Crisis Management in TerroristAttacks and DisastersMark RuppKaplan University Crisis Management in TerroristAttacks and DisastersIntroductionThe terror attacks of September 11,2001 transformed America. Policies and laws were enacted, wars were waged,targets were identified, and Americans’ perception of terrorists and terrorismwas altered forever. Americans could no longer be assured they would be safefrom foreign threats on their home soils. Nearly seventeen years later, Americais still fighting the war on terror, with numerous terrorist attacks on homesoil since waged: from the attack at Fort Hood in 2009, to the Boston Marathonbombing in 2013, to the 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, to 2016 attack at thePulse nightclub in Orlando, among others, Terrorism on America, specifically,radical Islamic terrorism, is a constant threat from both on-the-ground andoffshore threats. While not asdevastating in terms of causalities when compared to September 11, these eventsare bookmarks in the history of modern terrorism waged on Americans. This paperwill discuss the probabilities of a terror attack using a weapon of massdestruction (WMD), while explaining the types and differences of attacks,including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive.
Sincefirearms are not considered WMDs, a discussion of firearms-based terroristattacks (such as assassinations and mass killings) will not be addressed here.The paper will then touch upon historical perspectives and current trends inthe WMDs of choice, and which weapons are used mostly by terroristorganizations and why. Probabilities: More than Math In 2010, the U.S.
State Department reported in its yearly terrorism report that WMD-based attacksby a terrorist group was one of the “gravest threats” to American security andits allies (Nacos, 2016). Significantly, the focus on the threat stemmed fromterrorist groups’ increased interest in nuclear-based attacks. The report notedthat increased access to the internet has cleared the path for gatheringreliable scientific and technical information on how to build nuclear weapons,including how and where to procure the materials necessary to build them(Nacos, 2016). In addition, the efficient communications medium of the Internethas made it easier for terrorist groups to source engineers and technicaladvisors. Thirdly, unstable countries with nuclear capabilities, such as NorthKorea, have increased the possibilities for access to under- or unsecurednuclear materials (Sullivan & Bongar, 2007). If the organization securedunderground trafficking networks, which many already employ, the possibility ofa nuclear-based attack could be even greater. However, accordingto current research, most terrorists are focused on conventional attacks ratherthan WMDs (Kelley, 2014).
This is an historical pattern for multiple reasons. If we were to follow historical patterns, we could assume that future terroristattacks will involve conventional weapons, not WMDs. However, this does noteliminate the possibility of WMD attacks. As seen in the Boston Marathonbombing, explosives can be cheaply made and covertly implemented, whileinflicting massive bodily injury. It is important toremember that terrorist attacks often do not have the sole goal of killingpeople, although that is certainly a prime directive (Sullivan & Bongar,2007). There are numerous ways these attacks can benefit the terrorist group,including instilling fear amongst people (making them easier to manipulate),discourage cooperation, breaking down government efficacy, seeking revenge, andinfluencing public opinion (Sullivan & Bongar, 2007). All these effects canaid the terrorist group with their motivations, whether stemming from devout nationalism,religious ideology, or political affiliation (Sullivan & Bongar, 2007).
CBRNE Breakdown: Chemical, Biological,Radiological, Nuclear, ExplosiveWhile weapons ofmass destruction a few basic characteristics – they are designed to maim andkill a lot of people in a relatively short amount of time – each type of weaponhas its unique properties. In addition, some weapon types are more popular in aWMD situation. For example, while chemical weapons have been used infrequently,they quickly can kill thousands of people, and are popular in wartime. On theother hand, explosive WMDs have become a popular alternative for modernterrorist groups. ChemicalToxic propertiesof chemical agents summarize the allure of chemical WMDs. Unlike explosives,their chemical compositions are used to deliver physical and/or physiologicaldamage to people. The history of using chemicals as weapons goes back to WorldWar I, when vapors and aerosols were applied by both sides. However, because ofthe devastating effects of chemical weapons, they were prohibited by the GenevaProtocol in 1925.
While it can be inefficient in disseminating chemical agents,the most commonly-used agent is mustard, since it is cheap and straightforwardto manufacture. It is also a persistent chemical with easily-foreseeableproperties. However, modern terrorist attacks involving WMDs rarely incorporatethe use of chemical weapons.
Two notable exceptions are during the Iran-ContraWar in 1980 and a chemical bombing in Syria in 2017 – never noted to occur onAmerican soil. BiologicalOn the other hand,biological terrorism emerged notable a few months after the 9/11 attacks. Fivepeople in the Washington, D.
C. area died when envelopes filled with a strain ofanthrax. Biological terrorism, also called germ warfare, is the application ofbacteria, fungi, spores, and viruses to kill people (James & Oroszi, 2015).While anthrax attacks have taken a back seat to more modern biological threats,these three agents pose a serious threat. Firstly, there is ricin. Ricin, whichis poisonous when absorbed (inhaled, swallowed, etc.) by humans. Ricin is ahighly durable agent and can be transformed into pellets, mists, powders (James& Oroszi, 2015).
Ricin can also bedissolved in water. When human ingest it, it first causes eye pain and redness,followed by low blood pressure and tightness in the chest, and finally death.There is also the threat of sarin and VX. Sarin is strictly used as a nerveagent and on its own is classified as a WMD without any modifications by theUnited Nations (Cirincione, 2014). The odorless,tasteless VX is also deadly as it paralyzes the nervous system. It is a liquidsubstance and evaporates slowly (Cirincione, 2014).RadiologicalA radiologicalthreat from terrorist organizations largely consists of RDDs, or radiologicaldispersal device.
The device is novel in that it combines traditionalexplosives with radioactive components. The thinking behind RDDs is that uponexplosion, not only will people in the vicinity be injured or killed, but thatthe radioactive material will infect those in the surrounding area. The biggerthreat from RDDs is the blast itself, which poses a much larger threat than theradiological material contained inside it, for numerous reasons, the primarybeing that the levels emitted from an RDD would be relatively low (Cirincione,2014).NuclearA nuclear WMD consistsof nuclear materials. As discussed previously, while the odds of a nuclearattack are relatively low, the information on how to obtain and create such aWMD is available online, as is increased access to experts and scientists toguide the creation of a nuclear WMD. ExplosiveExplosives aredestructive devices that can include everything from bombs to pressure cookers.Explosives are popular methods for terrorism because they are cheap tomanufacture, and can cause significant damage in a short period.
Conclusion Thetypes and varieties of weapons of mass destruction are diverse and plentiful.Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive WMDs have all beendeployed to kill and maim. While Americans have largely faced terrorist attackson their own soil via traditional (and sometimes novel) means, varying fromfirearms to airplanes, there have still been WMDs used to instill fear and killAmericans, such as the bombs used at the Boston Marathon in 2013. Thepossibility of a CBRNE-based terrorist attack in America is possible, buthistorically they have been secondary to the above-mentioned traditional attackvectors. ReferencesCirincione,J. (2014). Repairing theregime: Preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.Routledge.
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