The concept of "the self-fulfilling prophecy" is probably as old as the hills, but it was first formulated and analyzed in 1948 in an essay of that title by Robert K. Merton (1910-2003) which begins by quoting an expression of the basic idea in 1928 by W.I. Thomas: "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.'" -- The "war on terrorism" is a self-fulfilling prophecy of what Merton called "the social type," involving "prophecy-dominated interactions between individuals and between collectivities" (Robert K. Merton, On Social Structure and Science, ed. by Piotr Sztompka [Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1996], p. 186). -- The fear that the "war on terrorism," bogus in its inception, would become a self-fulfilling prophecy has preoccupied many minds since September 2001. -- On Tuesday, Kim Gamel of the Associated Press reported just such a development: a Sept. 9 report to the U.N. Security Council warned of a "new and growing generation of supporters who may never have left their countries of residence but have embraced the core elements of the al-Qaeda message" and whose "cells are emerging as the main threat posed by al-Qaeda terrorism today. . . . They are bound to the al-Qaeda leadership by an overall unity of purpose but remain independent, anonymous, and largely invisible until they strike." -- That a U.N. committee monitoring sanctions against the terror network should focus on this phenomenon is an implicit endorsement of the thesis of Adam Curtis's "The Power of Nightmares," the 3-hour BBC documentary that has been shown on TV all around the world (except the U.S.). -- Curtis asserts that the real danger facing the West is in the Islamist idea, not in the al-Qaeda organization, which according to Curtis, Jason Burke, and others, does not really exist as an organization in the sense that most American imagine: "In looking for an organization, the Americans and the British were chasing a phantom enemy and missing the real threat," says Curtis in Part III of "The Power of Nightmares." -- The second and third and third parts of "The Power of Nightmares" will be shown on Friday evening, Sept. 23, at 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. in Xavier 201 (the Philip Nordquist Lecture Hall) on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University....
War on Terror
U.N. REPORT WARNS OF A 'THIRD GENERATION' OF TERRORISTS
By Kim Gamel
September 20, 2005
UNITED NATIONS -- Al-Qaeda has spawned a so-called "third generation" of followers skilled in urban warfare and suicide bombings and U.N. sanctions need to be updated to keep up with the changing tactics, a report warned Tuesday.
The committee monitoring sanctions against the terror network and the Taliban said the arms embargo, travel ban, and assets freeze have been effective but "the combination of sanctions has still not achieved its full potential."
"Al-Qaeda continues to evolve and adapt to the pressures and opportunities of the world around it and the threat of a significant attack remains real in all areas," the group said in a report to the U.N. Security Council.
"At the same time, there has been a revival of the threat from the Taliban," it said, adding that recent evidence suggests the remnants of Afghanistan's ousted hard-line regime have access to more money.
The report, which was dated Sept. 9 and contained recommendations that will be considered by the U.N. Security Council, was released as Afghanistan faced the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces invaded in late 2001, with more than 1,200 people killed in the six months leading up to Sunday's historic legislative elections.
Sanctions currently require all 191 U.N. member states to impose a travel ban and arms embargo against Afghanistan's former Taliban leaders, Osama bin Laden and his terror network and those "associated with" them, and to freeze their financial assets.
The committee recommended more measures to clamp down on terror financing and said the Security Council should consider broadening the arms embargo to keep the groups from obtaining military-quality materials or using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.
It said al-Qaeda is seeking to stage more massive attacks to gain media exposure and an effective embargo would force militants to use less efficient equipment or risk discovery trying to procure more effective means.
"Terrorist tactics have evolved over the past several years and the (monitoring) team believes the arms embargo should change with the times," the report said.
It said no state had reported an attempt to breach the arms embargo but it noted implementation often was complicated in some post-conflict regions or areas beyond government control, such as in Somalia and Afghanistan.
The committee's report said al-Qaeda's message remains the same but its operations have expanded to comprise three groups -- bin Laden and his deputies, fighters who trained in Afghanistan and new recruits alienated by world events who form cells locally.
It described the new recruits as a third "new and growing generation of supporters who may never have left their countries of residence but have embraced the core elements of the al-Qaeda message."
"These cells are emerging as the main threat posed by al-Qaeda terrorism today," the report said. "They are bound to the al-Qaeda leadership by an overall unity of purpose but remain independent, anonymous, and largely invisible until they strike."
They often receive training from "the veterans of Afghanistan or other areas of conflict" or travel to Iraq to gain skills in urban warfare, bombmaking, assassination, and suicide attacks, then return home where they pose an increased threat.
The report came more than a month after the Security Council adopted a resolution expanding the sanctions to spell out for the first time who is included among associates of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
It also stated that people who finance or plan acts to support the outlawed groups and who recruit or provide weapons for bin Laden, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, "or any cell, affiliate, splinter group, or derivative thereof" will face sanctions.