Over the past decade, terrorism has become not only popular but also very dangerous throughout the world. With several advancements in the technological field, terrorists have been able to strike more efficient and harder than ever. The amount of terrorist attacks has been increasing by great amounts for the past ten years and it seems that there is nothing that can slow it down. One may ask, if we know there are terrorists out there, then why can't we just stop them and put them in jail? The reason why it is extremely hard for counterterrorist groups to capture terrorists is due to the tactical advantages they hold over the counter-terrorists. Some of these advantages are giving false information to authorities and the public, the public having a lack of understanding of their culture or religion, globalization and technology. With several advantages and disadvantages playing on the side of both terrorists and counter-terrorists, it is important for people to understand how dangerous terrorism truly is and how difficult it is to stop. There is no doubt that terrorism will continue to strive, but it is counterterrorist groups' jobs to contain it. Terrorism is not an actual thing, it is an idea and only time will tell if it will continue to flourish or be contained.
Many believe that terrorism can be related to a sport with terrorist groups as the offense and counterterrorist groups and the defense. Terrorist groups are continuously trying to find ways to get attention and make their beliefs heard by the public while counter-terrorists are constantly trying to protect the public from threats as well as attacks. The hard part for counter-terrorists is trying to read what terrorists are going to do next and acting on it before the terrorist group strikes. It takes a lot of time, effort, patience, and technology to gain the right amount of intelligence to go after a suspected terrorist. With that in mind, it is understandable why counterterrorist groups have so much trouble tracking and capturing terrorists.
With religion becoming the new justification for terrorist acts, terrorism has become much more dangerous. With political justifications backing terrorism in earlier years, terrorist groups found it hard to gain the support they needed to carry out massive attacks. With religious beliefs now justifying most terrorist acts, terrorists have found ways to use it as a tactical advantage over counterterrorist groups. As politics is a norm throughout most of the world, religion is the complete opposite. There are several religions in today's world and for somebody to fully understand another religion takes years of study and practice. Among many terrorist groups, justifying their acts through religious beliefs has become a simple way of explaining to the public that what they did was right and part of their culture and religion. Without a thorough understanding of the terrorist's religions, it is hard for people to question their reasoning for their attacks so it is simply accepted by many.
Along with religion as a justification, intelligence has also been a tactical advantage for terrorists in many ways. Counterterrorist groups find it extremely hard to locate terrorist groups because there is continuously false information being spilled out to the public by either the heads of the groups or group members. Counter-terrorists rely heavily on information received on terrorists from all over the world. Counter-terrorists are always on the prowl looking for information that has been leaked from the terrorist group so they can act as fast as possible before anything bad has happened. In theory, it is good for counter-terrorists to receive as much information on terrorist groups as possible but that is not always the case. With false information on whereabouts being leaked, terrorists give counter-terrorists a false location, which eventually leads to terrorists being a step ahead of their counterparts.
With the media becoming ever so popular amongst terrorist groups since the 1972 Munich Massacre, providing false information has become a major advantage for terrorists. Terrorists are able to get on national television all over the world and talk to the public as we saw during the 9/11 attacks with Osama bin Laden. While on national television, terrorists are able to speak to the public and pretty much lie about there whereabouts, their attacks, and their reasons for attacking which is extremely advantageous for terrorist groups. They want the public's attention and that is what they are getting.
Along with religion, culture, and relaying false information, terrorist groups have used technology as a tactical advantage over counter-terrorist groups. With technological advancements being accomplished nearly everyday, terrorist groups have found ways to use technology against the public. For example, members of al-Qaeda enrolled in flight schools to learn to fly planes. Later that year, those same members who learned to fly planes used commercial airplanes as massive bombs and flew them into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. Although viewed as a very difficult attack that took large amounts of time and effort, terrorists used a simple technology to kill thousands of people and to take a knock at the US economy; they were very successful.
Another example of terrorists using technology as a tactical advantage is through the Internet. Several terrorist groups have begun to set up web sites in which people can gain knowledge about the terrorist group, its reasoning, its ideas, and its goals. Not only have the Internet, cell phones, and instant messaging made it easier for terrorist groups to communicate with each other, but also those three things have led to an extended global reach of many terrorist groups. Although it is believed that terrorists still prefer conventional acts of terrorism, technology in the cyber world has definitely been taken advantage of by terrorist groups.
An example of the effective use of the Internet by a terrorist group was proved by the 9/11 attacks. "Before the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers, members of al-Qaeda communicated through Yahoo mail; Mohammed Atta, the presumed leader of the attacks, made his reservations online; and cell members went online to do research on subjects such as the chemical-dispersing powers of crop dusters" (H&S, 77). Although the use of the Internet is fairly new by terrorist groups, they have been able to use it as a tactical advantage. Using the internet effectively not only can help terrorist groups become more successful but it also can result in a higher number of casualties due to simultaneous attacks (World Trade Center and Pentagon), a diffusions of terrorist locations due to internet communication, and the spread of extremist religious ideologies through websites and videos such as HAMAS's website and Hizballah's website.
Globalization, arguably, has also become a tactical advantage for terrorist groups. Globalization has also led to the development of the North American Free Trade Area as well as the European Union, which enables terrorist groups to partake in commerce just as any business would. Both of these examples have loosened up border security which makes it easier for terrorists to not only move around from country to country but also makes it harder for authorities to capture them with different countries having different laws. Terrorists groups, such as the Egyptian al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya and al-Qaeda, find ways to move around borders without get caught and establish bases around the world. Established bases around the world lead to an increase in financial flows because more money is coming into the terrorist group, which leads to more power as well as more support.
Another aspect that terrorists have used as a tactical advantage over counterterrorist groups is the judicial process. The least amount of time that congress can pass a bill in is close to 45 days. This amount of time, which is the minimum, can be used by terrorists to escape authorities or hide any suspicious evidence that could lead to their arrest. I see this as a major advantage to terrorist as well as major disadvantage to counterterrorist. Now, with the adoption of the US Patriot Act, this is no longer a problem because the bill has expanded the rights of authorities in order to fight terrorism efficiently and in a timely manner because counter-terrorists no longer have to wait for clearance to go after terrorists and track them down.
With the balances of advantages and disadvantages of terrorist and counter-terrorists, the public has to understand that counter-terrorists are doing their best to contain terrorism and make sure that there are no major attacks anywhere in the world. With implementations of bills such as the US Patriot Act, we have to believe in our forces and authorities that they are doing the best they can to stop terrorism. We have to remember that terrorism is not just a thing, it is an idea, so actually totally ending terrorism is not realistic but containing it is. With the development of technology, the further understanding of religious views and cultures, the control of globalization, and the further knowledge of terrorism, counter-terrorists will soon have the upper hand on terrorists in locating and containing groups. There will be times where terrorist groups are successful and will carry out an attack but there will also be times where counterterrorism groups will be ahead of the terrorists and stop them before an attack is carried out.
There is no doubt that patience will continue to play a large role in containing terrorism. Although counter terrorist groups have to read and react to terrorist groups, receiving efficient intelligence and using technology will continue to be the key components in stopping terrorist groups. Although it may seem that terrorist groups do have the upper hand in tactical advantages through justifications, technology, globalization, and intelligence, counter-terrorist groups will eventually come out on top. The time frame for complete containment can never be fixed but steps to containing terrorism begins now.