November 24th, 2014
05:45 PM ET

How worried should we be about terrorism?

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

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.

soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. Tori

    Chrissy are you for real?

    November 25, 2014 at 7:44 pm |
  2. chri§§y

    Lmao yup! Its true. I just added the last line to lighten the mood.

    November 25, 2014 at 8:13 pm |
    • Greg

      Muslims have pretty much monopoly on terrorism.

      November 26, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
  3. Kishor Shah

    Before liberation of Kuwait (1992) the terrorism was observed in small pockets of Israel and India. It has taken west ward turn after 1992. Time to review the problem afresh.

    November 25, 2014 at 11:30 pm |
  4. David Too

    Not forgetting the Al Shabab, that is increasingly becoming problematic in the horn of Africa, with its attacks mainly in Kenya for now.

    November 26, 2014 at 12:15 am |
  5. Philip

    Am thinking US troops will be more successful battling domestic terrorists at home than overseas. At least the vast majority of locals will support troops against terrorists.

    November 26, 2014 at 11:43 am |
    • Greg

      Yes, there are a lot of Muslims in the US. Several Muslims living here have tried to join ISIS and tried to carry out lone wolf attacks. We need to deal with this domestic terrorism by Muslims. These Muslim terrorists are living among us!

      November 26, 2014 at 6:13 pm |
  6. 100% Ethio-Britain (American)

    First, the Law of terrorism muat be reviewed very carefully and stronglly used.

    For instance, Jewish who keep sponsoring Phillipinos (Abussaiaf) must be overlooked and tested.

    November 26, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
  7. Otto

    The article says: "It turns out that in 2013, only five countries accounted for 82 percent of terrorism deaths – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria." All these countries suffer from violence by Muslim terrorists.

    November 26, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
  8. Matt

    Forget these people are fighting in Syria, forget about the training. These are people from your countries, that you stood next to in the street, lived next to, stood in line at the shops. Think about it.

    November 30, 2014 at 6:15 am |
  9. Eddie Fonseca

    As average Americans we often wonder when the next September 9/11 attacks will happen again on home grown soil, how do we spot a terrorists is it the young Muslim woman dressed in modern day clothes sitting on the NYC subway chatting on her cell phone in Arabic for work related things or something more we have no idea what she is talking about. Most of our ideology in America is focused on stereotypical viewpoints like young the young Muslim women I talked about,accept did we not take a step back and think to ourselves are all terrorists Muslim Arabs? What might shock most of us including myself that terrorism, was started by a Lebanese and Jewish young educated women, who saw how war had torn both their countries apart and many of their family members were killed for no apparent reason. This rage burned inside both of these women, who saw no other options then to become suicide bombers and to kill those people who were responsible for their family's death and in some twisted sick way to restore their family's honor and ideology. Should we be worried as Americans about potential suicide bombers in our great land, hell yeah but let's not loss our minds over this issue if we use some common sense like spotting some potential signs in our co-workers and neighbors who suddenly talk a lot of about radical Islam and hatting America then the FBI should be alerted at that point. Terrorism has been apart of the Middle East society's for many years and now has come to America, we as Americans have seen how terrorism has affected our lives as we have to remain alert about potential home grown terrorists who could plan another attack on New York or Washington in the near future. Without educating more Americans about home grown terrorism that can brain wash any race with their sick twisted radical ideology's, will the next terrorists in America be a young bubbly Jewish American women who is fairly educated, but is willing to die for a cause that she is brain washed by radical terrorism ideology and she is walking the streets right now in America, as we speak and is to prepared to sacrifice her own life for a sick cause that she will never know the answer for years to come.

    December 18, 2014 at 12:02 am |
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