Alexey Malashenko’s Expert Comment on terrorism as a global threat is the first in a series of five DOC publications on Islamic terrorism. Prof. Malashenko identifies three different approaches to achieving the goals of Islamism, clarifies the differences between extremists and terrorists, and argues that understanding this distinction is crucial in the fight against terrorism. The paper concludes with a discussion of the conditions enabling the spread of terrorism, and how we might be able to prevent it. Further publications in this series will address terrorism in the Persian Gulf, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, respectively.
Terrorism can be compared to AIDS. In both instances, the major goal in the study of each consists in delivering humankind from the wickedest global hazards of our time.
While AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and its properties have been attributed a concrete and understandable medical definition, terrorism to this day has not been given a comprehensive and distinct characterisation. Terrorism has been given dozens of different labels. Even though the approaches vary, in each case terrorism is associated with attacks on civilian targets and civilians, targets that have no direct relation to an actual conflict, a military conflict, or to the direct causes of a conflict.
Let us specify at once, that this series of DOC publications on the theme of terrorism refers to Islamic terrorism, which is currently the most relevant – it is a delusion to expect its disappearance in the near future. Other terrorisms, especially left-wing separatist movements, can be characterised as local, limited in time and space, and do not represent the same global menace as does Islamic terrorism.
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