If, like me, you supported Bush – because you felt he was going to do a better job on issues of combating a terrorism – than you probably believe that we face a serious threat.
Infuriatingly, we sometimes get news that suggests that the Administration doesn’t completely share that view.
Just when you thought the Department of State could not top last year’s debacle in failing accurately to count the number of international terrorist incidents, it appears that the State Department is going one step better–they reportedly have decided to not issue a report to the public. This move has been prompted by the Department’s discovery that the new methodology used by the recently formed National Counter Terrorism Center has produced statistics that shows an enormous jump in the number of international terrorist attacks. For example, in 2003 there were about 172 significant attacks. The numbers for 2004 have jumped to at least 655.
Now before Professor Cole gets all sweaty and excited at this proof that the war in Iraq is pushing up the level of anti American attacks from Islamist terrorists, note the rest of the paragraph:
For Secretary of State Rice these numbers are a disaster. It is tough to argue we are winning the war on terrorism when the numbers in the official Government report will show the largest number of incidents ever recorded since the State Department started reporting on terrorist incidents. In the Secretary’s defense, however, the sharp jump in numbers has more to do with a change in methodololgy of counting rather that an actual surge in Islamic extremist activity. In fact, if you take time to parse the numbers, the actual scope of terrorism by Islamic extremists in 2004 appeared to decline relative to the attacks during 2003 (except for Iraq). Rather than run from the numbers the State Department and the Intelligence Community should seize the opportunity to really get their hands around the issue and provide Congress and the American people with a clear, apolitical assessment about the reality of the terrorist threat we face.
Facing facts where you find them is the first thing I try and get my teams to do. You may win without knowing what’s really going on, but you might also win an Olympic sharpshooting medal blindfolded. Random luck is an interesting thing, but it’s not the basis for good policy.