Nikolas Stylianou
(RIEAS Research Associate and Security Analyst, PhD Candidate in Security and Intelligence Studies at Newcastle University, UK)


Few days have passed since the terrorist attack in Boston, carried out by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26. This provides sufficient time to record some introductory observations and to extract some preliminary lessons learned. It is absolutely quintessential that, in the aftermath of a crisis, the security and intelligence apparatus of a state commences the procedure with an aim to assess what has been learned, what went wrong and what needs to be avoided in the future.

This procedure is critical to the future strategic planning and security production of the state. The current article aims to briefly note down some first observations and lessons learned out of the recent terrorist attack in Boston.

1. The ontological grounds upon which the concept of security is theorized need to be revised. It is valid to argue that the domain of international politics and especially the concepts of security and intelligence are becoming more dynamic and therefore more abstract. State entities no longer constitute the sole unit of analysis; the inclusion of non-state actors as well as individuals into the security equation as well as in the study of terrorism has become a necessity. The expansion of security in terms of level of analysis (states, non-state actors and individuals) provides for the necessity of the ontological revision and update of the definition of security. In an increasingly globalized political system, the security matrix and consequently, security decision-making and production, have become much more complex and demanding. The extremely changing nature of the operationalization of terrorism calls for a significant shift within the domain of security studies.

2. Terrorism and how it is manifestates has become increasingly asymmetrical in nature. Inexplicit geographical origin and practically invisible; it is valid to assert that terrorism is an act of psychological warfare. What is more concerning is that acts of terrorism have become deeply ‘sociologized’ in their operationalization; their modus operandi has been developed in societal and social grounds. The ‘lone-wolf’ phenomenon, where individuals not directly affiliated or logistically supported by a terrorist organization has made it to the mainstream and is considered to shape the future model of terrorist activities.

3. The Global South and Global North have become heavily interdependent in terms of security. It is strategically invalid to assert that conditions of instability, internal strife and domestic terror in the Global South can be contained by military checkpoints and physical elements within certain geographical boundaries.

4. The role of the Media in the midst of a crisis is critical. The smooth collaboration of Media and Law Enforcement Agencies is the cornerstone of an effective crisis management operation. The Media can rapidly accelerate the spread of panic within the society and hence impede the management of the crisis. The recent terrorist attack in Boston has shown us that the Media should maintain an open line of communication with the appropriate Law Enforcement Agencies in order to mitigate panic, provide substantial and effective instructions and guidance to the civil society.


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