Diplomatic Attacks Are Much Rarer Than They Used to Be

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Adam Serwer has a pretty interesting chart today that accompanies his piece about the history of attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets. Here it is:

There’s a very sharp, very sudden dropoff in 1994. Just eyeballing it, it looks like there were an average of about 14 attacks per year from 1970-1993 but only six or so from 1994-2010. Why?

“That follows the trend of terrorism generally,” says Erin Miller, a research assistant at START who manages the Global Terrorism Database. “In the early 1990s there’s a drop-off worldwide in terrorism against pretty much all target types.” Miller cites the collapse of the Soviet Union, and a subsequent wane in leftist terrorism as one possible explanation for the downturn beginning in the mid-1990s.

Maybe! On a broader note, Adam points out that Mitt Romney’s tiresome trope about the Benghazi attacks being the result of President Obama’s “weakness” is just nonsense. There were lots of attacks during the Reagan administration, and many fewer during the Clinton administration. Attacks rose a bit during the Bush administration, and have been a hair lower during the Obama administration. This is almost certainly due to external factors, not to any particular strength or weakness of the presidents themselves.

Still, it’s fair to say that the Obama administration has hardly distinguished itself with its curiously meandering response to the Benghazi attacks. I think they’ve finally given up on the suggestion that it was all because of a YouTube video, but beyond that there’s still a fair amount of confusion about who was behind the attack and what the motivation was. Weakness may not have caused the attacks, but until Obama can get his hands around it, it’s going to remain a pretty soft spot for the Romney campaign to poke at.

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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