The annual data on war death figures have come out from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, and it is down for 2015 compared to 2014. The same is true for killings of unarmed civilians. The rate is still higher than it was a decade ago — mostly due to the Syrian civil war — but still far lower than it was in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.
The reversal of the increase over the preceding three years is not quite good news, but not as bad news as one might have feared—namely that the world would see a continuing rise.
There has probably been a slight increase in the rate of violent crime in the US in 2015, but even then that wouldn’t even be as high as it was in 2012, just three years ago, and that itself is a huge decrease in the levels of '60s, '70, and '80s in the US, where violent crime has fallen by more than half. So there is probably an uptick for 2015 and 2016. But it’s just a wiggle in a curve that’s been going down, down, down.
Even if you even compare the situation this year to a random year in the 1970s or 1980s, by every measure our world is much more peaceful.
The rate of death in homicides far exceeds the rate of death in terrorism at a local level, and for that matter, in wars. More people die in homicides than in wars globally by far.
The rates of terrorism in Western Europe, according to the Global Terrorism Database, were much higher from 1972 to 1992 than they were in 2015, and 2015 was a terrible year for terrorism. Not that it was great in the '70s and '80s, because there were high rates of terrorism, but Europe survived and Europe will survive this round of [terror] attacks.
Terrorist movements always fail. They go out of existence. They do not achieve their strategic aims. Northern Ireland is still part of the UK, and Basque Country is still part of Spain, and Israel continues to exist … the list goes on and on.
The greatest damage that resulted from the 9/11 attacks was self-inflicted, in our individual and national overreactions to them. The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has shown that after 9/11, 1,500 Americans died in car accidents because they chose to drive rather than fly, unaware that a car trip of twelve miles has the same risk of death as a plane trip of three thousand miles.