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International Cooperation, Not Unilateral Policies, may be the Best Counterterrorist Strategy
Unformatted Document Text:  short, to a remarkable extent, these data show that over a 35-year period, the attacks of foreign groups identified as especially dangerous to the United States have not been aimed at the U.S. homeland or even at U.S. targets in other countries, but rather at non- U.S. targets. Attacks by these groups on the U.S. are exceptional. We next explored the ratio of domestic to transnational attacks. For all other groups, a transnational attack was one that occurred outside the boundaries of the countries of origin or against targets of a different nationality within the group’s home country. Based on this classification, nearly 90% of the attacks and 84% of the fatalities in the data base were classified as domestic attacks. Of the transnational attacks, 4.9% were committed by al Qaeda and another 34.6% by five groups that had either two or three countries of origin (Black September Organization, the Abu Nidal Organization, al- Gama’at al-Islamiyya, the Eritrean Liberation Front, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). In short, the vast majority of total non-U.S. attacks by the anti- U.S. terrorist groups we examined were against domestic targets at home. This finding underscores the fact that most terrorism—like most crime—is a local matter. We next explored the extent to which these anti-U.S. groups changed their selection of targets over time. In general, the ratios of attacks and fatal attacks against the U.S. to non-U.S. attacks by these terrorist groups were much higher in the 1970s than in subsequent decades, which might explain why many of them were originally considered as “anti-U.S.” groups. In fact, for one year in the analysis (1971) the absolute number of attacks against the U.S. actually exceeded the number of non-U.S. attacks. In short, the ratio of U.S. to non-U.S. attacks and fatal attacks has changed over time and in a way that 6

Authors: LaFree, Gary. and Yang, Sue Ming.
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short, to a remarkable extent, these data show that over a 35-year period, the attacks of 
foreign groups identified as especially dangerous to the United States have not been 
aimed at the U.S. homeland or even at U.S. targets in other countries, but rather at non-
U.S. targets. Attacks by these groups on the U.S. are exceptional.  
We next explored the ratio of domestic to transnational attacks.  For all other groups, 
a transnational attack was one that occurred outside the boundaries of the countries of 
origin or against targets of a different nationality within the group’s home country. 
Based on this classification, nearly 90% of the attacks and 84% of the fatalities in the 
data base were classified as domestic attacks.  Of the transnational attacks, 4.9% were 
committed by al Qaeda and another 34.6% by five groups that had either two or three 
countries of origin (Black September Organization, the Abu Nidal Organization, al-
Gama’at al-Islamiyya, the Eritrean Liberation Front, and the Popular Front for the 
Liberation of Palestine).  In short, the vast majority of total non-U.S. attacks by the anti-
U.S. terrorist groups we examined were against domestic targets at home.  This finding 
underscores the fact that most terrorism—like most crime—is a local matter.   
We next explored the extent to which these anti-U.S. groups changed their selection 
of targets over time.  In general, the ratios of attacks and fatal attacks against the U.S. to 
non-U.S. attacks by these terrorist groups were much higher in the 1970s than in 
subsequent decades, which might explain why many of them were originally considered 
as “anti-U.S.” groups.  In fact, for one year in the analysis (1971) the absolute number of 
attacks against the U.S. actually exceeded the number of non-U.S. attacks.  In short, the 
ratio of U.S. to non-U.S. attacks and fatal attacks has changed over time and in a way that 
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