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Asymmetric War

”The events of September 11, 2001 have sent shock waves outwards as few others have in recent history. As a dark cloud of soot and dust settled over lower Manhattan, geographies were irrevocably changed as if there had been an urban eruption Krakatoan proportions. This set of destructive acts have challenged our imaginations and evoked numbness and sorrow no matter how critical an analysis of U.S. foreign policy one subscribes to.”

– Robin Keams in New Zealand Geographer (2001).

”The enormity and sheer scale of the simultaneous suicide attacks on September 11 eclipsed anything previously seen in terrorism. Among the most significant characteristics of the operation were its ambitious scope and dimensions; impressive coordination and synchronization; and the unswerving dedication and determination of the 19 aircraft hijackers who willingly and wantonly killed themselves, the passengers, and crews of the four aircraft they commandeered and the approximately 3,000 persons working at or visiting both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.”

– Bruce Hoffman in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism (2002).

Recommended Reading

For aspiring students, security professionals and those interested, the open source journal Perspectives on Terrorism provides good insight in recent scholarship and key considerations for security studies, policy and governance. Other highly recommended sources are Terrorism and Political Violence and Studies in Conflict & Terrorism.

AW. Binary Perspectives

Binary frameworks of ‘us and them’ and ‘good and evil’ undermine the complexity of political violence, insurgency and terrorism. These frameworks fail to grasp the similarities and differences between acts of violence, the combination of identities and actions, and the variety of shifting coalitions and strategies. 

Governments opposing violent uprising do not only engage in wars with boots on ground but also in a ‘war on words’. Naming the adversary reflects the subjective viewpoint – with its underlying moral and ideological implications – and often serves political or propaganda purposes. The named subject then becomes associated with normative principles and characteristics. As a result, policy-orientated or popular naming undermines the local realities of a given conflict or armed groups.


Asymmetric War

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