International Terrorism in the Contemporary World

By Marius H. Livingston; Lee Bruce Kress et al. | Go to book overview

MARIUS H.LIVINGSTON

Preface

A new specter is haunting the world, the specter of international terrorism. It is a new barbarism, a new form of warfare waged by small groups against neutrals or innocent bystanders as often as against actual foes. It is fought primarily not to win territory or even to cause destruction, but to command attention, to instill fear, and to terrorize in the hope of forcing the world to listen and to right an alleged wrong. There is little agreement on what really constitutes international terrorism or on the meaning of terrorism itself. Robert A. Fearey, in the Introduction, defines “this modernization of barbarism” as a form of violence which is essentially criminal and politically motivated and which transcends national boundaries. 1 Of course, international terrorism has been difficult to define partly for obvious political reasons and partly because it is such a relatively new phenomenon. Scholars, politicians, journalists, and others have hardly had time to cope with it. Its rather sudden appearance ten or fifteen years ago roughly coincided with the emergence of new systems of transportation and communication and with the invention of weapons especially useful in terrorist hands. Today these developments continue at a constantly accelerating pace, making it all but certain that, sooner or later, terrorists the world over will acquire atomic, bacteriological, or chemical weapons of mass destruction. Once that disastrous development comes to pass, the world will appreciate the full implications and significance of international terrorism.

Now is the time to consider the future of such a disaster. What may we expect when the first credible nuclear blackmail demand is received by the mayors of cities like New York or London? 2 What options will the authorities have? They won't be able to risk ignoring the terrorists' demands, however outrageous those might be. But will they not probably be equally unable to agree to those demands? It is not easy to imagine the panic and terror such a situation will suddenly create. A city might conceivably be evacuated, but to what purpose? A temporary evacuation, assuming it were logistically possible, would do little more than postpone the crisis. But if the demands were complied with, the authorities would be in the same untenable position as other blackmail victims who have paid and who know they may soon be confronted with new demands. Will there be other options? Of course, attempts might be made to negotiate for better terms to gain time, but those attempts would probably fail and any compromise would surely be regarded as a victory for the terrorists and lead to new demands in the future.

Fearey notes that it is the goal of terrorists to influence public opinion; it

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