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What the Zeitgeist can Tell us About the Future of Terrorism

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In the United States and across Europe, there is a broad recognition that right-wing extremism has become either the main terrorist threat, or at the very least a seriously growing concern. The racially motivated attack by an 18-year-old in May 2022 in Buffalo (NY), deliberately targeting African Americans and killing ten people before being arrested, was but the latest in a long series of lethal right-wing plots and attacks in the West. In parallel, a relative decline of jihadi activities in Western countries has been noted, resulting in a new balance of (perceived) terrorist threats. 

Although recognising the intellectual appeal of such discussions, the very concrete policy implications to it are actually more critical. Any attempt at anticipating the evolution of the threat drives the allocation of counter-terrorism resources in a certain direction. In the UK, for instance, a leaked document revealed an hesitation regarding the desired priority focus of the Prevent strategy. Predicting the future of terrorism has never been an easy task, however, and a simple observation of recent trends and numbers is an unreliable method to anticipate a deeper structural evolution. In order to address this point, this short article revisits the concepts of terrorism waves and the Zeitgeist, with a view to reflect on what terrorist threat landscape may lie on the horizon.  



This article was first published on the ICCT’s website.



(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)