The Threat of Terrorism in US

For most Americans, the September 11, attacks of 2000, changed their insight on terrorism activities. The terrible images of the World Trade Centre being destroyed in their eyes and the horror of people who lost their relatives under the wreckages took the country by surprise. Terrorism had never touched the lives of many Americans personally, until when the images of 9/11 took the heart of television broadcast; every person watching the events got deeply moved. The events of 9/11 did what previous terror attacks did not. Terrorism can be understood in many different ways, for instance, from a scholarly perspective to that of policymakers. However, there are four key characteristics found in most definitions; first, terrorism employs violence, second, it creates psychological fear of subjects of terrorism, third, it is a tactic used to achieve political objectives by weak groups, and fourth, non-combatants become the primary target (Kegley, 2002 and Combs 2004).

Superpowers are no longer the main threat to the security of the United States. The immediate threat to America is terrorist groups seeking to use nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons against it. Advancement in weapon technology during the 20th century is the main contributing factor to the increase of terrorism. In the absence of automatic weapons, high explosives, and WMD, terrorism lacks the tools for carrying out destructive attacks on civilian populations. Through the advancement of technology, chemical and biological weapons have significantly improved. In the past, poisons mixed by local alchemists were the standards for more than 2,000 years. However, the assortment of chemical agents developed in the modern world vastly extended the ability of nations or terrorists to wage chemical warfare on a larger scale.

Many scholars believe in the possibility of terrorists attacking the United States through the use of weapons of mass destruction (Betts, 2001). There is a common belief that terrorists will use WMD on the U.S. The argument behind this idea is that terrorists assess the risk and rewards involved in the terror actions on the grounds of ideology and religion as compared to the protection of geographic areas in nation conflicts (Whitenceck, 2005). Upon this argument, terrorists take risks that nations would not consider, thus becoming more likely to use WMD. Some scholars take a more reasonable approach, indicating that a WMD attack can be barred by preventing terrorists from obtaining such destructive weapons (Whiteneck, 2005). Few scholars argue that the WMD threat may be overstated due to the difficulties posed by technology and logistics in the acquisition of the weapons. They say that difficulties faced in the development and deployment of the weapons can be prohibitive.

According to Betts (2001), the United States and its allies face an alarming nuclear threat from their rivals. “For enemies of the United States, acquiring nuclear weapons is a top priority as they see it as a way of protecting themselves against American invasion, or a decisive strike against a regional adversary” (Auerswald, 2006). Iran, Iraq, al-Qaida, and Hezbollah are some of the states and terrorist groups obtaining nuclear weapons to use against the US. For many countries, the United States is not a threat compared to that of rival nations with which they share borders, such as India and Pakistan (Auerswald, 2006).

Analysis, Discussion & Conclusion

From the analysis above, it can be seen that the U.S. experiences threats due to weapons of mass destruction. This makes it imperative for it to have in place stronger intelligence mechanisms to mitigate such risks. The critical point is that the government must protect the citizens from all sorts of invasion terrorism being one of them. It is argued that the next biggest threat is not going to be a group of people or a particular kind of weapon, but rather the use of a new tactic to carry out an act of terrorism. This is because technology has advanced and terrorists may utilize the opportunity to implement terrorist strategies without being easily detected.

The fundamental point is that the United States should have in place mitigation efforts that are equivalent to the extent of the terrorism threat. In other words, the U.S. should have mechanisms that are equal to those that terrorists are likely to use. For instance, it was mentioned that a new tactic would be the next biggest terrorist threat. Assuming the new tactic would be the use of advanced or computerized technology to carry out acts of terrorism, then the U.S. should adopt similar strategies to prevent terrorism as well. This means it should have computerized devices to monitor the activities of terrorists. The other protection mechanism is having strict migration policies so that it takes all details for people seeking to enter the United States. This would prevent potential terrorists to enter the United States and carry out terror acts.


Auerswald, D. (2006). “Deterring Non-state WMD Attacks.” Political Science Quarterly 121:4 pp. 543-568.

Betts, R. (2001). “The New Threat of Mass Destruction.” Foreign Affairs 77:1 pp. 26-41.

Kegley, W. (2002). The New Global Terrorism: Characteristics, Causes, Controls. New York: Prentice Hall.

Whiteneck, D. (2005). “Deterring Terrorists: Thoughts on a Framework.” The Washington Quarterly 28:3 pp. 187-199.

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