Politicians know how to play into this, as they spend a great deal of their time responding to news stories. Knowing that declaring victory over terrorism is a story that wont get covered much, an astute politician will play along with the news stories. Thus, even if the terrorists are losing their war, it will be a long time before the media, and politicians, will be admitting it.
So how do you keep score? There are two ways. First, by the number of terrorist attacks being inflicted on your people. Second, by keeping track of how well the terrorists are doing in achieving their stated objectives.
The current terror war began in the 1990s, when Islamic terrorists carried out some small attacks in Europe, while attacking Americans in other countries (the bombings in Africa, the USS Cole attack and so on. But overall, there were few deaths from terrorism in North America (187, to be exact, between 1991 and September 10, 2001). During the same period, there were 1,030 deaths in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, and 215 in Western Europe. During this period, most of the terrorism deaths (1,980) were in South Asia (India and Pakistan).
Things changed on September 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 American were killed in one day of al Qaeda attacks. But from September 12, 2001 to March, 2003, there were only eight deaths from terrorism in North America. There were only 27 in Western Europe. Even the Middle East was relatively quiet, with 667 terrorist deaths. Terrorism Central continued to be South Asia, with 1,355 deaths. There were 411 terrorist deaths in Southeast Asia, up from 284 between 1991 and September 10, 2001.
Then came the invasion of Iraq, intended as an effort to carry the war to the region from which most Islamic terrorists were coming from. From March 2003 to the present, there have been zero terrorist deaths in North America, 198 in Western Europe and 292 in Southeast Asia. The Middle East and Persian Gulf exploded, with 3,951 terrorist related deaths. South Asia was up a bit as well, to 1,486.
The United States had, in effect, defended itself for 18 months after September 11, 2001, then went on the offensive, carrying the war on terrorism to the homeland of most Islamic terrorists. The terrorists responded by killing a lot of fellow Moslems. The Middle Eastern nations responded by going after the terrorists. The result has been greater efforts to root out Islamic terrorism at the source. This has created something of a civil war in many Islamic nations as they finally confront the growing threat of Islamic radicalism.
Meanwhile, the Islamic radicals have seen themselves beaten at every turn. The original goal of the Islamic terrorists was the expulsion of all infidels (non-Moslems) from the Middle East. Beyond that, they wanted to revive the caliphate (all Moslem nations united in one large entity governed by Islamic law) and convert the entire planet to Islam. Before September 11, 2001, the United States and Europeans treated the growing Islamic radicalism as a police matter. On September 11, 2001, it became clear that the police approach wasnt working. Within three months, the United States had invaded Afghanistan and removed the Taliban from power, and al Qaeda from their bases. Al Qaeda members in North America and Europe were hunted down and arrested in large numbers. All this just made the Islamic radicals in the Middle East angrier, and eager for revenge. Then came the invasion of Iraq. Al Qaeda members, and supporters, from all over the Middle East went to Iraq to join the fight. Most of them died. Now there were more infidels than ever in the Middle East. Terrorist attacks against the infidels in their homelands were declining. Local governments in the Middle East were attacking al Qaeda wherever it could be found. Al Qaeda condemned democracy as un-Islamic, but free elections were held in Iraq and Afghanistan for the first time in decades.
Most Europeans, and many Americans, disagreed with the Iraq invasion, and continued to believe that more of a police approach was the way to go. Well never know if that strategy would have worked, although it certainly failed in the 1990s. What we do know is that the Islamic terrorists are losing. But as long as Islamic radicalism continues to be so popular in the Moslem world, the threat of massive casualties from terrorist attacks remains. It's going to be a long war.
The war on terror grinds on, with no agreement on who is winning. Actually, the terrorists are losing, but thats not news. The reason theres no agreement on this has a lot to do with how the media business operates, and how politicians react to uncertain threats. To succeed in the news business, you have to get out there with exciting news. If you cover terrorism, that means lots of stories about impending, or potential, terrorist, attacks. Terrorism makes for great news. By definition, terrorism is scary. If you have some active terrorist groups out there, all you need is a few real, or suspected threats from them to provide an ample supply of scary stories.