Is it me, or is the much-touted study (requires Acrobat) by the National Counterterrorism Center just so deeply flawed that it’s beyond recovery??
I complained about the decision not to publish the study. Now, looking at it, I’d like to complain about the thinking behind the analysis that was presented.
Sadly, I can’t manage to copy the list of incidents to text so I could make a database of them, but a fast analysis shows that a substantial number of them (30%?? I haven’t yet had time to count, but if someone does, that’s be useful) are in Iraq.Now, according to the methodology page, events in Iraq or Afghanistan are only counted when a foreign national is involved and civilians, as opposed to combatants, are targeted. Seriously:
In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, it was particularly difficult to gather comprehensive information about all incidents. The distinction between terrorism and insurgency in Iraq is especially problematic because Iraqis participate in both the Abu Musab al-Zaquari terrorist network as well as the Baathist, former-regime-elements insurgency. As a result, the list of incidents provided here includes incidents involving non-Afghan/non-Iraqi civilians. By extension, some attacks involving non-combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the attack that led to the death of Department of State employee Edward Seltz, were excluded because the targets of the attack were combatants. We note, however, that because of difficulty in gathering data in Iraq and Afghanistan, the list may not be a complete account of all incidents involving non-Afghan/non-Iraqi civilians in those two countries.
I have a significant problem with this; it’s a simple one – we’re at war in Iraq (and to a much lesser degree in Afghanistan). It’s a war with an army that has adopted terrorism as a tactic, and that freely uses it when civilians are the only ones likely to be killed – as opposed to guerilla warfare against our or Iraqi armed forces, in which it is possible that civilians will inadvertently or carelessly be killed.
It’s insane to conflate these incidents and count them alongside acts of terrorism in the United Kingdom.
I’d love to find an actual database that this is based on that would allow you to query and count by country, among other things – this study lumps regions together, so that Iraq is lumped with Saudi Arabia and the West Bank – which represent different aspects of the same war, but could legitimately be used to measure the level of terrorist activity.
To use the level of terrorist attacks in Iraq as a global yardstick is like measuring gunshot deaths in France in 1941-42 and assuming that they represent a trend in the murder rate in Western Europe.
Note that my complaint isn’t based in a feeling that because terrorist attacks are more frequent, and so I believe the current policies may be wrong – it’s because this is crap data (or, more accurately, crap analysis of data), and as such makes it difficult to do the kind of hard thinking about policy that we need to keep doing.