Terrorism….a cheap but effective war (if we submit)

459978_boston_boston_massachusetts_massachusets_usa_ssha__4200x2800_(www.GdeFon.ru)As the Boston Marathon is brought to an abrupt halt by two bombings, it is a good moment to reflect on what ‘terrorism’ is?

The word “terrorism” defines it. It is about causing ‘terror’. It is to frighten people. In fact it aims to scare the hell put of people, and not just those in the local vicinity. In other words, not just those where an attack took place, but also people in as wide an area as possible.

Terrorism does not intend to kill specific people or even many people. It aims to show that it can randomly kill any people and so make people scared and paralyze the infrastructure around society. Terrorists do not aim to kill their enemy they aim to scare their enemy so that their lives are in confusion. Scared people behave differently and that in turn disrupts, and this makes a far bigger impact on the society than simply killing them.

As I write this, anyone watching the news on TV is on alert. People are wondering what will happen next, where will it happen, where will it end…. etc. People are being told to stay at home, visitors to stay in their rooms in their hotels and stand by for more news. All of this is exactly what the terrorist wanted to achieve. A city or a nation being scared, not going to school and not going to work, not shopping and not travelling has an impact on the economy, on people’s productivity and the general well being of society. This is what a terrorist wants to achieve. The few dead or injured were not the aim.

Explosion at Boston marathonIt is useful to understand that the terrorist does not have the ability to wage a conventional war. They don’t have an army with uniforms and tanks, rocket launchers, etc. They simply are not in a position or have the traditional firepower weapons to fight a war. However, they have a far better weapon than the average member of the public. Yes, you and I, we are the weapons they have. If they scare us, and they scare us enough to make us act irrationally, then they can achieve a different form of damage that can be even more devastating and have far more impact that fighting with some soldiers.

It is useful to understand the mind-set of the terrorist and not to play into their hands. The news channels should be careful that they do not become part of the terrorist’s arsenal. The detailed coverage helps perpetuate the fear and get the message out to as many people as possible. I am NOT saying that the news channels should not report the event….. far from that. However, it would also be wise to keep it in context and not be fear mongering in their reporting. People should also be aware of what the terrorist is trying to achieve and as quickly as possible return to normal life. Of course, be vigilant and don’t put yourself in harms way, but at the same time do not give the terrorist the satisfaction of seeing society in a state of panic or out of control.

Having lived both in a war zone in Africa and then in UK with the IRA bombings, I suppose I am a little more conditioned to these attacks. I am not trying to undermine the fear that people will naturally feel and how desperately difficult it is to wonder if your loved ones were involved in some way. The July 7th bombing on the underground in London was on the same day my wife landed in the UK and was on the same underground line she would have taken…. except my son had decided to drive down and meet her on that occasion. I remember waking up in USA to the news of the bombing and wondering if my wife was alive! It is a terrible feeling and not something that I would wish on anyone.

Terrorism is here to stay. Any person or group that wants to wage a war in an inexpensive way but make as wide an impact as possible, will resort to attacks of this nature. Do not be fooled into believing that the terrorist is cowardly. He simply does not have the means to wage conventional war. He has an agenda very different to conventional wars. He is a disruptor and his weapon is YOUR fear.

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