Topics: Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, State-sponsored terrorism Pages: 45 (15158 words) Published: March 7, 2013
The Causes of Terrorism
Two Causes of Terrorism
From Amy Zalman, Ph.D., former About.com Guide
See More About:
* terrorism research
* psychology and terrorism
* history of terrorism
* causes of terrorism

A Sri Lanka paramilitary Karuna soldier mans a checkpoint on December 8, 2006. John Moore/Getty Images
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All terrorist acts are motivated by two things:
* Social and political injustice: People choose terrorism when they are trying to right what they perceive to be a social or political or historical wrong—when they have been stripped of their land or rights, or denied these. * The belief that violence or its threat will be effective, and usher in change. Another way of saying this is: the belief that violent means justify the ends. Many terrorists in history said sincerely that they chose violence after long deliberation, because they felt they had no choice. This explanation of the causes of terrorism may be difficult to swallow. It sounds too simple, or too theoretical. However, if you look at any group that is widely understood as a terrorist group, you will find these two elements are basic to their story. * Zionists who bombed British targets in 1930s mandate Palestine felt they must do so in order to create a Jewish state. * The IRA (Irish Republican Army) bombed English targets in the 1980s to make the point that they felt their land was colonized by British imperialists. * In the 1960s and 1970s, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine felt that armed attacks in Israel were a justifiable response to the usurpation of their land. * Osama bin Laden's declaration of war on American interests in the 1990s stemmed from his belief that U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia represented an abomination to the kind of Islamic state he believed should exist in the Arabian peninsula. * Uighur separatists in China today feel that Chinese religious repression (the Uighur Chinese are Muslims) justifies their terrorist tactics. * In some cases, people choose terrorist tactics based on a cause whose righteousness they believe in to the exclusion of nearly all else. Abortion clinic bombers in the 1990s and groups such as the Animal Liberation Front believe zealously in their causes. People who choose terrorist tactics are also persuaded that violence, or the threat of violence, is effective. There is some question about who actually 'chooses' terrorism, and it may be unfair to think of young recruits, such as some suicide bombers today, who are seduced by cult-like methods of indoctrination as completely culpable for their choices.

Asking a Better Question: What Conditions Are Favorable for Terrorism In fact, the question, "what causes terrorism?" is not quite the right question to be asking, because we will never be able to answer it. We cannot say that the presence of one factor provokes terrorism in the same way that we can say with scientific certainty that certain toxins cause diseases. If you listen closely to the explanations that are usually given as answers to the question, "What is terrorism?" you will find that they actually answer the question: "What are the conditions in which terrorism is most likely to take place?" Sometimes...
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