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New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction

NCJ Number
Walter Laqueur
Date Published
316 pages
This book recounts the history of terrorism and examines the future of terrorist activity worldwide.
Terrorism has existed for centuries, but entered modern times during the Napoleonic Wars in Spain and Russia. With the end of the Second World War, the terrorist action shifted from Europe to the Middle East and Asia, although it was not limited to those areas. Making generalizations about terrorism is difficult because groups are small and it stems from repression and social inequities. Rarely, do terrorists want to take over the government. It takes careful planning to execute a terrorist attack. In the past a dagger would do, but today chemical and biological warfare are being waged. Although a nuclear threat is always possible, some experts believe that it is an overrated nightmare. Cyberattacks have opened up possibilities for terrorists that didn't exist before. Cyberattacks are expected to come not only from transnational organized crime and espionage agencies but also from terrorists. Traditionally, terrorists have had distinct motives and ideological orientations. The innovation in the last part of the 20th century is the appearance of radical religious nationalist groups adopting terrorism. Typical features of terrorists include fanaticism and the willingness to commit suicide. Terrorism from the far right is a psychological phenomenon. Members tend to be predominately male and, in contrast to other terrorist groups, not very young. There have been sporadic, but numerous attacks, such as the bombing in Oklahoma City and a natural-gas pipeline in Arkansas being dynamited. Right-wing terrorism shows common patterns from Russia to the United States. Much of the terrorism is single-issue in character. Twenty years ago, global terrorism was secular in inspiration and orientation, but since then there has been a worldwide resurgence of radical religious movements. State-sponsored terrorism is as old as the history of military conflict. It was a cheaper alternative to perpetual war with neighbors. Sometimes it was defensive, to prevent aggression from enemies; other times it was offensive, to weaken the neighbor. Libya, Iran, and Iraq participate in modern state-sponsored terrorism. Exotic terrorism involves groups that use social and ethnic protests combined with a primitive ideology, such as Peru's The Shining Path. The ideology behind ecoterrorism rests on two assumptions: nature has been despoiled by man and there was once harmony in nature. As little as 50 years ago, the line between terrorism and organized crime was clear, but more recently terrorism and organized crime have merged into a symbiosis, such as in Columbia with the drug cartels. Political and ideological motivations will recede as fanaticism, whether sectarian, ethnic, or just personal move into the foreground. State-sponsored terrorism, as well as nuclear terrorism, will continue into the foreseeable future. Terrorist activities aimed at information technology will continue to be destructive, but on a primitive level. Often terrorism is driven by mentally unbalanced people. Other motivations include apocalyptic beliefs, hatred against other groups, hopelessness, and delusions or personal grievances. Terrorists may appear on the fringes of any new extremist movement. Index