Understanding Terrorism Is More Than a Numbers Game

Aug 28, 2018 | 09:00 GMT



  • Statistical measurements are crucial to assessing terrorist and militant threats, but they provide only a starting point.
  • Beyond the numbers, it is essential to assess the ultimate objective of attacks, the specific threats of terrorists' tactics and even the novel tactics that can amplify the political impact of nonlethal attacks.
  • Focusing on such qualitative aspects, rather than on merely the quantitative, can temper overreaction to deadly events and highlight emerging threats before an attack.

The big issue is not what constitutes a terrorist attack, but how statistics can be misleading when it comes to measuring terrorist and militant activity. Statistical analysis might break down what are ultimately highly complex events into discrete numbers, allowing analysts to chart data on a graph or run figures through a statistical modeling program, but examining quality -- rather than quantity -- will ultimately lead to a better understanding of terrorist threats....

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