Since the turn of the millennium, few themes have shaped the global discourse as much as terrorism. On September 20, 2001, George W. Bush declared “War on Terror” during the reactionary speech in which he sent America to war with Al-Qaeda following the September 11 attacks in New York. The phrase “War on Terror” has now become synonymous with American foreign policy in the Middle East, alongside the foreign policy of many of America’s allies.
Terrorism is by no means a problem confined to the 21st Century. The number of terror attack victims in Western Europe since 1970 shows that the number of victims in the 1970s and 1980s was higher than in the 2000s. However the dominant trends of terrorism in the 21st century are the profound impact of terrorism on the Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia, as exemplified by the number of terrorist attacks by region.
The success of the so-called War on Terror can be called into question given that in 2016 Iraq and Afghanistan occupied the first two places on the Global Terrorism Index. However, be it the rise of issues more pressing for the American public or a belief that the War on Terror has been successful, the percentage of Americans that see terrorism as the biggest problem facing the U.S. has plummeted since 2001.
Nevertheless, terrorism still looms large over the people of Iraq. What has changed however is the affiliation of those delivering terror to the heavily scarred physical and societal landscapes of the country. The rise of the terrorist organization the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, simply known as ISIS, offers explanation to the reemergence of higher deaths from terrorism numbers in the country in recent years. In 2014, Baghdad had the highest fatality rate from terrorism in the world with 43 fatalities per 100,000 population. To place the profound impact terrorism has on Iraq in a global context one must simply acknowledge that 23.7% of all deaths from terrorism worldwide occurred in the country.
In regard to how terror attacks are enacted, armed attacks and bombings are the preferred methods for terrorists worldwide. Such attacks cause widely felt destruction but recently groups such as Islamic State have used kidnapping as an additional source of revenue in unison to the incision of fear. Although police and military are alluring ideological targets for terrorist groups, attacks on private citizens and property are the most common form of attack target. Such attacks are not only easier by virtue of there being less security but they also install a greater amount of fear in the general public, leading to the cautious changes in daily life many terrorists seek to create.
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