Contemporary terrorism is a transnational problem. Advanced, modern nation states now no longer engage in open combat with one another. As we shall see in following sections, terrorism – whether it is the product of freestanding groups or of groups allied with particular states – reflects the rise of ‘asymmetrical warfare’. Terrorist acts therefore from part of a strategy reflecting war between two or more actors who have vastly different military capabilities.
The US has a state-of-the-art military capability: the 2007 US defence budget was some US $439,300,000 (which was larger than the 2005 military budgets of 168 nations combined). Yet on 11 September 2001, the US was attacked by 19 people armed with boxcutters who were able to hijack four aircraft. These attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon cost something in the region of US $450,000 to execute. Next section, you’ll be considering the impacts that modern terrorism has had on the foreign policy and defence strategies of major nation states, particularly the US, and further explore the role that non-state actors can have in contemporary international politics.