Future of Terrorism: Prospecting for Confrontation


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr. 20140919

After reviewing the Confronting an Uncertain Threat 2011 report, I chose the third paradigm (A Lone Wolf AQAM by 2025) because it clearly resembled the natural manifestations of an organized ideological pursuit (Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2011). The same way organizations and institutions centered on Christianity (for example) do not resist the urge to capitalize on opportunities to usurp the power and influence of commonly founded organizations and institutions, terrorist regimes will not allow their common founding on moral justice against Western invasion and oppression to prevent them from splintering further and further into fragmented units. The individual and internal lust for power, along with competitive cash incentives, will, in itself, fuel an ever growing emergence of “ideological hybridization” that will produce caches of increasingly smaller terrorist cells eventually cascading into a plethora of lone wolves.

In the spirit and likes of a distraught Christian walking down the highway carrying a cross frustrated with the traditional core of religionists, but forever dedicated to the cause, the lone wolf will retain his or her fiery passion for retaliation against the West, despite his or her break with the al Qaeda core. As history has repeatedly demonstrated, and referenced under paradigm one, group discussions regarding succession and strategy near always lead to division (2011, p. 12-13).

Although al Qaeda’s core could eventually break down as posited by paradigm five, lone wolves will most likely breastfeed from the core ideology to fan the flame and accelerate ideational maturation because of “ideological resonance” (CSIS 2011, p. 19). Similar to how Christianity has over 200 various demoninations but retains an indentifiable core, lone wolves’ ideas would not wane entirely from the al Qaeda core. Even after maturity, incentives to retain linkages would remain for the purpose of “sharing resources, exchanging tactical best practices, and sharing knowledge” (CSIS 2011, p. 21). Communication technologies would easily facilitate this transfer and produce a global mass independent of a particular group. Both the core and lone wolf would share mutually reinforcing interests in “individual jihad” in order to evade detection or disruption (CSIS 2011, p. 27).

The current war on terrorism, along with internationally-allied efforts, have yet to prevent AQAM events from occuring entirely, or, entirely prove the existence of geopolitical strongholds capable of substantiating containment. Further, the detection/annihilation efforts of counterterrorism regimes have not, and therefore, most likely will not, outpace the education/recruitment efforts of AQAM. Therefore, the fifth paradigm (Collapse of AQAM by 2025) stinks of utopianism.

Of the seven strategic shocks noted in the report, the Pakistani and Saudi Arabian governments falling to radical forces and posing a dual threat to the global system (CSIS 2011, p. 46) would most likely have the most detrimental effect on U.S. foreign policy. For this to occur, U.S. foreign policy would have to strengthen its focus on counter-methods of procuring stability and protecting against blocs of terrorist power throughout the Middle East. This would involve incorporating a containment-oriented feature toward Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to shift the balance of power after the newly empowered and radicalized forces threatened political-military and economic loyalty. U.S foreign policy would be forced to reconsider previous economic and military pacts to include the lifting of sanctions previously imposed on neighboring blocs. Peace-promising diplomacy would increase toward those once ostracized in a vulnerable attempt to placate the loss of stability produced by the radical forces.



Center for Strategic & International Studies. (2011). Confronting an Uncertain Threat. Washington: Center for Strategic & International Studies.



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