the terrorist theater

i just read an interesting article in the new issue of foreign affairs called “the evolution of irregular war – insurgents and guerrillas from akkadia to afghanistan” written by max boot. in it, mr. boot analyzes the strategic techniques and the development of insurgents and the so called “terrorists”. he describes two paradoxes, one being the fact that most guerrilla forms of conflict form into a solid community and a state like construct over time, and the other that they thereby also reorganize themselves from irregular to regular war tactics. more than the vividly drawn dynamics and historical changes of guerrilla fighting described in the text, however, another notion caught my eye: the citation of brian jenkins from the 1970s, who says “terrorist is theater… terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead.”

not only gave me this citation something to think about, but it also rang like a bell in my head when reading the final paragraph of the article and its reference to the danger of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists. considering the above citation, the author contradicts itself with the assumption that terrorists, assuming that they indeed intend to create attention not funerals, would actually use weapons of mass destruction, considering not only the risk of a potential answer by another nuclear weapon state, but also the loss of support in public opinion for whatever “right cause” they are fighting for.

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