Inside Terrorism; Suicide Bombers Are 'Culture of Death'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 27, 2003 | Go to article overview

Inside Terrorism; Suicide Bombers Are 'Culture of Death'


Byline: Joshua Sinai, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Walter Laqueur holds the Kissinger Chair for Security Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He is a prolific author and editor of some 136 books and anthologies on a variety of subjects ranging from the histories of Europe, Fascism,and Russia to Zionism, the Arab-Israeli conflict and terrorism. Many of these books are revisions and updates of previous works, and "No End to War" is the latest version of 10 previous volumes on terrorism, and it is a compelling one.

Mr. Laqueur focuses his attention on the most problematic areas in understanding and responding to terrorism. In the first chapter ("Roots of Terrorism"), he challenges the assumption that in order to understand terrorism one must "investigate its roots rather than deal with its outward manifestations." The idea here is that by eliminating problems such as poverty, social stagnation or foreign occupation, it follows that terrorism would be eliminated. Mr. Laqueur believes, to the contrary, that "terrorism, like revolutions, occurs not when the situation is disastrously bad but when various political, economic, and social trends coincide."

In his view, an even more grievous issue is that in the hunt for "root causes," attention to terrorist leadership and their aggression and fanaticism gets lost. "People who practice terrorism are extremists, not moderates, and [in the case of ethno-religious conflicts] the demands of extremists can hardly ever be satisfied without impairing the rights of other ethnic groups, especially if two groups happen to claim the same region or country."

Mr. Laqueur's insights on the latest trends in terrorist warfare are valuable. In his chapter "Jihad," he points out that the terrorist threat became a global phenomenon in the 1990s when what previously were primarily local conflicts were transformed into a worldwide campaign. Here, groups such as the al Qaeda Jihadists coalesced as a major threat following their "apprenticeship" in the 1980s anti-Soviet Afghanistan campaigns. In an example of how these groups threaten the West, Mr. Laqueur discusses the ways in which the Jihadists have established attack cells among the Muslim communities in many European capitals.

The only thing missing from this otherwise comprehensive chapter is any mention of the use of the Internet, a growing and alarming trend. By exploiting the Internet, the Jihadists have established a Pan Islamic Caliphate in a virtual cyberspace, where they communicate using encrypted messages and manage and direct their worldwide terrorist operations. …

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