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Thread: The theatre of terror

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The theatre of terror

    A superb analysis by Yuval Noah Harari, who states terrorists have almost no military strength so they create a spectacle anticipating their enemies reaction will give them victory - one day:http://www.theguardian.com/books/201...arari-sapiens?

    He is the author of 'Sapiens, a history of humanity' due out next month, so only has expert reviews:http://www.amazon.com/Sapiens-A-Brie.../dp/0062316095

    A taster:
    ...even sporadic acts of political violence that kill a few dozen people are seen as a deadly threat to the legitimacy and even survival of the state. A small coin in a big empty jar can make a lot of noise.

    This is what makes the theatre of terrorism so successful. The state has created a huge space empty of political violence. This huge space acts as a sounding board, amplifying the impact of any armed attack, however small.
    davidbfpo

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    This rings true. But isnt the situation a bit different in some places? for example, in Pakistan or Afghanistan, the terrorism is not just to invite a backlash. It can have very immediate tactical objectives (for example, it has been reported that at least one attack in Karachi was meant to tell the Navy to back off from torturing XYZ terrorists who were in custody). And in a sense there IS a balance of power. The state backs off from certain options because it is scared of being effectively counter-attacked.
    i.e. in that part of the world the terrorists are a real force, looking forward to capturing territory and running the place, and they able to pick targets with specific tactical objectives in mind, not just as a random throw of dice.
    No?

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    I thought it was an excellent article.

    But like Omarali50 I tend to think there are some very clear exceptions.

    As I'm in the middle of reading Robert Baer's book "The Perfect Kill" that covers Hezbollah's kinetic operational history in some detail, I'd think Hezbollah(and some others) have displayed a "poor man's force projection capability" rather than "terror theatre".

    USMC and French barracks in Beirut
    Camp Chapman Attack
    Massoud Assassination
    Harari Assassination
    et al

    I have to admit I found the final paragraph most troubling when put in context with the "terror theatre" perspective(which I largely agree with).

    While we have much to worry about in the long to very long term from "grey goo", I would think there is very legitimate concern regarding significant short term 2nd/3rd order effects from a "WMD theatre" event where perception of actual tangible 1st order effects damage is blown completely out of proportion of real damage inflicted and echos into real(albeit temporary) 2nd/3rd order effects.

    For some reason, I'm left thinking a partial response to "terror theatre" slice of asymmetric warfare is something akin to London Mayor Boris Johnson's recent commentary:

    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/mayor...-10012523.html

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    The article is merely a restatement of an old truism, updated with current examples. The 'propaganda of the deed' has been an article of faith amongst terrorists since the anarchists of the late 19th Century. And although Harari's observations on relative casualties and the danger of overreaction are quite true (and not exactly insightful, having been pointed out by many over a period of decades), his argument carries the flaws of any broad generalization. As Omarali50 stated, terrorism is by its nature best understood in the context of its unique placement in the precise location, state, and region where it occurs. The 'propaganda of the deed' isn't always that. In some cases it is very likely to be a serious attempt at achieving a tactical or even strategic success based solely on the results of the attack without any messaging considerations from the perspective of the terrorists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    The article is merely a restatement of an old truism, updated with current examples. The 'propaganda of the deed' has been an article of faith amongst terrorists since the anarchists of the late 19th Century. And although Harari's observations on relative casualties and the danger of overreaction are quite true (and not exactly insightful, having been pointed out by many over a period of decades), his argument carries the flaws of any broad generalization. As Omarali50 stated, terrorism is by its nature best understood in the context of its unique placement in the precise location, state, and region where it occurs. The 'propaganda of the deed' isn't always that. In some cases it is very likely to be a serious attempt at achieving a tactical or even strategic success based solely on the results of the attack without any messaging considerations from the perspective of the terrorists.
    Concur, too many of these so called experts have a narrow view of the world, and treat common perceptions as fact. Terrorists also have great power in their own way, so he also makes a mistake of conflating power with the size of one's military and economy. Two measures of power that can be relatively worthless in some situations. Neither can be applied effectively to eliminate this threat. Analysts need to stop referring to terrorists, insurgents, and militias as weak actors out of habit and start attempting to compare their form of power against other actors. In grunt terms, it doesn't matter if I military press 250lbs if I'm competing in a 5k race. The form of power that is relevant is the ability sustain a fast running pace for the duration of the pace. My strength advantage is meaningless. It is also time to look at terrorist tactics as part of a larger strategy, and stop focusing on the tactic and assume those that embrace it are simple minded.

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