terrorism deaths – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. Not surprisingly, Iraq was the bloodiest country for terrorism in 2013, according to the report, as it has been for 9 of the last 10 years.
But it might be more accurate to think of these countries as war zones, and these deaths as part of civil wars, deep-rooted struggles for power. That's very different from terrorism attacks in otherwise peaceful countries. The report finds that only about 5 percent of terrorism deaths since 2000 happened in advanced industrial countries. And, over the last five years, a quarter of the deaths in those countries were at the hands of lone wolves – individuals with no terrorist group affiliation.
So, terrorist activity might be on the rise, but it is concentrated in a few places and undertaken by a few groups. The report pointed out that just four groups accounted for two-thirds of the deaths from terror last year. The top killers are, as you can imagine, ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al Qaeda.
Now while much of the jihadist's hate speech is directed at the West, most of their victims are locals and Muslims. In fact, as an essay accompanying the index argues, most militant groups are actually in pursuit of "relatively limited goals in local or regional contexts." Even ISIS – perhaps the terror group that instills the most fear in the West today – does not seem to emphasize quote "totally abstract and utopian global goals," a sharp contrast to al Qaeda, according to the essay.
So how should we combat ISIS and other terror groups around the globe?
Consider this data from the Terrorism Report, which cites the Rand Corporation. Between 1968 and 2006, just 7 percent of terrorist organizations have been defeated through military action alone. So what has effectively quashed the vast majority of the terrorist groups that were defeated in that period?
Local intelligence and police breaking up the groups on the one hand and political engagement on the other. Either the key members of the group were arrested and killed or they were somehow integrated into the political process. That is likely how it will end even in Iraq and Syria – policing and political power sharing.
By the way, for even more perspective, according to the new Global Terrorism Index, an American is 64 times more likely to die by homicide than because of a terrorist attack, and, further, at least in 2012, a human being living anywhere in the world was 40 times more likely to be a victim of homicide than terrorism.
So if you want to get scared, fine, but get scared about the shooting next door – not the terrorist group halfway around the world.