Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Global Terrorism Facts & Figures (2015)

Human Survival

Death By Terrorism: That wars and conflicts increase terrorism globally is supported by the numbers. Kathy Gilsinan for The Atlantic writes: “These correlations also speak to the relationship between terrorism and conflict more broadly. ‘The most common context for the onset of terrorist violence is within an ongoing conflict,’ the authors write. About 70 percent of the fatal terrorist attacks recorded in the Global Terrorism Database between 1970 and 2013 took place in countries with serious ongoing conflicts.”
Image Credit: Global Terrorism Database; Institute for Economics and Peace
Source: The Atlantic

An article, by Laurence M. Krauss, in The New Yorker says that the Western response to terrorism is not rational, given that the possibility, statistically speaking, of dying from an act of terrorism is no greater than dying in a car accident in France or of being murdered in New York City.

In “Thinking Rationally About Terrorism” (January 2, 2016), Krauss, a theoretical physicist, writes:
Exactly how much more dangerous has terrorism made our lives? To answer this question, it helps to run the numbers. There are about two and a quarter million people in Paris. This means that, if you were living in Paris on the day of the recent attacks, there was roughly a one-in-twenty-thousand chance of being a victim. While that may seem high, the annual likelihood of getting killed by a car in France is almost exactly the same. (Last year, there were three thousand two hundred and fifty traffic fatalities in a population of sixty-four million.)
Murder rates offer another window onto the question. In France as a whole, the annual murder rate over the past five years peaked at around eight hundred and forty—which means that the recent terrorist attacks raised the national murder rate by about fifteen per cent. In Paris, the annual murder rate in previous years has been has high as 2.6 per hundred thousand people; by that measure, the terrorist attacks this year were a significant perturbation, more than doubling the average murder rate. Even so, it’s worth noting that this makes Paris about as dangerous as New York City, where the murder rate has been as high as seven per hundred thousand in recent years. New York is generally considered a very safe city. So, while terrorism has made life in France more dangerous, the new level of danger is one we tolerate—even celebrate—in the United States.
Krauss, a scientist, is right about the numbers in regards to western nations. So let us look at these numbers in more detail using global figures collected by the Institute for Economics and Peace in Sydney, Australia. It has compiled a comprehensive and detailed database of global terrorist attacks. In its 2015 report it ranks the nations by terrorist attacks; the top five are Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. “Fifty-seven per cent of all attacks and 78 per cent of all deaths occurred in these five nations,” reports the Global Terrorism Index. In 2014,  there were 32,685 deaths as a result of terrorism. Although disturbing, it is important to put this number in perspective, the same report adds: “At least 437,000 people are murdered each year, which is over 13 times more than the number of victims of terrorism.”

The Index ranks the U.S. 35th, France 36th, and Canada 72nd on the list of 162 nations. Israel is 24th, ranking safer than China (22) and Russia (23).

The West has suffered, on average, over the past 15 years, 4.4 per cent of attacks and 2.6 per cent of deaths—the majority of deaths occurring from the September 11 attack in the U.S. killing 2,996 people, a direct result of Islamist fundamentalism. But this is an anomaly, and since then, the chief source of attacks on the West emanates not from Islamic fundamentalism (responsible for 19 per cent of deaths in western nations), it writes: “Islamic fundamentalism was not the main cause of terrorism in the West over the last nine years. Eighty per cent of deaths by lone wolf terrorists in the West were driven by right wing extremism, nationalism, antigovernment sentiment and political extremism and other forms of supremacy.”

While in absolute terms. death is death, one can say death by a terrorist act seems crueler, emotionless and an assault to the values of human decency. A traffic accident is just that, an accident. Terrorism is murder by a stranger, done with deliberation, calculation and methodical planning. This is no different whether this takes place in France, in the U.S., in Syria, in Nigeria or in Israel.

The fear that Krauss says is “irrational” is that there is no rational solution to solve this problem of hate. Yet, the data and the chart suggests strongly that there is: start by resolving the conflicts, primarily by political means, in the top five nations that have the greatest number of terrorist attacks. How this is achieved is now less important than the will by the international community to take on this necessary and important goal. Should this not be the chief priority of the United Nations?

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For more, go to [NewYorker]

For the Global Terrorism Index (2015), go to [IEP]