…and we leave Cambridge

The last week at Cambridge was by far my favorite, academically. In both The British are Coming to Stop Insurgencies and The British Approach to War and Strategic Studies we discussed the global shift from conventional warfare to asymmetric conflicts and the shift from “old terrorism” to “new terrorism.”

Old terrorism is secular, has a hierarchical structure, and uses symbolic violence. Symbolic violence would be assassinating a key figure, or hijacking a plan and sending a list of demands, but not crashing the plane once the demands were met. New terrorism is characterized by sheer violence, tends to be religious, has enhanced striking capabilities, and is asymmetric. Sheer violence and enhanced striking power go hand-in-hand. The 9/11 hijackers were able to use 4 planes and cause the deaths of 2500 Americans. 

There have also been several waves of terrorism: Anarchists (1890s-1914), Ethno-nationalists (1919-1998), Ideological (1920s-present), Religious (1960s-present).

We briefly discussed The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in both classes. ISIS and its rise to power is a complete phenomena made possible by a comprehensive social media presence and online radicalization process.  As more people are exposed to ISIS’s ideology, more people pledge allegiance to the caliphate and become foreign fighters.

After scrolling back through my notes in both classes, it is astonishing how much we learned in five weeks. I feel that I have a much broader knowledge of both war/strategic studies and British counterinsurgency strategy. I’m going to miss Cambridge terribly, but am excited to take the information I’ve learned and apply it to future classes/internships/research.

“The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he can not fathom our real intent.”- Sun Tzu, The Art of War.