SECURITY RESEARCH PAPER
A PERSPECTIVE ON TERRORISM
1 March 2015
A PERSPECTIVE ON TERRORISM
Purpose: To critically examine the threat of modern terrorism to Western society. Design/methodology: An assessment was made of publically available documentation. The paper is then divided into a number of sections. It initially deals with the difficulties of defining terrorism, followed by its symbiotic relationship with the media. The next section looks at the modern Islamic Fundamentalist threat and the primarily neocon response since 9/11. Whilst the US has withdrawn combat forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, a bipartisan approach has been maintained to counterterrorism. The dangers of such an approach are examined along with emerging threats.
Table of Contents
Role of the Media
Counterview – The Dangers
Looking Ahead – The Next Potential Threats
“Terrorism has become part of our daily news diet. Hardly a day goes by without news of an assassination, political kidnapping, hijacking or bombing somewhere in the world. As such, incidents of terrorism have increased in the past decade, the phenomenon of terrorism has become one of increasing concern to governments....”1
Introduction. With the recent high profile terrorist attacks in Sydney and Paris and the ongoing terrorist incidents in Nigeria, Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism has been described as the biggest threat to 21st Century security.2 However the opening quote was from a RAND paper written in 1980. Terrorism is not a modern phenomenon.
Historic Precedence. Terror as a tactic is not new. Some scholars date such actions to the Thugs; Assassins and Zealots.3 But it is generally accepted that the origins of modern terrorism date from the Reign of Terror (1789-94) during the French Revolution. The idea was later used to support the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, where it was termed “governance by terror”.4 State terror has often been used to describe internal national violence, such as the Israeli military occupation of Gaza, but the UN does not recognise such a concept. States by definition have a monopoly on power and any abuse of that power is regulated by international law.
Modern non-state terrorism can trace its routes to anarchists such as Sergei Nechayev and the “propaganda by the deed” in ninetieth century Russia. Rapoport describes four waves of terror. Anarchists; Anti-colonialist; Socialist and Islamic fundamentalist with each wave lasting some 40 years. Anti-colonial and socialist terrorism grew out of nationalist power struggles, which accompanied the European withdrawal from Empire and the ideological conflict of the Cold War (The Red Brigades, Stern Gang in Israel, and the FLN in Algeria).5
Defining Terrorism: The difficulty in defining terrorism is that that there is no precise or widely accepted definition of the term. It is politically and emotionally charged - used liberally in the media to intensify perceptions of violence and used politically to delegitimize opponents. The mujahidin in the 1980s were referred to as “freedom fighters” whilst the Taliban are referred to as terrorists. Terminology influences how the audience considers the message.
Terrorism is a tactic to achieve an end. It is not the end in itself. The modern phenomenon of non-state actor violence for political ends is defined in a RAND paper as: 6
Violence, or threat of, against civilians
motives are political or ideological
carried out for maximum publicity
to influence an audience beyond the immediate victim.
US officials add another distinction - one of ties to a larger strategy. This prevents the lone wolf violence such as the gunman who opened fire...
References: Fischer et al. Introduction to Security. 9th ed. USA. 2013.
Hoffman, Prof Bruce
Pinker, S. The Better Angels of our Nature. GB. 2011.
Rapoport, David. Fear and Trembling. American Political Review. 1984.
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