Colombo, Peace and Conflict

The New Terrorism

“But time is always guilty. Someone must pay for
Our loss of happiness, our happiness itself.”
(W.H. Auden, from ‘Detective Story’ in Collected Poems, 1991)

It would be interesting to ask W.H. Auden, who called the 20th Century ‘the age of anxiety’ how he would have seen the first years of the 21st Century. While the possibility of a World War is remote, the world remains a very different place to what visioned as recently as 1992, in the UN’s Agenda for Peace.

Today, fighting against terrorism has become the facetious couture of a seemingly bi-polar world which is either “with terrorists or against them”. Rhetoric and actions that claim to wipe and root out terrorism often disguise a vacuity in some of anti-terrorism’s greatest exponents, who, like weathervanes in a storm, like to self-importantly spin and rattle largely in a world of their own imagination. Root causes of terrorism are often ignored in the ‘wars’ against its manifestations. Parochial interests define the frontlines of offensives against terror. The difference between ally and enemy is judged by the degree of subservience to a soi-disant coalition against terror.

This essay will look at the phenomenon of ‘new terrorism’. It will argue that while new terrorism is somewhat of a departure from traditional acts and methods of terrorism, not all terrorist activity in the 21st century falls into the paradigm of new terrorism. The essay will briefly explore possible democratic responses to terrorism in general, after examining two key facets of new terrorism – the threat and possible use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and Information Warfare.

Read the full paper here.