What we have today, uniquely in human history, is a terrorism that seems myopically focused on killing as many people as possible and which has no clear political goals and no stated territorial aims. The question is, why? It is not moral masturbation to ask this question or to point out the peculiarity and perversity of modern Islamist violence. My penny’s worth is that this terrorism speaks to a profound crisis of politics and of morality. Where earlier terrorist groups were restrained both by their desire to appear as rational political actors with a clear goal in mind and by basic moral rules of human behaviour – meaning their violence was often bloody, yes, but rarely focused narrowly on committing mass murder – today’s Islamist terrorists appear to float free of normal political rules and moral compunctions. This is what is so infuriating about the BBC’s refusal to call these groups terrorists – because if anything, and historically speaking, even the term terrorist might be too good for them.Read the whole thing.
I would contend that O'Neill is correct--the change in terrorism is a result of a crisis of politics and morality.
There are two ways to view this issue. First, this crisis is because Arab civilization is collapsing, and beginning to lash out like a mortally wounded animal. Islam preaches that it is superior and above all. Muslims are the chosen of Allah, destined to make all unbelievers their slaves. But it has not worked out that way. The Islamic world is backwards and stunted, and the terrorists know it, but cannot reconcile it with their beliefs. Their expectation is that they should rule the world; the reality is that they fall further behind every year. Islamic economies are, for the most part, collapsing. Their birth rates are plummeting. Conversions to Christianity are steadily increasing, notwithstanding the threat of death to converts. Like the arch-typical bullies, the terrorists have to hurt someone to make themselves feel better about their own failures.
However, it is interesting, particularly with the Nairobi mall attack, that we are seeing terrorist groups seemingly dominated by sociopathic predators. As O'Neill points out, many Islamic terrorist attacks seem more like the work of someone shooting up a mall. So, are we seeing fringe groups that brainwash participants to act like the criminally insane, or are we seeing fringe groups that are having to scrape the bottom of the social barrel?
(H/t Gates of Vienna)