The Only Thing That Can Be Predicted About Islamic Terror

I'll just give you the headline and the subheader. "I Calculated Ethnic Groups’ Rates Of U.S. Terrorism. Here Are The Results: Falling vending machines and children’s balloons claim more American lives than would admitting 36,000 Uzbek immigrants."

It reads like Vox and the author, Lyman Stone, has written for Vox. But it's actually at the Federalist. Which often reads like a conservative version of Vox. So that works out.

The essay is a work of art. In the worst possible way. 

Its author, you see has calculated things. And his calculations show that almost no one will be killed by Uzbek immigrants. Despite the recent terrorist attack by an Uzbeki Muslim terrorist.

In other words, if we were to admit 36,000 more Uzbeks, it would be reasonable to expect one person to be charged with a terror-related offense. The most likely outcome of that terror-related offense is that zero people would be injured and zero people would die; however, it’s plausible to consider that the risk could be as high as two people injured and two people killed, if we use averages instead of medians.

To be clear, that’s not one more terrorism-related incident killing or injuring 0-4 people per year, that’s one more terrorism-related incident killing or injuring 0-4 people ever. In other words, falling vending machines and children’s balloons claim more American lives than would admitting 36,000 Uzbek immigrants.

I wonder what the statistical estimate would have been in 1999 for the number of Americans killed by admitting a few more Saudis to this country.

The key factor is not actually country of origin. Christians and Jews from Uzbekistan are not going to be running over people for ISIS. It's religion. Religion is the variable that cuts across countries of origin.

Country of origin can indicate a higher risk. But we don't remotely have enough information to be able to calculate that with any degree of reliability. After we've been doing this for a few more decades, maybe we'll have a better read on how likely an Egyptian or Algerian immigrant is to start massacring people.

But it won't be a very good read.

Islamic terrorists are less driven by country of origin than by religion. Stone notes that Somalis stick out. But that's largely because of their involvement in domestic terrorism in their own country. Ditto for Yemen. Quite a few of the Somali and Yemeni cases involved aid to terrorists back home. Until the rise of ISIS, such cases were more likely to be linked to specific countries. With ISIS, Muslims from various countries of origin were more likely to get involved.

But this has only so much to do with Islamic terrorism in the United States. Much of that recruitment has taken place online. 

Nor is past performance predictive of future performance. Calculations like these are meaningless. If the latest terror attack in New York City had gone the way it was intended to, the death toll might have looked more like the worst Car Jihad attacks in Germany and France. 

The types of attacks keep changing. As does the range of potential terrorists.

We don't really know what the average terrorist attack will look like 10-15 years from now. That will depend on quite a few factors including geopolitical developments, technological shifts, tactical evolutions and numerous other factors.

Anyone claiming, as Stone does, that the risk factor for Uzbek terrorists ever can be predicted either has magical powers or doesn't understand the subject.

What we do know is that risk has been steadily increasing. And we know where the risk comes from. The risk is ideological. American converts to Islam and Islamic immigrants both carry that risk. The only certain prediction about Islamic terrorism that can be made is that it grows worse as the population of risk carriers increases.