Friday, 20 December 2013



The most ominous trend in terrorism is also 
a matter of technology. With the end of the Cold
War, weapons of mass destruction have slipped from their traditional controls. If nuclear biological, or chemical weapons are  not yet available to terrorist organizations and the states that support them they soon will be. The proliferation of mass destruction technologies and of groups that actively seek to inflict mass casualties has forever changed there face of terrorism. This confluence of means and will is a benchmark development that has qualitatively changed the nature of the terrorist challenge. According to members of both the Futurist and Terrorist Advisory Boards, assembled by Forecasting International an improvised nuclear, biological, or chemical attack on the United States is increasingly probable perhaps within the next five years.
Though North Korea's weapons program represents a pressing concern, the former Soviet Union and its one time satellite states present the greater risk. In North Korea, such weapons remain under there firm control of a strong central government, whose willingness to distribute them is a troubling possibility, but is not yet clear. In many former communist states control over many of these weapons has been so badly weakened that it may not matter what their central government intends.
The weapons themselves may also be an immediate danger. While strategic nuclear weapons remain too well guarded tto be stolen or sold, tactical weapons lie scattered across what is left of the Soviet Union. Controls over these weapons are reportedly lax, and there is little hope that they will remain where soviet troops left them. A single artillery round could provide enough material for a crude but effective nuclear device, particularly if it were designed for contamination rather than for use as a conventional nuclear weapon.
Chemical and biological weapons are even easier to acquire. Neurotoxins are closely related to many pesticides. Anyone capable of making common agricultural chemicals can make these poisons. As early as 1972, American authorities broke an ultra right wing terrorist organization and discovered a weapons cache that included 80 pounds of botulin toxin, a deadly food poison. Today genetic engineering is sophisticated enough to produce even more virulent, custom tailored pathogens. With such technology within the reach of many would be terrorists this is one form of proliferation that no one can even hope to prevent.
Easy access to biological chemical and nuclear technologies will bring many new players to the game of mass destruction. They may not even be limited to states and traditional terrorist groups. Organized crime,  fanatical single issue groups, and even individuals will all be able to acquire weapons once limited to regional and world powers.
  Using chemical or nuclear type weapons effectively would be easy too. For example if the World Trade Center bombers had packed their van with cobalt 60 or iodine 131 (both commonly available in medical and industrial laboratories), they might well have rendered New York's financial district uninhabitable for generations. Pulmonary an therax kills 99% of the victims it infects and only a few grams would be needed to kill virtually everyone in a major government office complex. If released in a subway tunnel there convection currents created by the passing trains would carry the spores through the system to be inhaled by thousands of commuters. Clinging to people's clothing the anthrax spores would also be spread through offices, public buildings, and suburban homes. Thousands would die. It would be days before we even knew we had been attacked and it would be virtually impossible to assign blame.
Those weapons will be used and not only because once possessed they represent an overwhelming temptation but because in the United States particularly the public pays attention only to the spectacular. A year after the World Trade Center bombing the blast was little more than a dim memory to be revived only briefly when the perpetrators were brought to trial. 
 Future terrorists will find that they need ever more spectacular horrors to overcome people's capacity to absorb and forget what previously would have seemed intolerable.
In the past other concerns would have restrained terrorist from using weapons of mass destruction. Politically motivated terrorists require popular support to function. That support is seldom as committed or ruthless as the violent core of a terrorist movement and the true extremists must temper their actions so as to avoid alienating the sympathies of those they hope to recruit as well as those who provide money and logistical support. But for many of those now embarking on terrorist careers those restraints do not apply.

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