Bad news for fear-mongers
The Spectator, April 2, 2005: ‘We are facing the gravest threat that this nation has ever faced.’ Elizabeth I, speaking of the Spanish Armada? Winston Churchill, in the aftermath of Dunkirk? No. Home Office minister Baroness Scotland on Newsnight, justifying the new Prevention of Terrorism Act by reference to the threat from al-Qa’eda.
‘Hang on,’ I said to myself on hearing the Baroness, ‘that can’t be right.’ My mum can remember lying in bed hearing bombs drop, and she once saw a V1 go over and heard the engine cut out as she watched. As an army officer a decade ago I used to have to check under my car for IRA bombs every time I went out. Army officers don’t have to do that any more. The gravest threat ever? Surely not.
This revealing article details how "the world is safer now than ever before; and far from being an ever-growing problem, terrorism has been in sharp decline for over a decade. This is not a matter of opinion. It is provable." Both the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) and Canada’s Project Ploughshares annually track the number of armed conflicts worldwide. As the Spectator reports: "According to Sipri, there were only 19 conflicts in 2003, down from 33 in 1991. With its broader definition, Project Ploughshares reports a decline to 36 in 2003 from a peak of 44 in 1995. "
Furthermore, according to the Rand Corporation’s MIPT (Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism) database, terrorism peaked in the late 1970s and early '80s and has been steadily declining ever since. "During the 1980s, the number of international terrorist incidents worldwide averaged about 360 a year. By the year 2000, it was down to just 100. In Western Europe, the number has declined from about 200 in the mid-1980s to under 30 in 2004. Even more strikingly, in North America the number of attacks has fallen from over 40 a year in the mid-1970s to under five every year for the past ten years, with the sole exception of 2001."
The article asks, "What if we are wrong?" What if there really is this huge terrorist threat? Surely better to be safe than sorry and go around bombing these Middle Eastern countries before they get the chance to bomb us? The problem is, as the war in Iraq proves, tens of thousands of people die when we get it wrong.
But, if you think the current 'war on terror' is ludicrous, check out the quote from October 1955, when General Douglas MacArthur told the cadets of West Point: "The next war will be an interplanetary war. The nations of the earth must someday make a common front against attack by people from other planets." Perhaps we'd best start blowing up the rest of the galaxy now, just to be on the safe side.