The recent propaganda film featuring the murder of journalist James Foley by a British ISIS fighter, also carried the follow on threat to murder another freelance journalist named Steven Sotloff. Today video has emerged that Sotloff has now been beheaded, and the third captive threatened is a former British soldier who does security work for aid organizations, David Cawthorne Haines. The pattern seems to be that every two weeks another hostage is executed.
ISIS is attempting to use these western hostages as collateral, threatening and carrying out the killings if US airstrikes against ISIS continue, clearly signalling an attempt by the terrorist organization to hijack US foreign policy via asymmetrical means. As the world’s only remaining super-power, with the ability to project military force around the globe, the United States is a hard target to deter. Perhaps no nation in the world can square off against America with conventional military forces. However, terrorism exploits America’s weak spots. By kidnapping Americans and holding them hostage on the world stage, terrorists can also hold American foreign policy hostage.
This form of political terrorism was in full swing during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Terrorists would hijack an aircraft filled with civilians and then demand the release of prisoners, a withdrawal of occupational forces, or whatever other political ends they wanted to achieve. In SOFREP’s interview with Lt. Col. Oliver North, a former National Security adviser during the Reagan administration, he stated that he believes that our counter-terrorism tactics at that time were particularly aggressive and successfully mitigated the threat of this form of terrorism. But with that success, terrorist organizations changed their tactics as well.
Political terrorism transformed into religious terrorism. No longer were hostages taken and demands made. Instead, suicide attacks were launched. This included suicide bombings, most notably the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Al Qaeda and its offshoot organizations, such as the Islamic State of Iraq, took hostages but made no demands. They simply beheaded the hostages and made snuff videos of the executions to intimidate people.