Terrorism is, above all, a political instrument. Its purpose is, as its name indicates, to instill fear in people. Terrorist organizations commit a rising number of unpredictable attacks which make civilians fear that they can hit anytime, anywhere. The fear they provoke is their main leverage. Governmental authorities often take strict measures to fight terrorism, which in many cases limits the free liberties of the people they govern. At the same time, the clout of state intelligence agencies grows stronger in this context. In everyday life, people start suspecting everyone they see, worried that the people they see on the streets could be dangerous.
The gathering of intelligence is of critical importance in the fight against terrorism. The problem lies in the ability to discern how much information the government can share with the public. Sometimes, government officials believe that avoiding mass panic is the most important thing, so they keep intelligence confidential and do not disclose the information to the public because, if they don't, mass chaos could result and people would be put in a state of terror, thus achieving the goal of the terrorists unintentionally. On the other hand, if the government does not warn its citizens and an attack occurs, the government may stand accused of hiding the truth and not taking the necessary precautions.
The gathering of intelligence is of critical importance in the fight against terrorism. The problem lies in the ability to discern how much information the government can share with the public.
Last week, the U.S. and Israeli governments warned their citizens in Turkey of possible terrorist attacks. Turkey is being targeted by both the PKK and DAESH, so it is not easy to know for sure which one of these poses the biggest threat to American or Israeli citizens in Turkey. However, if a terrorist attack is committed, this will not only hurt the citizens of these two countries but, more than anyone else, the Turkish people.
These warnings translate as the following: the U.S. and Israel believe that Turkey is not safe, and that their citizens had better leave this country as soon as possible. Of course, they do not advise Turks as to what they can or should do; they are only worried about their nationals. If something indeed happens, these governments would not like to be accused of not doing enough to protect their citizens. Due to these warnings emanating from foreign countries, there is a growing sentiment among Turks that their government is either not receiving this information or prefers not to communicate it. In such, these warnings put the Turkish government between a rock and a hard place.
Germany recently announced it has reason to believe that DAESH is preparing an attack in Germany. If that happens, it would be a first: Germany has never been attacked by radical Islamist organizations before. The German government will probably ask the population to accept tougher security measures similar to those recently adopted in France and Belgium: which include limitations being placed on certain freedoms.
The point is that the only way to be sure that this information is accurate is to actually be at "ground zero" of a terrorist attack. That is the main dilemma concerning terrorism. There is something odd in Germany's declarations, however. While German officials say that all German cities face a credible threat - just like Paris, London and Brussels - we can deduce that this is not only about Berlin, the country's capital but the country as a whole. Officials have also admitted that this information is not 100 percent verifiable. In other words, this is just mere speculation. Do such speculations warrant beefed up security measures?
Many people are wondering why Germany had never been attacked by DAESH or a similar organization before. Perhaps German officials now feel the need to stress that their country, too, is under threat from DAESH. Germany wants everyone to know that DAESH considers that country an enemy as well.