Terrorism: The Preeminent International Security Issue and Source of Crises of Authority for nation states


Terrorism presents a core international security issue with the September 11 attacks evidencing its global reach. In this paper, I argue out that terrorism will continue to be the preeminent international security issue and a source of crises of authority for governments in the 21st century. Among the reasons that make terrorism such a core security concern is the effect of globalization, which, on one hand, has resulted in higher inequalities between the poor and the rich, while, on the other hand, has provided multiple means for such marginalized groups to engage in terror activities. The widespread nature of modern terrorism may also create crises of authority for governments, as individuals perceive the government to be incapable of providing for necessities such as individual security.

Keywords. Terrorism, International Security, Crises of authority, Globalization

Terrorism has become a concern for governments worldwide with the spread of insurgent and extremist groups fueled by factors such as globalization and its linkage to criminal activity. Initially, terror groups were often restricted within the borders of a particular state but recent events provide evidence to the concept of globalization of terrorism. For instance, groups such as Al Qaeda have expanded their network to cover a wide region with its affiliates believed to operate in more than sixty countries (Viotti & Kauppi, 2009, p. 13). Such spread of the terrorism has been evident with their activities in the recent years resulting into attacks in areas that are geographically distant (e.g. the U.S., Spain, Kenya, and the U.K). Additionally, the potential interaction between terrorist activities and transnational crime (Rollins & Wyler, 2010), has made terrorism an outstanding international security issue necessitating a well-informed response.

Despite such increasing concern, the response of players such as the United States to terrorism has been inadequate. Cronin (2003) for instance notes that the response by U.S. to terror activities has mainly been “to fall back on established bureaucratic mind-sets and prevailing theoretical paradigms that have little relevance for the changes in international security that became obvious after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001” (p. 30). Such a reaction has been argued to be reactive and anachronistic whereas terrorism has continued to change with the changes that globalization has led to, thus increasing its unpredictability (Cronin, 2003). Yet another concern in addressing terrorism, has been the excessive focus of terrorism discourse on non-state actors while, in some cases, terrorism is perpetuated by groups that have the support of various states (Jackson, 2008). Due to such changes in terrorism and inadequate responses by states, terrorism could become a source of crises of authority, as individuals perceive their governments to be incapable of protecting them against terror attacks (Viotti & Kauppi, 2009, p. 13). It is out of such aspects that in this paper I argue out that terrorism will continue to be the preeminent international security issue and a source of crises of authority for governments in the 21st century. Go to part 2 here.

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