Statistics from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) Global Terrorism Database have shown an increase in terrorist activity since America’s involvement in the War on Terror began. In various countries across the region and the globe, America’s entry into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan marked the beginning of a severe rise in terrorist activities, a rise which has continued ever since.
START is a University of Maryland program which provides the most detailed data on terrorist activities available to the public. It documents the date, country, city, perpetrator, fatalities, injuries and target types of terrorist activity across the world. Its data comes from a variety of open media sources, which are checked for accuracy before being added to the statistical analysis.
Terrorism in Iraq increased dramatically starting in 2002. In Afghanistan it had been increasing since 1998, but more rapidly since 2001. The Middle East as a whole has ups and downs, but rose consistently from 2004 to 2007, and then from 2008 to the present. Terrorism in Asia reached an all time high in 2007 and continued to climb. Both African and global terrorism have been increasing since 2004.
In response to this data, some, like Alex Jones’ Prison Planet, have said it is clear that America’s wars in the Middle East have created more terrorists. Drone strikes might increase terrorism, or maybe foreign military occupation is to blame.
The first thing which must be noted is that the database itself is based solely on news reports. According to the report, there are other potential reasons for the increase in terrorism than a simple cause and effect explanation. Terrorism may not have occurred in Iraq before the war because it was ruled by a brutal dictator. Afghanistan was run by the Taliban – which had terrorist origins – before the invasion. The fall of political systems inevitably invites chaos, which brings a chance of terrorism. The presence of military and other foreign personnel creates even more opportunities for it.
The statistics, themselves, don’t tell a story. They don’t show that the US has caused terrorism, and they certainly don’t show that the US has stopped it. One thing is clear, though, and that’s that the US does not have a clear enough understanding of terrorism to effectively combat or otherwise reduce it.