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with this problem. Initially, we must look at how we wish to formulate our responses and then focus efforts on mar- shalling the world’s resources to mount a cohesive global response. Indeed, many of our efforts must involve other nations and organisations in order to be effective. Engagement with these nations is critical for anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism endeavours, where cooperation and understanding provide the keys to success. Critically, such cooperation works. The Jordanian authorities, for example, helped save countless American lives during the millenni- um celebrations by preventing planned attacks on American and other tourists in the Middle East.

Despite current emphasis on non-state actors, it is important to continue to pay attention to state actors or state-sponsored actors. This is because they still pose a threat and they can share information, technologies and capabilities with non-state actors. Indeed, a recent report on biological weapons by the National Intelligence Council stated that more than a dozen states are known to possess or are actively pursuing offensive biological capabilities. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the so-called “rogue” states feature on this list.

It is difficult to generalise about state intentions, devel- opment or possible use or delivery of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) because they differ from state to state. While it is true that greater resources to develop these weapons are available to state actors than non-state actors, usage by states remains constrained to an extent by the pos- sibility of retribution and retaliation. The same does not tend to apply to non-state actors.

Traditionally, terrorism has been a political tactic, used by its practitioners to bully their way to the negotiating table. It has been a low-cost, high-leverage method that has enabled small nations, sub-national groups and even indi- viduals to circumvent the conventional projections of national power. However, some of today’s groups, motivat- ed by radical religious or nationalist beliefs, no longer seek a seat at the table, but would prefer to blow it up and build something else in its place. The best example of this is Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaida organisation. In effect, Bin Laden is the chief executive and chief financial officer of a loosely affiliated group of radical terrorists, who share resources, assets and expertise, and who can come together for an operation and then disperse. Al-Qaida is simply the most visible head of a hydra.

Over the years, terrorists have become expert at using conventional weapons, such as explosives and firearms, to maximum effect. These have been and will continue to be their preferred weapons. They are cheap, easy to obtain and use, do not require extensive scientific capabilities to pro- duce or employ, are “low profile” and hard to defend against. Moreover, terrorists are increasingly innovative in their methods of employing these weapons, and those methods have become more lethal.

Winter 2001/2002


Terrorists have also shown an increased interest in obtaining and using weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, Bin Laden has publicly pronounced that he considers it his religious duty to obtain them. The use of chemical weapons would be devastating but does have limits. The effects of a chemical agent are immediate, but it is possible to turn vic- tims into patients by rapidly administering antidotes. The use of radiological or nuclear weapons by terrorists is less likely. The process of research, development and deploy- ment of these weapons by non-state actors is extremely complex. The infrastructure required is difficult to hide or move — particularly for a non-state actor — and there are numerous ways to detect their development using existing methods and technologies. The danger here is that terrorists could either be given materials or weapons by a sympathetic state, could steal them from a poorly guarded facility, or could even buy them from a disgruntled or poorly paid guard or scientist.

Biological weapons give greatest cause for concern. There is a significant difference between biological and other threats because with a biological attack it may not be possible to work out when, where, or how it was launched for some time after the event. The added complexity of the biological threat lies in the highly infectious nature of many of its agents — such as diseases like smallpox or the plague — which multiplies the initial effect exponentially if allowed to spread through a population. These “silent killers” cannot be seen, do not announce themselves until symptoms arise, and the onset of those symptoms is often delayed until long after the initial exposure. This uncertain- ty, in contrast to the visible, finite explosion of a bomb, can cause considerable panic and paranoia, in addition to fatal- ities. These infectious agents best demonstrate the impor- tance of building a system that not only provides options for a single threat but also tools to handle a variety of pos- sibilities. As the threat is multifaceted, so too must be the defence.

The nightmare scenario is that of a terrorist organisation using a combination of attacks, or that of a state actor and non-state actor working in unison. This could be the release of a toxin in a shopping mall, coupled with the blowing up of a power plant to deprive an area of energy and hacking into the phone system to stymie communications. A low- tech, high-tech combination is a dangerous possibility, for while Bin Laden may have his finger on the trigger of an AK-47, his nephew may have his finger on a computer mouse. This simple, but horrific example demonstrates the need for an integrated, comprehensive approach rather than one trying simply to isolate and counter a single threat.

The events of 11 September and the subsequent anthrax attacks have shown that, in addition to maintaining vigi- lance on traditional fronts, greater attention and resources must be paid to the terrorist threat. Prior to 11 September, there was no consensus on what constituted the primary threat to the United States. Some thought it was terrorist

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