Contentious Global Issues
Edited by H. S. Geyer
Chapter 10: The Threat of Urban Terrorism: Observations and Policies Options
1 H.W. Richardson and P. Gordon Introduction Although urban terrorism has been a major problem for many years (e.g., the ETA in Spain, the IRA in the United Kingdom and many pro-Palestinian groups in Israel), it moved to the forefront of urban problems only after 9/11. That event was a climacteric, not only because of its scale, but primarily because it brought home to America that the country was not immune to this problem. In the few years since 9/11 there has not been enough time to reach a consensus about the policy implications of urban terrorism. There are disagreements about what should be done, and there are serious trade-oﬀs that have to be resolved. This chapter explores some of the options. Why city targets? A key assumption is that terrorists attach considerable priority to urban (especially big city) targets. There are several reasons for this. First, unlike many terrorist groups in the past, the ‘new’ terrorists apparently want to inﬂict severe human damage (in terms of deaths and injuries) without prior warning. This implies unannounced attacks in cities because people concentrate there. This does not mean that terrorists are indiﬀerent to acts that result in economic damage, but these are most appealing when they are a by-product of attacks against humans. This helps to explain why 9/11 was such a ‘success’. Second, there is such a proliferation of targets in cities that it is impossible to protect them all. Non-urban targets (e.g., nuclear power stations) can...
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