The Soft Logic of Soft Targets

Source: FP (Foreign Policy)

You’re more likely to be murdered in America than killed by Islamic State terrorists

Everyone is freaking out over the France train attack. But the sad truth is, you’re more likely to be murdered in America than killed by Islamic State terrorists.

The recent “lone wolf” attack on a French train — thankfully foiled by three alert and courageous American passengers — has sparked new concerns about terrorist assaults on so-called “soft targets.” These are places where people congregate and are potentially vulnerable, but are not subject to airport-style security procedures. The Islamic State has called uponsympathizers to conduct such attacks wherever they might be, and European governments are now pondering additional measures to protect trains and railway stations. And on Aug. 22, just one day after the thwarted attack, theNew York Times brought it all home by warning: “Train Attack in Europe Puts Focus on Vulnerability of U.S. Rail.”

As I’ve suggested before, it’s time to “chill out” in the face of this latest supposedly grave danger. It is obviously not a good thing that these (and other) attacks have taken place, and counterterrorism officials should continue to take reasonable precautions against future occurrences. But hyping the threat and turning ourselves inside-out to prevent any and all attacks will squander resources and play into our adversaries’ hands.

For starters, the danger of terrorist attacks on “soft targets” is dwarfed by other hazards that we accept with aplomb every day.

Highway accidents, household mishaps — and in the United States, ordinary homicide — are all far more serious dangers than the risk from terrorism.

Highway accidents, household mishaps — and in the United States, ordinary homicide — are all far more serious dangers than the risk from terrorism. To take but one example, over the past 12 months Islamic State sympathizers have killed about 600 people outside Iraq and Syria. In that same period, more than 15,000 peoplewere murdered in the United States alone. Both phenomena are disturbing, but which is the greater danger?

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