To be sure, terrorism is declining from a high base, thanks to the surging use of the tactic in Afghanistan and Iraq following the 2002 and 2003 US-led invasions of the two countries. Last year, the US military presence in Iraq was mostly about packing up and leaving, with far fewer patrols or offensives. Iraq, still the second most terrorism plagued country in the world by the US reckoning, saw attacks fall sharply last year. There were 13,600 people killed in terrorist attacks in Iraq in 2007, and that number fell to 3,654 by 2009 and to 3,063 last year.
And then there are issues with how "terrorism" is defined.
The word "Mexico," for instance, appears nowhere in the US report. Mexico had over 13,000 drug-related killings last year, and many of them targeted judges, cops, or citizens who had stood up to drug traffickers. High profile massacres, including leaving the bodies of the dead swinging from busy highway overpasses, were often designed to frighten populations into staying out of the drug dealer's way. The ultimate interests is financial, rather than political, but the tactic is much the same.
Is it time to start thinking about spending less on counterterrorism?
Certainly, part of the safety US citizens enjoy has had to do with the steps taken by the Bush and Obama administrations since 2001. In the past year, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in Pakistan, and Abu Yayha al-Libi, an important cleric for Al Qaeda, was killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan in just the past week. Vast sums have been poured into everything from airport security to intelligence. The decade since 9/11 was the longest ten-year stretch without a major terrorist attack on US soil since the 1960s as $1 trillion was poured into various initiatives.