Real Winner of War on Terror: Osama Bin Laden

Decade Later, Terrorists Are Flexing Muscle More Than Ever

Top Target: A May 30 car bombing in Iraq, where more than a third of terrorist deaths have occurred over the past decade.
Getty Images
Top Target: A May 30 car bombing in Iraq, where more than a third of terrorist deaths have occurred over the past decade.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published May 31, 2013, issue of June 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

President Obama’s big May 23 policy speech on terrorism was one for the history books, but not for the reason you think. It was one of those rare moments in the life of a nation when people rise to debate their future and we discover that everyone — but everyone — is full of baloney.

I say this in all seriousness.

The president’s essential argument is that the war on terror must be rethought because it’s wreaking havoc on the Constitution. At some point the urgency of defending ourselves against terrorists must be weighed against the urgency of defending our freedoms in an open society. We’ve done a pretty good job so far, but every war must end at some point, even if victory isn’t total. “Neither I nor any president can promise the total defeat of terror.”

Critics have followed two lines of thought. Liberals say he hasn’t gone far enough. Preserving our freedoms is more important than another battlefield coup. Republicans say he’s giving in to the terrorists. We need to fight on to victory.

The question is, how far along are we in this war? How much safer are we now than we were before we started? The answer: We are much, much worse off than we were when we started. Whatever it may have done to the Constitution, the war on terror has been great for terror.

In plain terms, the number of terrorist incidents per year around the world has more than quadrupled in the decade since we declared war on terror. Fatalities have doubled. To be specific, there were 982 terrorist incidents worldwide in 2002, resulting in 3,823 deaths. In 2011, the latest year for which numbers are available, there were 4,564 incidents resulting in 7,493 deaths. Simply put, the war on terror has made terror worse.

The good news is that deaths have been declining since 2007, when they peaked at 10,000.

The numbers come courtesy of an Australian-based think tank, the Institute for Economics and Peace, which published its first-ever Global Terrorism Index in December 2012. It works with a terrorism database maintained by the University of Maryland.

I found them by sheer accident. After listening to Obama’s speech, I went looking for some real numbers on how the war has succceeded since 9/11. I quickly discovered that numbers on global terrorism aren’t easy to come by.

The main source used to be an annual report, Patterns of Global Terrorism, compiled for Congress by the State Department starting in 1985. It stopped in 2004, however, after congressional Democrats charged that the numbers were being cooked. The 2002 report had shown a worldwide total of 198 incidents and 725 deaths. The 2003 total dropped to 190 incidents and 307 deaths. Democrats cited independent sources showing figures in the thousands, not hundreds, and that 2003 marked an all-time high, not a decline.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.