Is The "New Terrorism" That Much Different From The "Old Terrorism"  Essay

Length: 11 pages Sources: 30 Subject: Terrorism Type: Essay Paper: #25386203 Related Topics: Oklahoma City Bombing, New Deal, Twitter, Nigeria
Excerpt from Essay :

New Terrorism -- Risk Management

In the aftermath of the carnage created by terrorists on September 11, 2001, in which 2,977 people were killed (in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in hijacked commercial jetliners), the United States government initiated a "war on terror." That war has yet to be won, and may never be won because terrorists have found new ways of launching attacks and where there once was just Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda to cope with, now there are numerous jihadist offshoots like ISIS and Boko Haram, among others. Some observers call this current era "new terrorism" and in general when a previously unknown terror group makes its bloody mark on innocent people, those actions could also be called new terrorism. However, this paper looks at the concept of what is known as new terrorism, at the realities created by the terrorism witnessed in the news reports today, and the urgent problems terrorists create vis-a-vis risk management.

New Terrorism

Author Peter R. Neumann has written a book, Old and New Terrorism, in which he points to the differences between "old" and "new" terrorism. Neumann explains that during the late 1990s, when people talked about "new terrorism," they were often alluding to "a catch-all for everything that seemed novel or unusual" which only led to "widespread confusion" (Neumann 2009, p. 14). But what Neumann is talking about when he uses the phrase new terrorism is a group of terrorists that does not necessarily have a hierarchy, but rather is operational within networks. In other words, often in new terrorism, "There is no single central leader or commander; the network as a whole…has little or no hierarchy" (Neumann 2009, p. 16).

Moreover, Neumann mentions that often there are no "firm rules on operations are initiated and authorized" because decisions to carry out attacks can be made by members of the network (Neumann 2009, p. 16). Meanwhile in an article published in the website Social Europe, Neumann mentions that the "pre-eminent historian of terrorism," Walter Laqueur, had predicted a dramatic change in the structure of terrorist organizations two years prior to the September 11 attacks (Neumann 2009, p. 1). Laqueur made some outrageous predictions about new terrorism -- that terrorists wanted to build "earthquake machines" and launch "artificial meteors with which to bombard the earth" -- but in general Neumann believes that Laqueur was one of the first to get a handle on new terrorism (Neumann 2009, p. 1).

Martha Crenshaw, with the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University in California, writes that many of those who argue that there is a "new" terrorism believe the "old paradigms should be discarded entirely and replaced with a new understanding" (Crenshaw 2007, p. 2). She is careful to explain that there has been great amounts of confusion over just what the new terrorism means, and how it compares with the old terrorism.

First of all, Crenshaw makes the point that new terrorism got its momentum with the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995, and Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. The two individuals who perpetrated those attacks were not linked to any terror group, hence the belief that this was a new paradigm, Crenshaw explains (p. 4). Fears about the use of unconventional weapons also added to the momentum to believe in a new terrorism (i.e., after the September 11 attacks anthrax letters were mailed in the U.S. causing great fear and paranoia).

The bottom line for Crenshaw is that the "…departure from the past" terrorism is just not as pronounced as new terrorism proponents think" (p. 5). The violence seen today that is perpetrated by terrorists is not "a fundamentally or qualitatively 'new' phenomenon," Crenshaw asserts on page 5. In fact contemporary terrorism shared many of the characteristics of terrorism dating back to the 19th century; including the use of terrorism by "groups of Russian revolutionaries, European and American anarchists, and Irish nationalists" (Crenshaw 2007, p. 5).

Moreover, Crenshaw notes that Laqueur (referenced earlier in this paper) believes that the "new" and the "old" coexist; Laqueur says that "new" terrorists are religious fanatics who suffer from "delusion and persecution mania" (Crenshaw 2007, p. 9). What the writer wants readers to understand is that misunderstanding what is "new" in terrorism could actually lead to "mistakes of prediction and of policy," and those mistakes could send security professionals off on wild goose chases (Crenshaw 2007, p. 31).

An example Crenshaw uses very effectively is the September 11 terrorist acts. Many observers believed that hijackings were a thing of the past, and that they were an "outmoded tactic" at best. Because governments had installed screening technologies at airports, many government security experts figured that al Qaeda's next move wouldn't involve hijackings. Those experts were so wrong, as we now know. Hence, Crenshaw's point is that society can expect old...



At the end of the day, Crenshaw insists that it cannot be honestly asserted that there are two types of terrorism because much of the carnage from terrorists involves more similarities than differences in terms of lethal tactics.

David Tucker writes in the Naval Postgraduate School publication that the new terrorism as functioning with "…autonomous, dispersed entities," only linked by communications from leadership but in fact sharing a "common purpose" (Tucker 2001, p. 1). Tucker notes that because new terrorism allows network-style groups within a larger organization to act without a "pyramid of authority," those "cells" are motivated by the "flexible, adaptive and resilient" nature of their authority to strike and kill (Tucker 2001, p. 1). Tucker explains that the "communication revolution" has provided opportunities for new terrorism jihadists to "get their message to a worldwide audience" and act as an ad hoc group while recruiting new followers to their cause (Tucker 2001, p. 2).

Terrorists Using the Communication Revolution

"ISIS has utilized a brilliant social media strategy to recruit fighters and increase their international recognition" (Pape 2015).

On the subject of terrorists using the digital revolution to recruit new followers and to communicate within their group, a prime example is ISIS. The terrifying violence that the jihadist group has launched in Iraq and Syria clearly puts it at the top of list of terror groups that the Western world has to contend with, but at the same time its videos placed online attracts new fighters. In many instances ISIS comes into a town and separates the men from the women; the men are marched off to be slaughtered (by beheadings or at the muzzle of a rifle) and the women are kept as sexual slaves.

ISIS shows very impressive sophistication with digital media; it takes video of its horrific acts of cruelty and its "unfathomable brutality," according to Terrance McCoy writing in the Washington Post (McCoy 2014, p. 1). Those videos are shown on computers worldwide, and ISIS has become the most feared group in the Middle East. Their acts of terror, from "beheadings to summary executions to amputations to crucifixions," ironically help them recruit fighters from around the world, McCoy explains. And on the subject of recruitment, ISIS has shown that it is very sophisticated in the way it recruits would-be killers and terrorists.

More than just showing video online of its brutal, unthinkably cruel slaughter of innocent people, ISIS has perfected the use of social media like Twitter and used "end-to-end encryption" (Ackerman 2015, p. 1). That kind of encryption is described by Ackerman; the "messaging service" (Twitter) is being used to send information, and Twitter does not have access to the decryption keys "of those who receive it" (Ackerman 2015, p. 1). In other words, the person on a computer or a smart phone who receives a message (through Twitter) from ISIS can read the message (which sometimes urges the reader to "kill, kill, kill, kill" (Ackerman 2015, p. 1).

The FBI Chief, James Comey, testifying before the U.S. Congress, said he wants a debate about how U.S. technology could insert "back doors" or "front doors" into encryption software so that U.S. intelligence could thwart ISIS in this rogue yet sophisticated recruitment method (Ackerman 2015, p. 1). There are many reasons that security experts offer as to why "back door" software that can foil terrorists' encryption strategies are a bad idea. Such a technique would "leave the door ajar for…hackers, criminals, foreign intelligences services to gain access to enormous treasure troves of & #8230;data" (Ackerman 2015, p. 2).

Is ISIS an example of new terrorism? According to Tim Lister -- writing in CNN's web pages -- explains that military commanders are impressed with ISIS in terms of their military tactics and their flexibility. First of all ISIS -- clearly among the most deadly and fanatical jihadist groups; Boko Haram in…

Sources Used in Documents:


Ackerman, S.2015. 'FBI chief wants 'backdoor access' to encrypted communications to fight ISIS'. The Guardian. Retrieved July 28, 2015.

Baranoff, E.G. 2004. 'Risk Management: A Focus on a More Holistic Approach Three Years After September 11. Journal of Insurance Regulation, 22(4), 71-80.

Crenshaw, M. 2007. 'The Debate over "New" vs. "Old" Terrorism'. Center for International Security and Cooperation. Stanford University. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from

Lemyre, L., Turner, M.C., Lee, J.E.C., and Krewski, D. 2006. Public Perception of Terrorism Threats and Related Information Sources in Canada: Implications for the Management of Terrorism Risks. Journal of Risk Research, 9(7), 755-774.
Lister, T. 2015. 'Why ISIS is winning, and how its foes can reverse that success'. CNN. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from
Marquette University. 2010. 'What Is Risk Management?' Retrieved July 28, 2015, from
McCoy, T. 2014. 'ISIS, beheadings and the success of horrifying violence'. The Washington Post. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from
Neumann, P.R., 2009, 'Old and New Terrorism', Social Europe. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from
Pape, R.A. And Morell, S. 2015. 'Four reasons for ISIS's success'. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from
Rosen, A. 2015. 'Africa's deadliest terror group wants to team up with ISIS but don't expect much of an alliance'. Business Insider. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from
Tucker, T., 2001. 'What's New About the New Terrorism and How Dangerous Is It?' Terrorism and Political Violence, Retrieved July 28, 2015, from

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