by Scott Sewart, STRATFOR
Reviewed by John Handley, Vice President American Diplomacy
In the Stratfor 23 February 2012 publication entitled “The Myth of the End of Terrorism” by Scott Stewart, the author appears to assume that somehow or another, people the world over have concluded that terrorism has ended. He does not provide any evidence to support the myth’s existence, but he does provide an interesting insight into the evolution of terrorism from the state-sponsored terrorism of the Cold War to what the author terms today as “unequipped grassroots wannabes.” He credits the Crowe Commission’s review of the 1998 bombing attacks against US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, as well as the 9/11 Commission report as pointing out the neglect of counterterrorism and security programs. In order to address these shortcomings, Washington spent billions of dollars creating organizations and funding programs that were not really needed since the threats they were designed to counter did not exist. The author believes that the death of Osama bin Laden and the fall of Libya’s Gadhafi will lead others to believe that terrorism is dead.
The author defines terrorism as “politically motivated violence against noncombatants.” Although many terrorist acts have a religious element, that element is related to a larger political one. Terrorism, as such, is employed by a variety of actors. The type of weapon used does not define terrorism. Terrorism is usually directed toward soft targets and often against targets from which the assailant shows no concern about surviving. Terrorist attacks are unique in that they impact human awareness in ways often stronger than much greater natural disasters, such as the less than 3,000 killed on 9/11 compared to over 227,000 killed in the 2004 Asian tsunami.
Terrorism is changing in that, as mentioned above, there is less organization and training from state actors while today’s terrorists focus on individuals bent on destroying themselves and whomever else they might kill or maim by blowing themselves up with a suicide back-pack. The author does mention that one state, Iran, remains actively involved in training terrorists, most recently in Bangkok. Iranians hope to use terrorism to retaliate against Israel and its supporters for perceived interference in Iran’s nuclear development program. The problem today, the author asserts, is that the threat of terrorism comes largely from individuals, foreign and domestic, who have a grudge against the government. Regardless of changes within the current geo-political cycle, terrorism, in one form or another, is here to stay.