A bold prediction for 2019: more terrorism!

Every end of year we are inundated with two phenomena in our newspapers, TV broadcasts and Web sites. These two are: the year that was and the year that will be. The former recaps the important events of the 12 months drawing to an end and always includes, and I am not sure why, a list of who died over that period (NB only the important people, like actors and performance artists and politicians, not nobodies like you and me). The latter attempts to predict what will happen over the next 365 days and some even put probability figures to these future events (here is an example from today’s Globe and Mail).

I am not a big fan of prediction. I rarely know what the basis for all these forecasts is or why the author claims to have a clairvoyance the rest of us don’t have. When I was still in intelligence circles we used to get a CIA futures document that tried to look 10-15 year down the road and point out hotspots to watch out for. I’d love to go back and see just how accurate those attempts were (we in Canada emulated this exercise on at least one occasion and I was part of it, although I had no idea what I wrote or how much confidence I had in my prognostications – I am guessing not much).

Regardless of my skepticism, in the spirit of the day here is my shot at predicting what will transpire in 2019. It is neither long-winded nor complicated. In a word – ok two words – I am predicting…more terrorism.

2019 has already started on a violent footing with at least five incidents investigated as terrorist attacks:

Nevertheless, we were told by many in senior government levels at year’s end that either terrorism is on the wane or that many terrorists had been ‘neutralised’ last year (which presumably means fewer alive to act in 2019):

Despite this optimism, the last two weeks of 2018 should have been a reminder that terrorism is far from over. There were successful attacks in Morocco, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Somalia, to name but a few, and peremptory arrests of those planning attacks in Sweden, the Netherlands and India. None of this strikes me as indicative of a decrease in terrorist activity.

At the same time it is paramount that we keep all this in perspective. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: terrorism is NOT an existential threat. We must ensure that reporting on violent extremism and our reaction to it are measured and proportionate to the risk. Inflating that risk is helpful to no one.

So yes we will suffer more attacks in 2019 but we will also see successes, thanks largely to our men and women in the intelligence and law enforcement world. Once we accept that we cannot ‘defeat’ terrorism anymore than we can ‘defeat’ drugs or poverty, we will be in a better place and our policies and programs will be more realistic.

Having said all this negative stuff, I’d like to wish each and every one of my readers a happy 2019!

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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