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Minimizing Terrorism

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I have noticed over the last few months that a number of commentators have been trying to minimize the threat from terrorism. Perhaps they are doing it because they don’t want us to over-react to the social media videos of burnings and beheadings. Some may not want America to be drawn into another war.  Whatever the reason, there seems to be a concerted effort to minimize the terrorist threat.

One writer calculated that since 9/11, “a grand total of 30 Americans” had been killed in “terrorist incidents inside the United States.” The odds of an American being killed by terrorism are lower than being killed in a car accident or killed in a building fire. He added that Americans are “four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.”

If you believe the U.S. is spending too much in terms of blood and treasure fighting terrorism, you could use this argument. Of course, you could have made that same argument in America before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. How many Americans were killed by the Axis powers in the 1930s? Your chances of being killed by Nazi soldiers or soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army were effectively zero.

Even after 9/11, you could make the case that most Americans and nearly all our other cities were unaffected by the terrorist attack on that day. You could even point to the fact that except for the World Trade Towers and part of the Pentagon, all the other buildings in America were intact and unaffected by the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Charles Cooke uses an extreme example to make his point. Imagine that 100 planes crashed into other important business and governmental buildings. That would have been devastating. But still, most of the homes, churches, libraries, malls, hotels, and gas stations would be intact. Would the citizens of America have been comforted if George W. Bush appeared on TV to say that America was still, statistically speaking, safe and unaffected by the events of the day?

We shouldn’t over-react to the threat of terrorism, but we don’t need to use statistical arguments to minimize the threat either.

Viewpoints by Kerby Anderson

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