Is Terrorism a Serious Threat to International and National Security?

Terrorism is without doubt the most addressed security threat of this century. The ensuing response to this threat by both the developed and developing countries raises many questions. Terrorism dates back to 66AD when the first terrorism-like incidences were first witnessed in Palestine. Therefore, terrorism is not in way a new phenomenon. However, there have been disagreements over what really constitutes terrorism. This is because acts of terrorism and acts of war are often hard to distinguish.

For instance, in the 1980s the United States’ government joined ranks with the Islamist group Mujahedeen when the group was battling the Soviet Army (Glassner, 1999). This group later transformed itself to the modern day Taliban. Currently, there are various threats to national security other than terrorism. Given the current situation, it is often questioned whether terrorism is an actual serious threat to international and national security. This paper will argue that terrorism is just one security threat among other threats. Therefore, it is not a serious security threat to both national and international security.

Terrorism is defined as the “threat of violence and use of fear to coerce, persuade, and gain public attention” (Williams, 2008). Given this definition of terrorism, it is important to investigate the perception of this threat. It is a fact that terrorists pose a threat to the United States. However, this is just a threat among other threats. These other threats can be defined using past statistics. In the United States, traffic accidents are the leading cause of non-violent deaths. The number of such deaths was over three hundred and eighty thousand in the period between 1999 and 2007.

The leading cause of violent deaths during this same period was suicide followed by homicide both recording over a hundred thousand incidences each (Williams, 2008). The numbers for terrorism during this same period were less than three thousand. These numbers do not explain the position of terrorism as a leading security threat. Instead, they diminish the likelihood of terrorism being a serious security threat. The impact of terrorism on human lives is almost negligible compared to other causes of death. For example, homicides through firearms accounted for over one hundred thousand deaths. These statistics would prioritize the gun control issue over terrorism. Statistics indicate a pattern of exaggeration in regards to terrorism.

According to records, there have been less than five terror incidences in the United States over the last twenty-five years. This is excluding incidences of “attempted” terrorist attacks. These statistics are further prove that the issue that has dominated the list of serious security threats is rarer than incidences of political assassinations. Those opposing this argument are of the view that the magnitude of terrorism is worth noting. For instance, the 2001 attack by Al-Qeida caused over three thousand fatalities at once. This argument leans on the only one time this threat materialized. However, considering the time it took for this to happen, terrorism is not yet a serious threat.

The other factor that is responsible for blowing the terrorism issue out of proportion is media coverage. For an issue to be considered serious, the media has to play an important role. For example, before media coverage was focused on the global warming issue nobody considered it a serious threat. The way this issue was covered and the way terrorism is covered, represent two different approaches.

When covering global warming, a lot of real and practical evidence is presented. However, media coverage on terrorism includes several imagined scenarios. For instance, whenever a suspected terrorist is arrested, the media accompanies this matter with bloody images that supposedly represent the terrorist’s intentions. The issue is then given undue media coverage. Analysts are brought in media houses to discuss whether the government is doing enough, whether the battle against terrorism can be won, and other exaggerated issues.

The post 9/11 America is good example of what sensationalism can accomplish. Analysts have argued that “The Edge of Disaster” report did more harm than good (Abrams, 2006). It mislead many Americans, some as young as twelve years old into believing that the country was under siege. Later on, it became clear that the 2001 attacks were most likely an isolated incidence. There are those who believe that this coverage does not “sensationalize” but it “informs”. After two decades of intense media coverage of terrorism, the only party that seems to have benefited is that of the terrorists. Some of them have almost gained celebrity status as a result of this coverage. The media is one of the agents responsible for transforming terrorism into a “serious security threat”.

Another way to prove that terrorism is not a serious threat is by investigating how politicians use this issue. Politicians only address the issue of terrorism in forums that are likely to increase their popularity. For instance, this issue has featured prominently in the last two American presidential elections.

However, most of the issues raised by politicians are only meant to discredit their opponents. Accusations range from certain politicians being “soft on terror”, to others having the “pre/post 9/11 mentality”. Accusations like these are meant to give prominence to the terrorism issue. The United States instituted the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq using such politics. This distortion of facts can also be financially motivated. Some government agencies use politicians to push such agendas so that their departments can justify increased budgetary allocations. The same tactic is used by government contractors. For example, defense contractors may want to magnify this issue in order to gain more contracts (Wardlaw, 1982). This is why no one should be fooled into thinking terrorism is such a major threat. All one has to do is to read between the lines whenever the politicians are talking.

Another reason why citizens are currently concerned with the terror threat is because the issue has found its way into their inner psychology. A recent study investigating how human brains process information revealed that human brains have the capacity to distort judgments. The brain can accomplish this by exaggerating the information that suggests the likelihood of a loss. Whenever this negativity is exaggerated, the gains of a particular issue tend to be ignored. This is one of the processes responsible for exaggerating the terrorism issue. Psychologists also suggest that posttraumatic stress can help exaggerate the terrorism issue. Due to the repeated display of the events of 9/11, most Americans might be suffering from posttraumatic stress syndrome. Therefore, they live in the fear that these events might reoccur. Unless this condition is treated, most of the affected people are likely to continue considering terrorism a security threat.

Unbalanced media coverage, dishonest politicians, and psychological afflictions are all factors that aid in exaggerating the terrorism issue. Stakeholders should take initiatives that ensure that this minimum-risk issue is dealt with accordingly. If this is not done, countries will continue to misdirect their resources. The truth is that these resources could be used to mitigate real security threats.


Abrams, M. (2006). Why terrorism does not work. International Security, 31(2), 42-48.

Glassner, B. (1999). The Culture of Fear. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Wardlaw, G. (1982). Political Terrorism. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Williams, P. (2008). Security Studies: An Introduction. Abingdon, CA: Routledge.

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"Is Terrorism a Serious Threat to International and National Security?" Premium Papers, 26 Dec. 2022,


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Premium Papers. 2022. "Is Terrorism a Serious Threat to International and National Security?" December 26, 2022.

1. Premium Papers. "Is Terrorism a Serious Threat to International and National Security?" December 26, 2022.


Premium Papers. "Is Terrorism a Serious Threat to International and National Security?" December 26, 2022.