The Achilles Heel(s) of Terrorism

Can something have multiple Achilles heels? We only have two feet, but it seems like terrorism is a multi-legged animal tripping up everywhere. Here are a list of some of the fundamental weaknesses terrorism has:

  1. It is often not supported by a majority. This leaves terrorist groups in an auspicious state of both trying to commit brutal acts of violence and gain public support for their cause at the same time. A balancing act that is difficult to do–juggling your own political agenda and the will of the people simultaneously.
  2. It often does not succeed against a stable and militarily-capable nation state. Terrorists fight using terrorism – a tactic. This tactic is usually adopted in a guerilla-like fashion, from a position of military and economic weakness; it usually targets civilians in order to send a message. The combat effectiveness of terrorist groups tends to be weak.
  3. It is hardly successful. Terrorists tend to state and advocate goals way beyond their capacity. These goals are ultimately fruitless in the face of reality. When – rarely but sometimes – successful, holding onto that success becomes another uphill challenge that is often not maintained and is doomed to fail. Terrorists rely on long-term strategy rather than tactics.

Consider a few groups as prime examples:

  • The ETA (Basque separatists).
  • The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (as of 2017).
  • The Shining Path (especially its downfall).

Note: As always with observation studies – there is contradictory information out there. Sometimes terrorist groups do achieve the popularity – enough to sway a majority. Sometimes they do succeed against greater threats and sometimes it is successful. But the trend tends to show that terrorism is a flop.

See below for videos on both sides of the story.


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