Friday 27 Apr 2018 | 05:30 | SYDNEY
Friday 27 Apr 2018 | 05:30 | SYDNEY

A new terrorism (part 1)


Sam Roggeveen


11 March 2008 11:04

Tim Dunlop of Blogocracy was kind enough to link to a post I wrote last week advocating 'resilience' as the centrepiece of our counter-terrorism strategy. Re-reading that post, I see that my description of the terrorist threat needs some refinement. Based largely on my reading of this excellent blog, I'm coming around to the idea that, while the terrorist threat has been exaggerated, that only applies to terrorism as it is currently practised. If terrorists ever figure out that they could do us a great deal more harm by changing their tactics, we could be in a lot more trouble.

Terrorist action as we currently know it — bombings, kidnappings, shootings etc — is not an existential threat to any Western country. After all, the very worst that al Qaeda could throw at us, the 9/11 attacks, caused little more than a ripple in America's economic performance and did not substantially weaken America's constitution or polity. What has undermined America's economy and constitution is its reaction to the terrorist threat, which is why I said in the previous post that, although terrorists cannot undermine our way of life, we can do it ourselves if we over-react to the threat.

We must assume that groups like al Qaeda will one day realise their present strategy won't succeed, and that they will change to overcome this. One widely discussed way they could do this is to employ a strategy of higher destructiveness by acquiring WMD. But nuclear and biological weapons are very hard to build or acquire, and chemical weapons are not that destructive. So the WMD threat is less worrying than is sometimes portrayed.

A much simpler strategy would be to focus on mass disruption. I'll say more about this in a follow-up post.