Ten years ago, on October 13, Australians woke to the horrific news from Bali that 202 people had been killed in two suicide bombings in Kuta the night before, 88 of them fellow Australians. It does not seem like 10 years ago - although no doubt for the families of the victims it must seem longer because they live daily with the consequences.
Terrorism is a form of conflict although, unlike conventional conflict, the targets are usually civilians, with the main aim being to influence governments to change their policies. Over the years, the terrorism actors and causes have changed and, at different times since the 19th century, the terror has come from revolutionaries, anarchists, fascists, neo-Nazis, decolonisers, Marxist Leninists, socialists, Islamist extremists and the extreme right. The next wave might be environmental extremists or those against migration or social change.
A separate category to terrorism by groups and individuals is state terrorism, in which the nation state engages in killing sectors of the population. There are states today, such as Syria and Russia that engage in terrorism against their citizens, but internationally this issue is mostly put in the too-hard-basket because stopping it requires external intervention with uncertain outcomes, as we discovered in Iraq.
To date, 170 Australians have died in acts of terrorism over 145 years. Since 2000, 128 Australians have died, all of them outside Australia (excluding members of the military). We are continually building memorials to our military dead, but perhaps we should think about a monument on Anzac Parade to the many Australian victims of terrorism. After all, they have been the deliberate victims of a militant campaign, sometimes because of their nationality. Civilians also die in military campaigns, but not as the intended target.
I am sure the average Australian on the street believes we are on top of the terrorism problem - but this is not borne out by the international statistics over the past 10 years.
For 2001, the US State Department's authoritative Patterns of Global Terrorism reported that there were 325 attacks and 3295 deaths from terrorism. For 2011, the US National Counterterrorism Centre (which took on the databasing role) reported that there were more than 10,000 attacks and 12,500 deaths. In other words, even if you take 2001 as the base year, when there was a surge of 3000 extra deaths due to the September 11 attacks, the world is experiencing nearly four times that number of terrorism-related deaths a year.
In 2001 the main areas for terrorism deaths were North America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East - in that order. In 2011, the top 10 nation states for terrorism deaths were Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria, India, Colombia, Thailand, Russia and Sudan - in that order.
That there have been no successfully completed attacks in Australia since September 11, 2001, has bred political and public complacency, although 39 people have been charged in relation to terrorism offences, and 23 convicted. This complacency has led to erosion of counter-terrorism budgets and a refocusing of security intelligence on espionage, both cyber and insider collection. Inevitably, cutbacks in funding affect information-sharing because agencies tend to keep the best information to themselves to encourage their stakeholders to give them more resources.
It is likely that because of travel controls and better counter-terrorism intelligence, our main problems in the future will be from small groups resident in Australia who have become radicalised by a charismatic person, through reading Inspire, the online magazine of the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) organisation, or through networking on Facebook. There are now more than 43 million Arab Facebook users and keeping track of extremists' communications on Facebook has become a major intelligence challenge. Encryption options like Mujahedeen Secrets 2 mean that communication is now more secure, as well.
Another concern is the lone wolf attacker who could be an Islamist or a right wing loner, such as Norway's Anders Behring Breivik. This category can include fixated mentally disturbed individuals such as American Jared Lee Loughner, who shot US politician Gabrielle Giffords - such a person might or might not be politically motivated.
Terrorists have become much cleverer at circumventing bomb detection capabilities, as demonstrated by AQAP master bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri's undetected printer cartridge bomb in 2010 and this year's underwear bomb mark two. While terrorists are always looking for new ways of obtaining publicity for their cause, in Australia the ANFO bomb, using a combination of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, remains the likely weapon of choice, rather than something technically difficult.
The US's inadvertent association with the film Innocence of Muslims, occupation of Muslim lands, support of Israel, sometime support of authoritarian rulers - as in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and drone-killing of influential terrorists, will continue to make it the main target of Islamic terrorists - particularly its accessible diplomatic missions. As a strong supporter of the US, our diplomatic missions could become a secondary target in the future.
Many analysts heralded the Arab Spring as the demise of al-Qaeda's north African and Middle East influence. On the contrary, it has created opportunities in societies that now have little central control and a proliferation of weapons, including, possibly, surface-to-air-missiles. The one thing that could be said for authoritarian rulers such as Saddam, Gaddafi and Mubarak was that they were efficient at removing extremist elements.
In conclusion, we have a long way to go before we see the end of the wave of terrorist violence that began with the 1998 East Africa bombings, September 11 and Bali, and there is certainly no good reason for complacency. But as they say in Canada, ''Be aware, but not scared'', and ensure you refer to the government's excellent smarttraveller.gov.au website before you go overseas.
Clive Williams is an Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University's Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, and a Visiting Professor at the ANU's Australian Centre for Military and Security Law.