A War Against What?
World Policy Institute
Terrorism is haunting the contemporary world. It is doing so in different shapes and contexts, with different actors and different modes of operation. When it seemed that the only kind of terrorism we should focus upon was the global "innovative" terrorism of September 11, the recent events in Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon remind us that, responding to new political and military situations, the plague of terrorism can become virulent and acute after periods of dormancy, and that it can reappear with mutant strains, against which antibodies and existing drugs turn out to be impotent.
Today the same concept of "terrorism" is applied to radically different phenomena, such as the four murderous airplanes of September 11, the indiscriminate firing of missiles by Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups, the mass murder of passengers on trains, subways, or buses in Madrid and London, the mysterious killing of a Russian exile in London, or the anonymous mailing of deadly anthrax to political leaders in Washington. Hence the thousands of articles and the innumerable debates, conferences, and round tables around the world. Yet, paradoxically, we literally do not know what we are talking about since there is no universally accepted definition of terrorism.