Ongoing terrorist activities and insurgencies, in whatever configurations they come in and no matter what local conflicts they are involved in, constitute the primary warfare threat facing the international community today.
Having said this, the threat of a nuclear armed Iran will have major implications not only in the region but directly on the United States and its allies and interests globally. The changes we are currently witness to in Africa and the Middle East will no doubt continue to provide a strong backbone for the radical extremist sympathizer. The “uprisings” of those who are democratically minded and seek real liberal change in the way their countries have been governed being squashed by the more organized and more experienced conservative and religious sectors who would like to see the religious laws they abide by be enforced will no doubt bring these views to the streets of Western society and pose more difficult challenges on the classic policing systems enforced currently.
After September 2001, al Qaida demonstrated that it had achieved its ambitions to inflict catastrophic chaos, bloodshed and costly damages on its adversaries around the world. In other conflicts, such as the Palestinian-Israeli arena, terrorist rebellions are primarily localized and perhaps more easily controlled.
More than ten years have gone past since the tragic attack and modern day declaration of war on America, and still, because of the worldwide reach of al Qaida and its affiliates, including the spontaneous emergence of al Qaida-inspired groupings and cells in Western Europe, North America, Africa and elsewhere, many nations have been upgrading their homeland security defenses and calling on their academic communities to provide analytical understanding of the nature and magnitude of the threat and how to counteract and resolve it.
Even with many top al Qaida leaders and figureheads being eliminated from this conflict, the philosophy and psychology of this now embedded , out in the open, declaration of a clash in cultures and al Qaida inspired doctrine will take generations to eradicate.
As a result, terrorism courses, research institutes and certificate programs have been proliferating at universities and other academic institutions around the world with only an academic understanding through analysis and not a ground level, street wise understanding of the psych that instills the mind of the potential terrorist. Despite the great attention being devoted to terrorism studies; however, there is no consensus about the most fundamental starting point in terrorism studies: how to define terrorism trends.
Defining terrorism is no doubt the most ambiguous component in terrorism studies, with no universally accepted definition that differentiates attacks against civilian noncombatants or armed military or takes into account the latest trends in terrorist objectives and warfare.
The terrorism trend today is no doubt a much stronger form of violent struggle in which violence is deliberately used against civilians in order to achieve political goals (nationalistic, socioeconomic, ideological, religious, criminal, etc.).” The use of ‘deliberate’ targeting of civilians in order to achieve political objectives is what distinguishes a terrorist act from guerrilla warfare, where military units are targeted. The trauma and carnage created by terror events have long term effects on all involved and at all levels of community.
Most definitions of terrorism used in the analytical community focus on the use of terrorism to “influence” or “coerce” the targeted audience by spreading fear beyond the localized incident throughout the wider society. However, as demonstrated by the attacks of 9/11 in New York and Washington and 3/11 in Madrid, groups such as al Qaeda (and its affiliates) also intend to cause their adversaries massive human casualties and physical destruction. Thus we have seen and will witness a new component in the definition that might include a mass destruction component of terrorism alongside the “lone wolf’ component” both of which have devastating effects on society but the mass terrorism will be played out massively in the media, which is a manifestation of the latest trends in terrorist warfare.
Who may be a “terrorist.”?
There are many academic theories as to this question however the obvious key phrases below will always define the answer;
- Fund raising (soliciting funds)
- Individuals who receive military training from terrorist groups
- Individuals who “aspire” to commit violence in Internet chat rooms
- Individuals who belong to political, social, or other groups that endorse or espouse terrorist activity
- Individuals who endorse terrorist activity or persuade others to espouse such activity
- Engage in incitement to violence (e.g., religious preachers)
- Individuals who possess knowledge of an imminent operation by others but do not inform the authorities
- Belonging to a terrorist group (or “loosely” affiliated); or
- Being a “self-recruited” individual (“lone wolf”) who engages in terrorist activities.
To conclude, another definitional problem we as law enforcement officers are faced with, concerns counter-terrorism and homeland security.
These terms are usually placed under the overall umbrella of combating terrorism, with anti-terrorism considered as largely defensive and “homeland security” oriented (e.g., involving law enforcement and judicial measures, as well as critical infrastructure protection), while counter-terrorism is viewed as the offensive (e.g., involving military and other “foreign” measures).
However, the transnational nature of contemporary terrorism is leading to the blurring of the distinctions between defending national interests overseas and the “homeland,” thereby necessitating a new conceptualization of counter-terrorism and homeland security.
In posing a question to fellow law enforcement officers and officials, I ask;
Is terrorism not a tactic of warfare involving premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated by sub-national groups or clandestine agents against any citizen of a state, whether civilian or military, to influence, coerce, and, if possible, cause mass casualties and physical destruction upon their targets?
By Marc Kahlberg, CEO and Owner of MK International Security Consulting Ltd “MK ISC” and Chairman of the American Israel Counter Terror Officers Organization was born in South Africa and served in the South African military.