Terrorism Manifestations

Terrorism Manifestations

Jonathan R. White (Grand Valley State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5776-2.ch004
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This chapter examines the tactical aspects of terrorism. It begins by focusing on the nature of war and conflict in the 21st century, suggesting that technology, economic structures, and communication have changed the way war is waged. It argues that small groups of aggrieved people may conduct campaigns of unconventional warfare against individual nations or international alliances. Although such violence is manifested in many ways, it is typically labeled as “terrorism.” The chapter also demonstrates how large groups and nation states may participate in terrorist activities by either using terrorist tactics or supporting terrorist groups. The next part of the chapter focuses on the specific actions that constitute the tactics of terrorism, examining tactical innovations within various campaigns. The chapter concludes with an analysis of tactical force multipliers, and it introduces the role of the media within this context.
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Tactics And Ideologies

Terrorism is ever changing. Terrorist organizations change tactics and strategies frequently, which can strain the capabilities of authorities to respond effectively (Thackrah, 2013). If security forces can chart the organizational structure of terrorist groups, they can be tracked and destroyed. As a result, terrorists seek to form complex organizations and networks (Latora & Marchioni, 2004). They change structures over time and operate with extended secrecy (White, 2012). Such changes allow groups to maintain complex social networks (Sageman, 2004). Thus, flexibly means survival. When a network is penetrated, security and flexibility are compromised giving security forces an opportunity to destroy key links inside the organization (Arquilla & Ronfeldt, 1996; Arquilla, Ronfeldt, & Zanini, 1999).

It is important to note that terrorism is not new. Distinguished scholars such as Walter Laqueur (1999) trace terrorism back for hundreds of years. However, massive death and destruction require modernity and technology. Modern terrorists wage a war in the shadows, blurring the distinction between war and peace. Access to instruments that can kill hundreds of people at a time and the ability to deliver death from great distances is a product of the modern world (Burleigh, 2009). Terrorism is a form of communication, and operations vary in terms of the message. In other words, terrorists operate within an informational aura while targeting a specific audience; operations change with the meaning of the message and its receiving audience. Today, small numbers of like-minded people can gather on an international level and wreak havoc that was unimaginable in the past. Their message and violence are communicated immediately throughout the world (Hoffman, 2006).

Various scholars and analysts believe that the tactics of terrorism are simple (Brackett, 1996; Jenkins, 1987; O’Connor, 2006; Parachini, 2003; White, 2012). Although they can be described and grouped in a variety of ways, terrorist tactics involve shootings (e.g., assassinations, drive-bys, random assaults, etc.), physical assault, bombing, arson, and other forms of control mediated by violence (e.g., kidnappings, hostage incidents, hijackings, etc.).

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