Crime / Law

Terrorism is expanding, says Global terrorism data

In their most recent post, Robert Pape and his colleagues argue that START researchers using the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) overstate the current threat of global terrorism. They also claim that START has made no effort to improve the comprehensiveness of the historical data in the GTD, and conclude by offering several suggestions for how to “fix” the database. Unfortunately, these assertions are unfounded and, while we appreciate their attempt to be helpful, their suggestions are shortsighted.
Pape et al.’s claim that START researchers erroneously paint an overly dire picture of recent terrorism trends relies on two assumptions: First, that suicide terrorism alone is representative of the global threat of terrorism (it is not). And second, that START researchers rely solely on global aggregate percent change statistics when assessing trends (we do not). In fact, START researchers adopt much richer analytical strategies that are less susceptible to the well-documented vagaries of data collection. Unfortunately, Pape and his colleagues strip our work of its historical, regional and contextual analyses to portray START in an unflattering light.
We are especially perplexed by the authors’ insistence that identifying a greater number of suicide attacks in Iraq while it was in the midst of a civil war indicates that the world was a more dangerous place in 2007 than it was in 2013. A more robust way to gauge the trajectory of terrorism is to consider the dispersion of terrorist attacks over time.

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