The Threat of Terrorism
Terrorism was a constant companion to war and ideological struggle in the 20th century, and at the start of the 21st Al Qaeda represents the most virulent form of the phenomenon yet faced. Unlike most terrorist organizations whose efforts are linked to a specific territorial or ideological struggle, Al Qaeda has defined its relationship to terrorism quite differently. Terrorism is not merely a tactic of Al Qaeda, it is essential to the organization’s identity, purpose and strategy. Al Qaeda’s targets – the United States, U.S. interests, U.S. allies, the UN and the basic structures of global order – are strategic, and not limited. 1
No State Can Address Terrorism Alone
No state, however powerful, can defend itself unilaterally against transnational terrorism. Terrorist networks move operatives, money and material across borders and through the crevices of the global economy. Only through extensive cooperation on financial flows, intelligence, and police action can the risk of terrorism be reduced. The most dangerous form of terrorism, involving nuclear and biological weapons, requires the most extensive cooperation.
As a major threat to security and order in the 21st century, terrorism demands a more deliberative and effective response. Extremists will use religion and any other means to attract the disaffected. Countering extremism requires people and nations to buy into a rule-based order with law enforcement structures and intelligence capacity to protect societal interests. The challenge to the next US administration is to harness a vision for international cooperation on counter-terrorism and construct a roadmap for its strategic implementation.