One of the worst mass-casualty attacks on European soil in recent years, prior to last year’s Paris attacks, occurred in 2011, when Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people, many of them children, in Norway after having, in the BBC’s words, “railed against what he saw as a Marxist Islamist takeover of Europe.”The New America analysis also shows that aspiring jihadist terrorists in the United States since 9/11 are, unlike the 2001 hijackers, almost never foreign invaders dispatched from overseas.
If we do want to protect the West from terrorist attacks, we need to tackle terrorism at its root—in the Middle East.
Is the Middle East itself really root of the terrorism problem for the West?
Certainly, as European and American history shows, “terrorism” as a whole is not a Middle Eastern invention.
Which is of course not to say that there aren’t currently terrorists in the Middle East; ordinary Iraqis and Syrians are their primary victims.
And there is even recent precedent for a government based on a cult-like figure claiming divine qualities and intent on global domination.
As the terrorism scholar Brian Michael Jenkins pointed out recently: In 1881, when an Islamic cleric in what was then called ‘the Sudan,’ declared himself to be the Mahdi—the successor to the Prophet Muhammad and leader of a universal jihad that commanded the loyalty of all humankind—the alternative to obedience was death.
Actually killing Westerners is only a small part of how it does this.
Terrorism “works” in part by drawing attention to the political cause that motivates it.
As John Mueller and Mark Stewart pointed out recently: “[V]irtually any violence perpetrated by rebels in civil wars is now being called terrorism. Before 9/11, terrorism was, by definition, a limited phenomenon. If terroristic violence became really sustained and extensive in an area ...
the activity was generally no longer called terrorism, but rather war or insurgency.” They concluded: “The post-9/11 conflation of insurgency with terrorism makes it seem that the world is awash in terrorism, something that stokes unjustified alarm outside war zones, where terrorism remains a quite limited hazard.” last year, “Citizens of several Central American and Caribbean countries are still more likely to be the victim of homicide than Iraqis or Syrians are from terrorism.”The key difference now is ISIS.
Overall the death toll from terrorism in the United States from 2004 to 2014, the most recent decade for which data was available, was 56, far below the toll of the 1990s, when 218 people died in terrorist attacks in the United States, 168 of them killed in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.