Man fighting man is as old as time, even the Bible’s founding family had brother killing brother in the first pages of Genesis. World history is one long saga local, regional and world wars. But in the last ten years or so something different seems to be going on, killing that is more frightening, more random and could happen in your own backyard. Every week we turn on the news to watch the horrors of another terrorist attack on innocent civilians, somewhere in the world, by one extremist group or another. The terrorists are right wing or left wing extremists who kill for a political cause, or religious zealots who murder in the name of Allah or God. Why is warfare in this Age of Terrorism different?
First, today’s terrorists worship death. Throughout history, warriors have planned to fight and die if necessary, but to survive if possible. Today’s suicide bombers have turned that notion on its head. They don’t expect to survive, and don’t even bother making plans to escape. This death cult debuted on the world stage with Al Qaeda on September 11, but in the interceding ten years has been taken up by different groups and well as individuals. The September 11 hijackers learned how to fly 747s, but skipped the lessons on how to land them, because they expected to die.
In 2008, Muhammad Mahdi Akef, one of the founders and later Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, advocated teaching youngsters to become “mujahidin who love to die as much as others love to live.” Extremist leaders see that as their competitive advantage – as long as their followers are more willing to die than the people they attack are willing to die defending themselves, the terrorists will ultimately prevail. As long as they can sell enough of their people on the death cult as an instant ticket into a heavenly afterlife, they win.