Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Manipulating Fear: Identifying And Preventing Terrorism

Written by on .

I owe one security threat from Wednesday. As we already covered cyber security and nuclear non-proliferation, I should not miss discussing terrorism, a nowadays highly important issue.

At the panel session about “Identifying and Preventing Security Threats”, I heard one attempt to define terrorism. Although everyone has a concept in mind what terrorism means, there is no appropriate, internationally accepted definition for it. Therefore, when talking about it in a more scientific way, it is always necessary to clarify what we understand under terrorism. What we had here:

Terror is about manipulating expectations.”

This sentence requires the broad concept of security where the following is important: we have to distinguish between the security in the present and in the future. The latter is based on expectations – do you think you will be safe in the future? If not, you are afraid. Terrorism generates fear, therefore your expectations for the future will be the sense of insecurity.

Manipulation of fears can work the other way round as well. We could hear a very brave suggestion to the press for some self-censorship: if we don’t hear so much about terror attacks, our sense of insecurity will decrease. Don’t spread fear, please…

How to prevent terrorism?

It has been made clear, that terrorism is “only” a tool, and what has to be combated is the ideology behind it. Combating terrorism is not an easy task, because states have to handle a non-state threat. Moreover, states are “amazingly slow” in identifying and handling new types of security threats, such as terrorism.

Still, we heard some suggestions what to do for prevention: education is crucial, and social welfare (although in the case of bin Laden it did not matter) and solving the political problems of the hotspots in the world can help as well. What the US did is at least “unbalanced”, and the death of bin Laden should have been the time to leave.



HRH Prince Turki AlFaisal Alsaud, Founder and Trustee, King Faisal Foundation; Chairman, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies

Sean Cleary, Chairman, Strategic Concepts, South Africa; Executive Vice Chair, Future World Foundation, Switzerland

John Deutch, Institute Professor of Chemistry, MIT; Former Director of Central Intelligence Agency

Carlos Ivan Simonsen Leal, President, FGV Foundation


Quentin Peel, Associate Editor and Chief Correspondent in Germany, Financial Times

Anikó Mészáros Twitter: @dusmii

International Relations expert, in love with Central and Northern Europe, security studies and regional cooperation.