Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nuclear Terrorism in the Global Village

At Global Guerrillas the Author spoke at a conference at Pitt University about Violent Armed Groups: A Global Village

I picked up a long paper (via search engining) from this conference about the capabilities of non-indigenous terrorists within the United States and Western Europe in general by Michael Kenney  titled  Organizational Learning and Islamic Militancy (2009)

from page 116:

What explains the sloppiness? Why do terrorists—including both experienced veterans that received the most sophisticated instruction Al Qaeda had to offer, and inexperienced novices with no formal training whatsoever—keep making basic errors in operational tradecraft? Distinguishing between the local, contextual “know-how” of mētis and the general, abstract “know-what” of techne can help us answer these questions. While both types of knowledge are necessary for terrorism, this research suggests that mētis is often critical for carrying out specific attacks and that terrorists often lack the practical knowledge needed to execute their attacks more effectively.

What both veteran and novice terrorists in Britain and Spain often lack is a knack for clandestine tradecraft, and by extension urban terrorism. In many cases, militants possess a limited amount of terrorist techne, which they may have acquired through training “camps,” where the quality of instruction varies considerably, or from knowledge-based artifacts, including the frequently flawed instructional manuals that are found online.

Less frequently, militants may have acquired some of their own hard-earned mētis in political violence, typically by fighting in one or more “jihads” raging in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Chechnya, or Iraq. But this fighting knowledge is generally limited to guerrilla warfare. Unfortunately for terrorists, and fortunately for the rest of us, mētis in guerrilla warfare does not necessarily translate into effective urban terrorism in Western countries, which involves appropriate local knowledge, street smarts, and a knack for clandestine operations.

Of course what applies to IEDs and self immolation attacks, applies even more so to the nuclear terrorist scenarios often worried about.  The difficult logistics in pulling off such attack almost assure that some sort of professional assistance would be required.  But many foreign armed forces are themselves lacking in the logistical knowledge that we generally presume to be present.  I have heard enough stories about small client navy’s submarines that spend all their time in port, to know that there is a big difference between some tactical level training by the unit seller, and actually being able to run a navy at any sort of operational level.  If the Germans wanted to send a diesel electric submarine – mother ship combination armed with a couple of nuclear tipped torpedoes I would be very worried.  The North Koreans? Worried, but not as much.

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