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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Why terrorists aren't using tech

30 October 2017

It has now been almost 15 years since I wrote about the concept of building a low-cost "DIY" cruise missile using parts sourced from local suppliers and from the internet.

At the time, some scoffed at my outlandish suggestion -- whilst others, particularly from within the US defense forces, treated those claims with acclaim, pointing out that they had been trying to raise awareness of just such a threat themselves.

So what has happened over the last 15 years in respect to this threat and why, if it was as easy as I suggested, haven't we actually seen waves of these home-built missiles impacting "soft" western targets?

Well I guess the answer is simple.

The bodies of extremist terrorists are cheaper than stainless steel, electronics and brain power.

By using "real people" rather than technology to deliver lethal payloads, terrorists are able to emphasize the lengths their organisations will go to in order to extract a human toll on those who they see as their enemies.

It's one thing to fire off a few missiles in the general direction of your enemies but it's another thing altogether to sacrifice your life in the process.

We've already seen that terror groups have the ability to get technologically innovative when they want to but they generally prefer to create martyrs because those martyrs become a role model for other foolish people who also want to be idolised in the eyes of their peers -- even if it's only posthumously.

The fact that there hasn't actually been a low-cost cruise missile used in anger is a very good thing but it doesn't mean it won't happen. Indeed, the media are busy scaring up fear within the general population by suggesting that extremists will use "store bought" drones to carry explosive or toxic payloads and then drop them on innocent people below.

However, I really don't see this happening -- for the same reason we don't see cheap, home-built cruise missiles roaring across our skies. There's no martyrdom in simply flying a drone over a crowd of innocents and killing one or two.

Terrorism is (in my opinion) driven by irrational emotion and a desire to exert power over others. This means that the terrorist leaders are getting their buzz by gaining the respect (albeit misplaced) and control over others who they have indoctrinated into their cult of violence. The victims of these terrorists are simply collateral damage -- I really don't think they're the primary objective.

By using religion, the terrorist leader are able to promise the young extremists who follow them, rewards beyond their wildest dreams -- but only if they give their lives in the name of the cause.

Yep, once you've been blown to smithereens, you'll get your choice of a wide range of assorted virgins and other delights. And hey, it must be true... nobody's come back to complain have they?

So why waste time, money and effort on technology when you have a ready army of "mules" who are prepared to give their lives willingly to receive such an abundance of riches in the after-life.

That's so much simpler than learning about technology -- isn't it?

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