Homegrown Terrorism vs. International Terrorism

In recent days the world has watched in horror as one of the most peaceful nations on earth has experienced one of the largest terrorist attacks since September 11. What makes the recent tragedy in Norway so appalling is the fact that it didn’t originate from without Norway’s borders. Unlike the Al-Qaeda attack of September 11 it was a homegrown terror attack.
Homegrown terrorism is not merely confined to individuals like Breivik, but also includes groups like the KKK, Al-Qaeda, or fundamentalist religious groups. These groups are often influenced by persons or factions outside the United States, however any act perpetrated against the United States by someone born and raised in the U.S. (or in some cases “primarily operating” from the U.S.) would be considered homegrown or domestic terrorism despite international influences. Thus the questions to be answered are twofold, is homegrown terrorism more dangerous than international terrorism and which is more probable.
It is easy to see that domestic terror attacks can be far more devastating than international attacks. The tools available to the assailant(s) are essentially the same as those provided to international terrorists, but the effects can be quite different. The recent events in Norway provide a frightening example of just how domestic terrorism can be so damaging. The psyche of a nation can be irreparably damaged when it is discovered that the terrorist was a citizen of that nation. In the U.S. for example, the shooting in Arizona of Representative Giffords and other public citizens was so much more disturbing because the perpetrator was a young white male. U.S. citizens like to envision terrorists as being olive skinned with long beards speaking Arabic. This stereotype, however, is not always accurate. Domestic terrorists often capitalize off the fact that they have citizenship, a passport, speak the language fluently, and never have to go through a visa process or grueling customs to get into the country.
Despite the relative ease domestic terrorists may have in carrying out attacks, these attacks are less probable than attacks from international groups. Naturally, most U.S. citizens are very patriotic. In school they learn the Pledge of Allegiance and the history of the greatest Revolution of all time and thus those who do lead lives of crime are more likely to end up as gangbangers than bomb exploders. Also, the invention of the internet combined with an army of open source analysts allows the FBI and CIA to keep tabs on homegrown terrorists in embryo. Often it is far more difficult to do the same with international terrorist groups. In addition, groups like Al-Qaeda pose a greater threat to the United States because of their tendency to be better organized than small scale homegrown groups. In short international terrorists are more dangerous in a physical sense because of the capabilities organization affords them, whereas domestic terrorism is sometimes more dangerous for the American psyche. If international groups are able to recruit U.S. citizens to carry out attacks the most dangerous combination of international and domestic terrorism will be realized and the possibility of more terrorist attacks will certainly increase. The U.S. must continue to investigate open source intelligence and act on suspicious activities in order to cut down the threat that comes from both homegrown and international terrorism. Likewise it is important to continue counter-intelligence measures that will prevent dangerous acts of terrorism from occurring.

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