November 19, 2009
Concern about terrorism varies significantly around the world, with the highest levels found in the Middle East, South Asia, and Western Europe—all regions that have suffered significant terrorist attacks. Despite 9/11, Americans are only average in their level of concern. Download full chapter (PDF).
In most countries polled, a majority of the public has negative feelings about al-Qaeda, but in some countries (majority-Muslim, in most cases), these are only pluralities, and significant numbers have positive or mixed views of al-Qaeda. Worldwide, the numbers expressing positive views of Osama bin Laden have declined, but in some predominantly Muslim countries, one-fifth to one-third still express positive views toward him. Download full chapter (PDF).
Large majorities around the world think the UN Security Council should have the right to authorize military force to stop a country from supporting terrorist groups. Download full chapter (PDF).
In North America and Europe, publics mostly give poor marks to the quality of transatlantic cooperation against terrorism. In the European Union, publics on average also give the European Union’s performance against terrorism a lukewarm assessment, while a large majority thinks more decision-making on terrorism should take place at the European level. Download full chapter (PDF).
In the struggle between the United States and al-Qaeda, the predominant view among world publics is that neither side is winning and that the “war on terror” has not weakened al-Qaeda. In recent years most have also seen the war in Iraq as increasing the likelihood of terrorist attacks around the world. Download full chapter (PDF).
Majorities or pluralities in most nations reject the view that, when dealing with terrorism suspects, rules against torture and the secret holding of detainees should be relaxed. However, in several countries majorities favor making an exception when dealing with a terrorist suspect who may have information that may save innocent lives. Majorities in the United States, Britain, Germany, and Poland, and a plurality in India endorse provisions of the Geneva Conventions that forbid detainees being held in secret or without access by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Download full chapter (PDF).
In 2006, majorities in Great Britain, Germany, and Poland (and a plurality in India) believed that U.S. detention policies in place at Guantanamo were illegal, whereas a slight majority of people in the United States believed they were legal. In none of the five countries—including the United States—did a majority or plurality think the United States seeks to enforce a policy against torture in interrogations. Only minorities supported allowing the United States to use their country’s airspace for rendition of a terrorist suspect to another country, if that country had a reputation for using torture. Download full chapter (PDF).
In seventeen countries worldwide, majorities in only nine of those countries believe al-Qaeda was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks—though in none of the other countries does a majority agree on a different possible perpetrator. Even in European countries, the majorities that say al-Qaeda was behind September 11 are not large. Publics in the Middle East are especially likely to name a different perpetrator (Israel or the United States itself). Download full chapter (PDF).
Special operations play a critical role in how the United States confronts irregular threats, but to have long-term strategic impact, the author argues, numerous shortfalls must be addressed.
The author analyzes the potentially serious consequences, both at home and abroad, of a lightly overseen drone program and makes recommendations for improving its governance.
Published by the Council on Foreign Relations since 1922
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