The terrorist threat to diplomacy: an Australian perspective

Author/s (editor/s):

Andrew Selth

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 35

Since the problem of international terrorism assumed importance in the late 1960s, diplomats and diplomatic facilities have been singled out as prime targets for terrorist attack. In addition, a number of states appear not only to support these attacks but have themselves resorted to similar tactics as a means of expanding their foreign policy options and conducting a form of surrogate warfare against their opponents. Efforts by governments to protect diplomats and diplomatic facilities have achieved only limited success, but initiatives at the regional and international levels have revealed a remarkable degree of consensus among states on this complex and sensitive issue. To date, Australia has remained relatively free of this and other kinds of terrorist violence but, as an active participant in world affairs, it seems inevitable that it will become more affected by this problem in the future. Yet while the world's diplomats and diplomatic facilities are under greater threat from international terrorism than ever before, the institution of diplomacy is still secure and, paradoxically, may even be growing stronger. This is a fine distinction, but an important one for the perspective it offers on proposed measures against international terrorism and, in particular, the Reagan Administration's approach to this problem. There is a threat to diplomacy from a few maverick states but a greater danger to the international order would arise from an over-reaction on the part of others.

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