The starting point of this contribution to the Forum is the oft-cited distinction between “old terrorism” and “new terrorism” alluded to in earlier contributions. Practitioners of the old or traditional terrorism—ETA in the Basque region of Spain and the IRA in Northern Ireland are often given as examples—are involved in a localized conflict, normally with a state, over fundamental political questions. It is argued that groups such as this calibrate the level of violence carefully so as not to alienate their supporters or remove the possibility that they will eventually be offered a place at the negotiating table. Practitioners of the “new terrorism,” in contrast, are said to be fighting a global, or even cosmic, battle against forces of evil, normally defined in religious or apocalyptic terms. The religious or pseudo-religious motivations of these groups mean they are less constrained by political concerns, including the need to maintain a constituency. They are therefore more willing to inflict large numbers of casualties. Al-Qaeda and the attacks of September 11 epitomize the new terrorism.
Asal, Victor, and Andrew Blum. 2005. "Holy Terror and Mass Killings? Reexamining the Motivations and Methods of Mass Casualty Terrorists." International Studies Review 7 (March): 153-155. https://academic.oup.com/isr/article/7/1/153/1797517