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Rise of Terrorism For Profit and Countering It

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posted on Jan, 4 2008 @ 01:25 PM
Up until recently, the concept of terrorism has been largely limited to revolutionaries, religious extremists, and revenge. It is commonly assumed that each terrorist has a cause--no matter how misguided--that they fight for, and that the root of this cause could be addressed to placate terrorists, and prevent further disasters from occurring, or that they are bent on self-destruction and once these finite numbers of lives are expended, the threat will cease to be.

Unfortunately, due to both the monetary demand to fund terrorist activities, and the gross mishandling of the growing threat of asymmetrical warfare over the last decade, terrorism has evolved a new strain that has realized profit in violence, for profit's sake. What started as side-businesses and black-market dealings to buy weapons and munitions grew into side projects and eventually full-scale enterprises. This is currently seen most commonly in the seizure of oil wells and refineries in Africa, particularly in Nigeria.

While the dangers posed by isolated ransoms, thefts, resource seizures, and counterfeiting are individually of little threat on a national or global scale, this is merely the beginning of a long evolution of Terrorism For Profit.

To better understand the threat of what is to come, one need only open a history book. Though there was no official title for the occupation until the Crusades, assassins have been used throughout history by governments both foreign and domestically to settle matters when other methods, such as war, would prove far too troublesome. If one wished to achieve power or prevent a threat to it while simultaneously keeping their hands clean and their supporters free of blame, an assassin would resolve the situation.

While the most successful assassins were always zealots, having no fear of capture or death, the most prolific assassins were those who charged a hefty fee for their services and ensured they remained alive to spend the earnings. With the use of assassins and a well-chosen target, borders would change, power would shift, and barriers would lift.

Fast forward now to the present, where the world is too large for one man's life to make a serious impact, yet too small for all countries to live harmoniously. The assassination of a political, corporate, or military leader is no longer sufficient to derail the institution. The removal of one official creates little more than a temporary vaccuum that is rapidly filled by the next in line, and the government, business, or army is preserved as a result. While assassins are still used to great effect on an individual level, hostile governments must now find a new tool to impose their will on the opposition if they wish to make any suitable impact or profit from the result.

This is where terrorism for profit shows its truest threat as a middleman for the execution of change in power or money.

Scenario A: China, using the currency market, hedges its treasury against the value of the American dollar through a combination of means, none of them outright illegal, though obviously it is an alarming potential economic threat against U.S. interests in the current economy. For a few hundred million, a fraction of an Nth of a percent of the cost of a war, China is able to pay a terrorist organization to detonate a nuclear, biological, radiological, or chemical bomb on Wall Street. Lives and collateral damage notwithstanding, the short-term economic damage to America ranges from severe to devastating. The value of the American dollar drops substantially. China now has one of two choices: they can cash in on the devaluation of the dollar and reap a profit in the hundreds of billions, while simultaneously dealing a long-term crippling blow the U.S. economy, or they can use this threat as leverage to achieve an equally powerful political or military end.

Scenario B: China decides to proceed with its North-South plan to redirect the Brahmaputra river northward, away from India, which would cause a devastating water shortage for the already parched country. A war between both countries would be as expensive as it would be devastating, and probably result in World War III as both nations called in allies to the conflict. Instead, it would be far simpler for India to use terrorists for hire to continuously destroy and derail the diversion in the river's flow. India maintains its water supply while keeping its hands clean at a modest sum per incident. China must either divert increasing numbers of resources to the area to both protect it and restart construction, or they will have to abandon the plans.

In either incident, outright war between nations is averted, the offending nation is able to remain blameless, and the instrument of this shift in money or power is organized terrorism for profit. This is no longer within the purely hypothetical range, but rather the inevitable, logical evolution of an already existing threat. If one is to count cyber-terrorism, such as the Russian attack on Estonia's infrastructure, it has already begun.

So what are we to do if the threat of terrorism for profit becomes another daily fact of life? Against every measure, there must be a countermeasure. Nations will have to adopt one of the following stances in hopes of achieving a "Great" Solution, one that provides the most protection against terrorism, with the lowest impact to the country's citizenry.

There are five possible options:

  • Assume the Risk, and Remain Vulnerable - Nations that cannot afford countermeasures, or those that refuse to trade liberty for security, will be under constant threat from those with resources and/or willingness to sacrifice their liberty. If they wish to avoid threats, they must not be a threat themselves, and even this is no guarantee against violence, as many nations have few qualms about taking what others have when they cannot defend it. Even a defensively powerful country with a neutral stance, such as Switzerland, suddenly stands to lose much in the face of asymmetric warfare. This has the highest risk of danger, and the lowest possibility for a "Great" solution.

  • A Terrorism Arms Race - Following the mentality of the Cold War, a country may decide to simply create its own terrorist cell, or hire one to work exclusively with them, and use it as a threat of mutually assured destruction. While terrorist incidents themselves might not be directly traced to the offending country, following the money upwards will almost certainly root out the responsible party, or at least the responsible country. Public knowledge that retaliation in kind will happen to any country linked monetarily to a domestic terrorist incident might act as a deterrent against would-be employers of terrorists for profit. The danger, of course, being the framing of another country for the crime, or an employer who simply does not care about the ramifications of their actions. This carries a medium risk of danger, and a low chance of their being a Great Solution.

  • Police State - The police state is government's natural response to terrorism. Terrorism is allowed to happen because of freedom of movement, privacy, and consumer liberty. When privacy is non-existent, purchases are monitored, and movement is restricted, acts of terrorism become extremely difficult to pull off, much less get away with. While zealots who do not fear death or capture might still succeed, those who wish to avoid capture, the terrorists for profit, will only succeed through the greatest combination of luck and planning. However, the citizenry under such conditions suffers dramatically, and the growing threat of internal revolution will eventually outweigh the threat of terrorism for profit. Such a system inherently breeds zealots as well. This system has the lowest initial risk of danger (though at a rising price), and the next-lowest possibility for a "Great" solution, as police-states quash innovation.

  • Privatization of Protection - Governments that wish to avoid the messy business of infringing too much on civil liberties, while simultaneously avoiding the monetary cost of such protections, could simply shift the burden over the private market, similar to the way Antivirus protection is currently handled. This is already largely begun with Corporate Armies such as BlackWater and DynCorp. In this case, individual citizens would purchase their anti-terrorism protection from authorized retailers, with packages ranging from simple kidnapping insurance and ID Theft Protection, to full protection kits including bodyguards and armored and armed transport. The inherent risk in such an enterprise is the potential for corruption and abuse of power, as well as corporate engineered incidents to win contracts away from competitors. This has a higher chance of danger, initially, than a police state, with things eventually settling down once the competing companies merge into 2 or 3 competing conglomerates that can agree to separate marketing territories (much like cable providers). It carries a higher chance of a "Great Solution" than a Police State, but not by much, as new innovations will more likely be bought out and unused by the major monopolies.

  • Outside the Box - There are a number of outside-the-box ideas that fly completely in the face of the establishment, tradition, conventional wisdom, or common sense. Sometimes they turn out to be brilliant, sometimes they turn out exactly as predicted by the naysayers. This approach could be anything: paying an under-the-table "immunity" fee that makes the paying country "untouchable" for a period of time, dropping a thermo-bari bomb on any discovered terrorist camp, legalizing drugs to collapse black markets, pulling out of all known controversies, anything and everything that can be thought of that hasn't been tried yet and would otherwise be considered irrational would fall within this category. It has the second highest chance of danger, being only marginally less risky than simply doing nothing. However, due to the acceptance and implementation of new ideas and innovations, it also carries the highest chance for a Great Solution.

    Assuming we are to face this threat in the near future, which path would you end up supporting in the end? The chances are quite high you will be forced to make this decision in the near future. Are there other paths? Is there a better way for a nation to deal with this threat? Which solutions could you never accept? Which options would force you to become an ex patriot, and move to another land closer to your own moral or ethical choices?


    The Future of Terrorism: Violence in the New Millennium by Harvey W. Kushner

    Business Bombs: The Rise of Terrorism-for-Profit by Justine Rosenthal

    Understanding Water And Terrorism by Herbert C. Young

    History of Assassinations Throughout the World by David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace

    Conflict Over the Brahmaputra River Between China and India by Ryan Hodum

    [edit on 1/4/2008 by thelibra]

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