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Javed Ali: The Fifth Wave of Rebel Terrorism

Javed Ali: The Fifth Wave of Rebel Terrorism
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<v ->What I wanted to do today</v> is talk about a recent opinion piece that I wrote called the Fifth Wave of Verbal Terrorism, which connects to an article from 2002 written by a UCLA political scientist named David Rapoport called “The Four Waves of Ripple Terrorism.” So professor Rapoport’s Four Waves of Ripple Terrorism that he described in this article that now is almost 20 years, prior, talked about these waves that started in the 1880s, and then have evolved over time and each wave with about a 20 to 40 year life cycle. So the first wave that professor Rapoport discussed was called the Anarchist Wave, and that wave last from the 1880s to the 1920s.
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The second wave he talked about was called the Anti-Colonialist Wave and that wave, professor Rapoport’s description lasted from the 1920s to the 1960s. The third wave, he described was called New Left Terrorism. And that wave was from the 1960s to the 1980s. And then the fourth wave of rebel terrorism, professor Rapoport described was called, the Religious Wave and that wave encompassed a lot of different threats, but, it also covered the rise of what we would now consider the global Jihadist threat, first, evidenced by Al-Qaeda and then groups like ISIS and professor Rapoport’s description, that wave started in 1979 based on a number of different factors. And then his article stopped in 2002 after 9/11.
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And some would argue that wave is still ongoing, even though groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS look different than, than when they did several years ago. But using that framework, I then, looked at the phenomena of domestic terrorism here in the United States. And likewise, tried to put a wave theory or used a professor Rapoport’s wave analysis. So in this recent piece that I wrote, I said that what we’re experiencing now in the United States is a fifth wave of rebel terrorism, which I call the New Right Wave.
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But that wave, I would argue started in the late 2000s based on a number of factors to include the election of president Obama, to include the economic downturn that occurred in the late 2000s. And also a third key factor was the rise in ultra populist or nationalist political movements, not only in the United States, but around the world. So we had several factors giving oxygen to this new wave. That again, I would, I would argue, occurred in the, or started in the late 2000s. And since then that wave is only swung upwards. And one manifestation of that, I would say is the number of lethal attacks that have occurred inside the United States since the mid 2010s.
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And that volume has remained relatively constant about one lethal attack a year, but also several disrupted plots every year as well. And starting with the Dylann Roof attack in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015 to where we are now here in 2021.
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And so, this is the wave that we’re currently in and taking, professor Rapoport’s wave theory that of either a minimum of 20 years or 40 years, if we’ve only passed on the conservative side 10 years plus into this fifth wave of rebel terrorism here inside the United States, that includes, the far right terrorism threat here, that this wave could last for at least another 10 years, if not much longer. Again, using professor Rapoport’s waves theory. So this is what the threat looks like right now here in 2021, we should expect a continuation of this, of this trend of at least one lethal attack a year.
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And perhaps several other disrupted plots of people who are like-minded, want to conduct lethal attacks, but fortunately, because of law enforcement detection and other forms of intervention, those plots aren’t successful. So this is what the threat looks like now, then one of the key questions will be how will government both at the federal level, state and local level and the private sector and local communities, how will a new paradigm emerge to confront this threat? Because this threat is different than the international terrorism one it involves Americans, it involves potentially constitutionally protected activity. And the legal framework for counter-terrorism in the United States is also very different than the legal framework for counter terrorism overseas.
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So this is going to be a major challenge, but also priority for the Biden administration. President Biden has said that this is something that he wants to, to at least explore how to, how to do more on. The recently confirmed, new attorney general Merrick Garland has said that combating domestic terrorism is certainly going to be a major priority for him. And he actually was the lead prosecutor for the department of justice, with the trial of Timothy McVeigh who committed the Oklahoma city bombing attack in 1995 and prior to 9/11, that was the single biggest act of terrorism inside the United States in US history.
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So lots of issues to sort through going forward on the policy side, how things will emerge on the legal side, no clear answers yet, but this is something that, all of us are going to have to watch very closely. Thank you.

Another Wave

In this step, Javed Ali discusses the the four waves of terrorism and makes the case for a fifth wave that we recently entered, “The New Right Wave.” Javed talks about the timelines and evolution of these various stages of terrorism and discusses some of the opportunities and barriers that exist as we enter this new phase.

Discussion: Does the historical context of the five waves of rebel terrorism change the way you think about terrorism?

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