Tag Archives: terrorism

Does terrorism work? Richard English gives the answer.

Summary: A large literature discusses the effectiveness of foreign armies and their tools against insurgencies, but few ask about the other side. Does terrorism work for insurgents? A new book by Richard English fills that gap, with some surprising conclusions. Since terrorism is a key tool of 4GW, the dominant form of war in our time, the fate of the world depends on the answer.


By Any Means or None

By Thomas Nagel.
London Review of Books. 8 September 2016.
Posted with the author’s generous permission.

Review of Does Terrorism Work? A history by Richard English (2016).


When I am hit with news of yet another terrorist attack, I often wonder what these people hope to achieve. In a depressingly timely book, Richard English tries to answer that question for a number of important cases, in order to address the broader question of his title.

First, he has to specify what would count as ‘working’, and then he has to look at the historical facts to determine what the groups he studies have actually achieved. He devotes a chapter each to al-Qaida, the Provisional IRA, Hamas and the Basque separatist group ETA, and in a final chapter runs quickly through a score of other examples. While he emphasises that terrorism is also practised by states, his subject here is terrorism by non-state actors – specifically, non-state organisations that have pursued a campaign of terrorism over a significant period of time.

His aim is to interpret these campaigns so far as possible as the work of rational agents employing violent means to pursue definite political ends: the motives of lone-wolf terrorists are liable to be inchoate. All four of English’s main examples have been very explicit about what they want and how they hope to get it, and he observes that they have all failed in their main aims, as have almost all other terrorist campaigns, with a few important exceptions. But he also looks closely at the full range of their effects, to determine whether they have ‘worked’ in some more qualified sense.

He distinguishes three further senses, short of strategic victory, in which terrorism might be said to work: partial strategic victory, tactical success and the inherent rewards of struggle as such – and there are further subdivisions within these categories. (It seems to me that the last item doesn’t really belong on this list. If, as English reports, the members of the IRA and other groups have enjoyed the inherent rewards of comradeship, excitement and an ennobling sense of purpose, that is at best a beneficial side-effect of their terrorist activity, not a way in which it succeeds or ‘works’.)

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Causes and effects of the Nice attack

Summary: The Nice incident was the latest in a long series of jihadist attacks in Europe. Here we look at the mass immigration which made it almost inevitable, and the likely effects. The resulting political destabilization will make mitigate (there is no cure) more difficult — and more attacks are coming.

French Muslims burning French flag

The attack in Nice is just the latest in a long series of attacks by Islamic terrorists in Europe since 2010. This is not just a shock like 9/11 was to America because it results from a long-standing, bipartisan (i.e., both Left and Right), and unpopular policy: allowing mass immigration. The cumulative effect of these attacks might discredit much of western Europe’s political leadership. That might prove more significant the death toll from these incidents.

“What does the word ‘enough’ mean? Is Sweden full? Is the Nordic region full? Are we too many people? We are 25 million people living in the North. I often fly over the Swedish countryside. I would recommend more people to do the same. There are endless fields and forests. There’s as much space as you can imagine. Those who claim that the country is full, they must demonstrate where it is full.”
— Fredrik Reinfeldt (Prime Minster of Sweden from 2006-2014), expressing views of EU’s elites.

The WaPo reports that “The refugee crisis could actually be a boon for Germany.” Pushing wages down! Higher corporate profits!

“‘…this country, which eighty years ago was responsible for the worst crimes of the century, has today won the applause of the world, thanks to its open borders.”
— Merkel, Chancellor of Germany since 2005. Applause of the world’s elites.

In August 2015 this EU poll asked people to list the most important issues facing the EU. What would this look like if run today? Click to enlarge.

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Stratfor: What the Ramadan Attacks Reveal About ISIS

Summary: The fall of Fallujah and the Ramadan attacks mark a decisive retreat of the jihadist (led by ISIS) from Mao’s Phase 3 operations (holding areas) back to Phase 2 (attacks on the government, terrorism). Last week Stratfor looked at Fallujah; here is their analysis of the Ramadan attacks. Eventually it will get crushed as was al Qaeda, setting the stage for Jihad 3.0.


What the Ramadan Attacks Reveal About the Islamic State

Lead analyst:  Scott Stewart
Stratfor, 7 July 2016

Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani called on the group’s followers in late May to launch a spate of attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Looking back on that month, which ran from June 5 to July 5, it is clear that his call was answered. This year’s Ramadan has been the bloodiest on record since the Islamic State declared its caliphate in June 2014.  {See info about the Ramadan Offensives in in 2003 and in 2006.

That is not to say that past Ramadans did not see their share of violence, too. In 2015, the holy month brought significant attacks against a tourist beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia, and against a military reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But this year’s carnage has far surpassed last year’s in both scope and body count, in spite of the Islamic State core’s notable losses of territory and fighters in Iraq and Syria.

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Stratfor: Terrorism doesn’t ‘just happen’. Here’s how it develops.

Summary: With hysteria building in the West about terrorism, Stratfor provides an analytical look at the origins of terrorism — an understanding essential if we are to prevent it from spreading. This discussion will not, of course, affect the public debate which is driven mostly by fiction and fear.


How Terrorist Trends Develop

By Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 27 November 2015


Developments in terrorism are driven by numerous factors. Some drivers, such as ideology and politics, are inherent to terrorism. However, there are other elements to consider, such as technology and counterterrorism tactics, which force terrorists to adapt their techniques to stay one step ahead of the authorities.


During the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak to audiences in Ottawa, Canada and Washington, D.C., about developments in terrorism that will affect the security of governments, companies and nongovernmental organizations in the next few years. Some of those trends, such as the competition between the Islamic State and al Qaeda, the emergence of true cyberterrorism, the progression of the grassroots threat from lone assailants to larger cells and the advent of the “online university of terrorism” will undoubtedly be familiar themes to Stratfor readers, as I have used my writing over the past few months to help flesh out my thinking in this area.

But what I’d like to do here is give readers a bit of an inside look at the factors I am thinking about when I forecast terrorist trends.

One of the most obvious drivers of terrorism is ideology. Terrorism is always ideologically driven, and ideological developments can have a dramatic impact not only on the decision to employ terrorism but also on the types of attacks conducted and the types of targets selected. For example, the emergence of the Islamic State’s strain of jihadism in Yemen over the past year has led to a number of mosque bombings — attacks that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would not conduct under its operational guidelines. In Nigeria, the leaders of the Islamic State’s Wilayat al Sudan al Gharbi, the group formerly known as Boko Haram, have decided that it is permissible to use women and girls in suicide bombing attacks, and they have used over 50 female suicide bombers in 2015 alone. Ideology is also at the heart of the competition between al Qaeda and the Islamic State as the two rivals struggle to become the religious pole of the global jihadist movement.

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Stratfor: In France, New Attacks Come From Old Problems

Summary: Here Stratfor looks at a seldom-mentioned aspect of the Paris attacks. Their roots lie deep in France’s history, allowing large-scale immigration from its colonies to provide cheap labor for its corporations. Just as American has done. But as Frances’s Jews discovered, France has little ability to assimilate foreigners. Its slow economic growth makes this even more difficult. Paris was a result.


In France, New Attacks Come From Old Problems

By Mark Fleming-Williams, Stratfor, 22 November 2015

On the evening of Friday, Nov. 13, eight people armed with assault rifles and suicide vests attacked several targets in Paris, killing 129 civilians. At least five of the attackers were French nationals and two were Belgians; all eight appear to have been radical Islamists, and the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks. French President Francois Hollande declared the killings to be an act of war and immediately scaled up France’s military operations, primarily by increasing its airstrikes in Islamic State territory. Taking advantage of a temporary state of emergency, French police have conducted more than 100 raids each night since the attack as they track down suspects.

While the attacks are obviously shocking, they probably will not have the same transformative effect as other major incidents such as 9/11 or the Madrid bombings, which led the states that were targeted to change their strategies. (9/11 prompted the United States to invade Afghanistan and ultimately Iraq, while the Madrid bombings persuaded Spain to withdraw its troops from Iraq.) By comparison, the French attacks, which are more akin to the July 2005 bombings in the United Kingdom, will likely accelerate the strategies France already had for achieving its domestic and foreign interests.

Domestic Concerns

From France’s perspective, the most immediate concern the Paris attacks raise is that French citizens were killed. Any government that fails to protect its citizenry risks being replaced, meaning that officials must work quickly to neutralize the attackers before doing the same for any accomplices who were directly involved. Then the government must try to prevent similar attacks from taking place in the future. The first two of these actions are already well underway, and progress toward the third is evident. Hollande has asked to extend emergency powers for three months, to deploy an extra 5,000 police officers over the course of two years, and to amend the constitution to broaden surveillance powers. By all appearances, France seems to be on the verge of becoming a closely watched state in the coming years — much like the United Kingdom, which has one surveillance camera in place for every 11 Britons.

The Nov. 13 attacks also play into domestic politics, and the government will want to be seen avenging its citizens and punishing the offending party for its actions. This appears to be a large part of the motivation behind Paris’ increased bombings of Islamic State targets overseas. Hollande is the leader of the center-left Socialist Party, which traditionally takes a softer line on social, security and privacy issues and is therefore vulnerable to recriminations from the public that it has not done enough to protect French citizens. Adding to this problem, France has experienced other terrorist attacks this year, most notably in January when gunmen attacked the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, and people expected the government to have learned from these experiences in addressing security threats.

Regional elections in December will give voters across the country a chance to show their displeasure with the government’s response, making the situation even more urgent for Hollande. The anti-immigration National Front has enjoyed a surge in support in recent years, with party leader Marine Le Pen polling strongly ahead of the 2017 presidential election. For the more moderate voter, there is also the center-right Republicans party headed by former President Nicolas Sarkozy. The former president has long divided public opinion with his tough stance on immigrants and security, which dates back at least to his time as France’s interior minister in the early to mid-2000s.

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