The 1990s: Business-as-Usual: Resisting, Appeasing and Sponsoring Terrorism
The Presidencies of George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) and of Bill Clinton (1993-2001), were marked, superficially at least, by great continuity with what had gone before in the matter of the West’s approach to terrorism: resistance, appeasement and outright encouragement of the phenomenon alternated in a fashion suggesting that no principled or consistent guidelines for day-to-day conduct accompanied the ritualistic rhetoric offered to the news media whenever there was a consensus that an ‘outrage’ had occurred. But the end of the 1980s marked a turning point all the same for at least two reasons. First, a ‘new’ kind of terrorism emerged that had little in common with the parallel traditional forms which had become familiar during the previous two decades: the ‘new’ variety was inspired by religious fanaticism that at times appeared to have only other-worldly rewards in view; it was marked by a willingness on the part of large numbers of practitioners to commit suicide rather than merely to take great risks with their personal safety; it was often nihilistic in character with responsibility for deeds not invariably claimed and with ‘demands’ being either non- negotiable, or plainly unattainable (at least in the eyes of traditional analysts), or even just unstated; and some of its practitioners were not afraid to contemplate causing mass destruction, some with and some without the actual possession of so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) or, more precisely Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Weapons. The West’s reaction to this ‘new’ terrorism will be examined in the next chapter. But attitudes to even the older form of terrorism, though it continued alongside the ‘new’ and was usually responded to in a ‘business-as-usual’ fashion, was also
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