Did the liberation of Iraq make America less safe? Conventional wisdom says yes, but Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria begs to differ. He notes that U.S. government figures show big increases in terrorism …But Zakaria notes that a Canadian think tank, the Simon Fraser Institute, argues that that attacks in Iraq, a war zone, should not be included:
Including Iraq massively skews the analysis. In the NCTC and MIPT data, Iraq accounts for 80 percent of all deaths counted. But if you set aside the war there, terrorism has in fact gone way down over the past five years. …the U.S.-based IntelCenter published a study in mid-2007 that examined “significant” attacks launched by Al Qaeda over the past 10 years. It came to the conclusion that the number of Islamist attacks had declined 65 percent from a high point in 2004, and fatalities from such attacks had declined by 90 percent.
The Simon Fraser study notes that the decline in terrorism appears to be caused by many factors, among them successful counterterrorism operations in dozens of countries and infighting among terror groups. But the most significant, in the study’s view, is the “extraordinary drop in support for Islamist terror organizations in the Muslim world over the past five years.”
…An ABC/BBC poll in Afghanistan in 2007 showed support for the jihadist militants in the country to be 1 percent.
…With every new terrorist attack, public support for jihad falls. “This pattern is repeated in country after country in the Muslim world,” writes [study director Andrew] Mack. “Its strategic implications are critically important because historical evidence suggests that terrorist campaigns that lose public support will sooner or later be abandoned or defeated.”
Power Line’s John Hinderaker has a list of attacks on the U.S. and U.S. interests overseas starting in 1988 and, per Zakaria and Mack’s advice, omitting those in Afghanistan and Iraq. The list has no new entries since October 2003. One may debate how decisive the liberation of Iraq was in diminishing terrorism, but anyone who argues that it’s made us less safe ought to be laughed off stage.
Look at Hinderaker’s compilation — it will make you feel better, and safer too. John speculates on various reasons that anti-terror efforts may have been successful. We won’t really know until classified records become available to future historians — who will likely conclude that some is due to counter-terrorism efforts, some to self-inflicted damage, some to changes in Muslim attitudes.