The Evolution of Terrorism Threats

The Evolution of Terrorism Threats

Ranieri Razzante (University of Bologna, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1286-9.ch017
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Terrorism is relatively recent in history, but in this short time, it has experienced a radical and progressive change in many ways. Starting from the teaching of the Athenian historian Thucydides, it is necessary to trace a brief history of terrorism to better understand a phenomenon that has proven extremely dynamic and complex. Born in France at the end of the 18th century, it was an instrument of intimidation and repression that was very useful for authoritarian regimes that took power over the centuries, but it was even more so for non-state actors who later used such violent actions to counteract the states. Today, the threat of terrorism is very different from the past: it is global, indiscriminate, and mostly of a political-religious nature, placing the need to review security measures and adapt them to new circumstances.
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At the end of 1900, European-American governments and analysts have put forward the hope that, with the end of an era marked by disastrous interstate conflicts and rivalry between powers, a new one would be opened, characterized by the transition to the democracy and the free market of an increasing number of States. Such positiveness derived from the first openings of the former Communist countries, many of which were preparing to enter into close relations with the European Union, from the acceleration of the globalization, thanks to which the world was more interconnected, but above all by the assumption that, after having fought two world wars and faced the effects of the abuses committed by the totalitarian regimes, any government wanted to face a new phase of rivalry between powers. However, the perspective of a new phase of relations and, of the international system characterized by peace and international security has had to set aside. To threaten it, there are no more the interstate dynamics, but the intra-state ones. In facts, once the danger of a nuclear escalation has been set aside – at least for the moment – old ethnic, religious and politics hostility, that have remained largely latent inside single States, has come to the light. The beginning of the new millennium thus has inaugurated a new season of conflicts, which although differed among them for many aspects, they presented some peculiar characteristics including: the asymmetry of the parts, which involves a substantial disproportion between the respective strength of the belligerents (as in the case of a confrontation between a State and a non-state actor) and the potential “lack of limits of the war”, which refers both to its extension beyond the boundaries of State borders, and to the involvement of civilians, but also to the possibility that to fight is used various methods and tools (Hoffman, 2007, p. 22). Both concepts allow us to delineate the main features of what are known as “hybrid threats”, from which the States have tried to defend themselves in the last decades, trying to adapt their own political and military strategies. Although the new forms of conflict involve the use of various tactics by the weaker actor to succeed in putting in difficulty the rival, the one that has become more known and how continuous to be perceived by governments, citizens and international institutions as the most pressing it is without doubt the terrorism. To well look, this is not a completely new phenomenon; however, previously the topic had not been widely debated within the international bodies, just as it was not addressed with interest by the western press. In effects, the terrorism of the '900s, were perceived as “far”, in time or space, and for this reason the understanding of which was not considered neither urgent nor influential on the daily life. With the attacks of September 11th 2001 on the American soil all this changes. Shortly after the tragic event, which has caused the death of 2,996 people and wounded more than 6,000, US President, George W. Bush, has declared the beginning of the “war to the terrorism”, a multidimensional campaign of almost unlimited that, precisely for this reason, it has continued over the years with undoubted consequences in terms of criticisms, retaliations and deaths. At the same time, this date is become symbolic of a new condition in which every person, regardless of the geographical place in which he resides and from the profession he or she performs, could be victim of an attack. The terrorists' new targets progressively become civilians, guilty only of having found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, marking a fundamental watershed among those that many analysts have defined the “old” and the “new” terrorism, marked by a constant state of alert and fear (Spencer, 2006, p. 4-5).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Radicalization: A process by which an individual, or group, comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that reject or undermine the status quo, or the ideas of his Nation.

FAFT: The Financial Action Task Force is an intergovernmental body established in 1989 with the primary objective of promoting strategies for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and, starting from 2008, weapons of mass destruction.

Returnees: Men and women who left their homes in the West to join ISIS or similar terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq as fighters or supporters now want to come home.

ISIS: The “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” is one of the most powerful terrorist organizations which in the 2014 establishment a so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Al-Qaeda: A militant Sunni Islamist multi-national organization founded in 1988, which has the goal of removal of all foreign influences in Muslim countries and the creation of a new caliphate ruling over the entire Muslim world.

Foreign Terrorist Fighters: Individuals who have travelled from their home states to other states to participate in or support terrorist acts, including in the context of armed conflict, especially in Iraq and Syria.

Terrorism: There is no an universal definition, but we can affirm that is an anxiety-inspired method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-)clandestine individuals, groups, or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal, or political reasons, whereby – in contrast to assassination – the direct targets of violence are not the main targets.

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