The recent terrorist attack in Nice reminds us that terrorism is, unfortunately, alive and well. What can we expect in the upcoming months?
The terrible incident that we saw in Nice is just another wake-up call for those who are working in security. Unfortunately, we are in an era where terrorism is evolving rapidly. Not only are the people who are perpetrating terrorist attacks changing, but their tactics are adapting fast to the security environment they “work” with. What is happening with terrorism right now, and what can we expect in the upcoming months? Let’s take a closer look so that we can understand this phenomenon.
What we must understand about terrorism is that it’s like water: it will always find its way through cracks. What does that mean? It signifies that terrorism, as a way to produce violent acts, will always exist. There will always be a method to attack societies in a way that it will generate fear.
The cold, harsh truth is that even if terrorism is often depicted as being something quite complex, prepared, and thought-out, in reality it is quite the contrary. The fact is that we went from very professional terrorism (like IRA) to amateurs (like Daesh). So, the conclusion that we can draw is that anyone motivated enough can execute a terrorist attack. Yes, the scope might be limited in terms of damages, but the psychological effect will remain and it is the primary objective of the terrorist method.
Mass Destruction? No. Mass Disruption.
Along with the “amateurism” of contemporary terrorism, we must also analyze how they function to make their attacks. One thing that we must understand is that when denied of something, terrorists will always try something else. Even though nuclear terrorism would be great for many terrorists’ organizations, the sheer complexity of the task is just too much to bear. So, they are turning toward easier ways to launch their attacks. As we have seen with Nice, the person doesn’t even need to have a gun. Just rent a truck and you can create mass casualties and the fear of a whole city.
In addition, by using “small tools”, a terrorist can have a significant psychological impact. So for terrorists, it is not the mass destruction weapons that matter. It is the mass disruption weapons that are important. Of course, a nuclear bomb would cause havoc and have major psychological effects. But why invest so many resources and energy into a weapon that will probably never see the light of day? In term of bang for the buck, this isn’t a good strategic choice, especially if you have a little bit of creativity. Yes, using least lethal weapons will be less lethal, but it is not the lethality per see that terrorist wants: it is the fear effect. Yes, the fear is created by killing people, but it is a spectacle. The “theatrically” of the killing is more important than the action in that case.
Changing the Social Sense of Objects
After the September 11 attacks on the United States, I remember one of my colleagues who was working in the air transport safety field told me this: “This attack changed everything for us. At the end of the 9/11 attacks, we were now considering every plane in the sky as a potential flying bomb that could be thrown at any city. In a way, that is true. But what does it mean from a broader perspective?
It means that one of the strengths of terrorism is being able to change the social sense that we give to objects. Before 9/11, planes were essentially means of transportation. After 9/11, they became tools able to destroy buildings and inspire fear globally. I can guarantee that the same thing will happen with trucks – with less impact because Nice isn’t in the US. Before Nice, trucks were seen as big cars able to transport loads of stock. Now, they will be considered as a potential killing machine that can easily bring devastation into a crowd.
This ability to change the social sense of objects by terrorists is a powerful weapon because it can transform how we live as a society. No one can ignore the impacts of 9/11 if they are taking a plane. This is a serious issue, because by changing how we see “objects” and forcing us the secure them – sometimes in a drastic but inefficient way – we are changing the fundamental values of our democratic societies. Sometimes, it can have profound changes in our ways of life, meaning that, in a way, terrorists have attained their goals: they changed the way we live, and our view of the world.
Winning by Not Losing
The main problem that society is facing with terrorism is the fact that terrorists win by not losing. Since this threat is so microscopic in scope and resources, it will forcibly get through the security net deployed by our society. Knowing that, maybe overreacting to the threat isn’t the best idea. By changing our values, we give the terrorists the victory they are seeking: they want us to be more and more like them. We have to refuse that.
#Terrorism #Security #Threat #Prevention