This memoir serves as a powerful work laying bare what it is like to experience a terrorist attack. It also serves as a fitting warning of our need to learn, and sadly often re-learn, the lessons of the past to prevent future failures from occurring.
Terror tactics are used for different reasons depending on the time of the civil war. Once the war has begun, terrorism is used to stimulate it. Before or in the beginning of the civil war, terrorism is used to convince the local population of the need for a revolution by attempting to change the beliefs of the people and intentionally getting them on board with violent methods. At the end of the war, terror tactics have been used to delegitimize the peace.
Understanding Western precepts of Just War Theory, analogous concepts within Islamic jurisprudence, and analyzing militant Islamic movement actions against them may offer strategists and policymakers philosophical means from which to attack the legitimacy of militant Islamic movements and thereby weaken their critical popular support.
Due to the overwhelming emphasis on extremist organizations claiming religious motivation, it is too easy for groups such as the Conspiracy to get lost in the background. Allowing this might prove to be a costly mistake. Last month’s G20 summit in Hamburg and the CCF prisoner solidarity riots in Athens serve as a reminder of what these anarchist collectives are capable. The United States would be remiss to place such a destructive force on the backburner.
There is no such thing as terrorism. There is only war. Although Westerners typically do not agree because the West has narrowed its definition of war to preference certain acts while eliminating others. These preferences have reduced suffering and enforced order, but they may not be the best lens for strategists to utilize if they want to understand and anticipate an enemy.
We do ourselves no good by rhetorically boxing in our responses to any sort of crime—whether motivated by a perversion of ideology or money or power. That those who perpetuate criminal enterprise use the infrastructure that powers our daily life necessitates a nuanced response to increasingly complicated criminal enterprises.
For now, Spain has been lucky. Many of those arrested have been suspected of supporting terrorists rather than plotting their own attacks. The number of arrests by Spanish authorities may indicate they are getting more proficient at identifying and apprehending the threat. However, it would be unwise to believe that is the only case. That a major attack has not happened in Spain since 2004 does not mean there will not be another.
The attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport on 28 June was the latest incident over the last year to highlight the terrorist threat to civil aviation. The requirement to prevent such attacks in the future will place a growing premium on security cooperation between the public and private sector, particularly in light of the range of options available to those intent on targeting aviation interests and the expected growth in passenger numbers. Incidents over the last year also serve as a reminder of the principle of proportionality; whatever the extent of security cooperation or the countermeasures adopted, nothing is capable of delivering perfect protection.
It has been some time now since the husband and wife team of Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik committed their act of terrorism in San Bernardino, California–a story that has popped back up in the news because of the FBI court case requiring Apple to unlock the couple’s iPhone. In the aftermath, as a way to determine a motive, investigators initially focused on a garbled message on Facebook left by Malik. The message purported to claim an allegiance to Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. This led many in the media–and armchair analysts online–to confirm that the attack was at least inspired by IS. But digging deeper into the lives of Farook and Malik revealed a more al Qaeda-style ideology. The fact that Malik was involved in the shootings suggests more al Qaeda than Islamic State. Why? Because of the roles women play in each organization.
Increasingly, authors are delving into the nebulous connections between autocrats, apparatchiks, and terrorists. Some have a tendency to view these connections as either the continuation of domestic politics or the instrumentalization of radicals in lieu of raising and equipping capable armies. These perspectives are heavily invested in the concept of the state — more invested in that concept than the individuals analyzed. Westerners of diverse backgrounds tend to latch on to simple narratives when seeking to explain what is really a complex and jumbled mess of motivations Misunderstanding the rise of the state security mafias could have significant consequences. Jean-Pierre Filiu has admirably attempted to correct these interpretations.
Suicide bombings are nothing new — it is a tactic that been in use since the early 1980s — but it has typically been a man’s game. Until recently, that is. There is no place where female suicide bombers have blossomed more than in the Caucasus region of Russia: Chechnya and Dagestan. The practice of suicide bombings did not originate here but seems to be thriving in the Caucasus.