in the less committed category, and most of their behavior and ideas blend into those of much larger groups of which they remain members.
Core groups of fully committed terrorists have exhibited serious, sophisticated concern for their own security. The conspicuous lack of success that U.S. and Iraqi national forces have had in capturing members of the al-Zarqawi leadership is evidence of that. On the other hand, emphasis on a tight-knit cellular structure amplifies such groups’ prevailing difficulties and slowness in communication with its dispersed members. This has the effect of loosening central control and encouraging independence of action. Moreover, in a context of widespread support for insurgency and publicly perceived terrorist effectiveness against seemingly overpowering military forces, new cells quickly form and take action on their own while typically exhibiting less and less concern for unity of program and action. Again, this is being repeatedly demonstrated not only in Iraq but also in Western Europe. Hence there are multiplying targets for antiter-rorist intelligence and action, presenting widely differing degrees of difficulty of access. It cannot be an acceptable strategy for counterterrorist policy makers to narrow their focus to what they, but not necessarily the subject population at large, perceive as the original, innermost circles at the heart of the challenges they face.
More spontaneous and marginal participants have not infrequently proved to be approachable by journalists and unofficial informants. While some insights into the dynamics of these groupings can be gained in this way, as well as from comparative and historical data, specific, time-sensitive, action-oriented, information is prevailingly beyond reach.
Valery Tishkov’s early warning networks are a useful innovation that rely on the reporting by trained local observers of depersonalized, essentially contextual criteria to identify impending conditions of threat or tension, but they, too, have limits. Typically extended and intense, fully candid networks of communication tend to shrivel up as tensions rise, so that when we most need them they become progressively more circumscribed and fragile.
Great states that are victimized by terrorism may resist accepting this, but rigid definitions of what is terrorism are elusive and contentious. Targeting civilian noncombatants is a common shorthand description, but it has obvious limitations in situations of asymmetrical warfare. Are there genuine noncombatants when much of a region’s population is either actively up-in-arms or at least passively in support of those who are? Insurgents have to make use of the crude, low-tech, not very selective weapons they can readily seize or have at hand. Organized military forces, on the other hand, make use of much more powerful and destructive weapons, particularly air and heavy artillery bombardment, and then too frequently dismiss attendant civilian casualties as mere collateral damage. The affected population, of course, may view this differently. Certain egregious acts clearly qualify as terrorism, and certain organized groups like al Qaeda clearly see themselves as systematically engaged in exploiting precisely such