The bad news about the good news about terrorism:
Zakaria hangs his argument on a new study from Canada's Simon Fraser University that reviews the main terrorism databases. The report breaks down the data and observes that the annual double-digit increases in the death toll from terrorism that have made headlines in recent years are misleading because they include large numbers of fatalities in Iraq. "This makes no sense," Zakaria writes. "Iraq is a war zone, and as in other war zones around the world, many of those killed are civilians." We don't count deaths in other civil wars, such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Sierra Leone, as terrorism fatalities, so why in Iraq? Take away the Iraqi deaths, and the databases indicate either a decline in terrorism-related deaths or a flat line. Ergo, terrorism is not the threat that the great scare machine of the U.S. government, press, and terror experts make it out to be.
For those who believe, as I do, that there has been a relentless exploitation—read, scaremongering—of the terrorist threat for political advantage and a horrifying distortion of our foreign policy into a reckless global war on terror, this is an attractive argument. Zakaria, one of our smartest foreign-policy analysts, is not the only one making it. The problem is that even if the current administration has misused the issue—and John McCain, with his relentless talk of the "transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism," is following in Bush's footsteps—the focus on statistics is misplaced.