go to top
A soldier with the California Army National Guard exits a gas chamber during a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear event, San Luis Obispo, Ca., Nov. 2, 2016 (Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Andres J. Viveros).

Will Biological Weapons Be Terrorism’s ‘Next Big Thing’?

Friday, Nov. 18, 2016

Movements like the self-proclaimed Islamic State must innovate or die. An insurgency is always weaker than the government or governments it faces, so it must make the most of its limited resources and whatever advantages it does enjoy. Often what it has in its favor is a lack of restraint and a willingness to carefully orchestrate violence to maximize its effects. That is why groups like the Islamic State rely on terrorism, using it to generate fear disproportionate to the resources it takes to execute an attack. In strategic terms, terrorism is cheap but potentially effective, particularly if the victim overreacts.

But like all terrorism-based movements, the Islamic State faces a persistent dilemma: Over time, the ability of any specific form of terrorism to produce fear declines as potential targets mentally adjust. The first few instances of some horrific type of attack—a suicide bomb in a crowded market, for instance—produce extensive psychological effects, but the 20th, 50th or 100th time less so. This means that terrorist groups must constantly seek new forms of attacks to produce the fear they seek. ...

Want to Read the Rest?
Login or Subscribe Today.
Get unlimited access to must-read news, analysis and opinion from top experts. Subscribe to World Politics Review and you'll receive instant access to 9,000+ articles in the World Politics Review Library, along with new comprehensive analysis every weekday . . . written by leading topic experts.

YES, I want to subscribe now.