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"Consider the bases for motivation for terrorism. Discuss with reference to a range of illustrative groups and action to counter violent political radicalisation"
Consider the bases for motivation for terrorism. Discuss with reference to a range of illustrative groups and action to counter violent political radicalisation.
'The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives'
FBI definition of Terrorism (Whittaker, 2007, p.3)
Terrorism is a threat that is ever growing and in today's world it is very difficult to be a stranger to the subject. It is all around us, from 7/7 Bombings in London to the holy war of Jihad against America. Many of us will feel we can define the word terrorism with ease, however even academics cannot agree on the exact meaning. Above is the FBI definition of terrorism, it warns of a group posing a threat to achieve power through violence from an institutional perspective but it is just one of many varying definitions across the border.
This essay will look to define terrorism and the motivations behind it as well as arguably more important, look at Counterterrorism and ways to reduce, if not stop, the threat that is ever present.
The Intention of terrorism is clear, it is to inflict pain or influence governments by creating fear amongst the public for political, religious or ideological cause (McLaughlin & Muncie, 2007, p.432). It is not like every day crime, it is planned, calculated and organised and this is one reason why it is so difficult to stop.
As said previously, defining terrorism is difficult, one group may appear to be terrorists if one identifies with the victim of the violence, but quite easily if instead one identifies with the perpetrator, the act becomes less aggressive and sways more towards sympathy (Whittaker, 2007, pp.8-9). Whittaker went on to explain that one way for terrorist groups to influence the feeling towards them is by covering themselves up with a name such as freedom fighters or soldiers ensuring they are not prosecuted as criminals if caught but as prisoners of war (2007, p8).
Before we go on it is important to understand the types of terrorism. Firstly there is Ethno-nationalist groups that are simply identified by ethnicity; an example of this is the Basque separatist organisation.
Another is Ideological groups, for instance the Red Brigade (Italy 1970-80s) that fought to create a communist state. Religio-political groups such as Hamas which sought to create an Islamic republic and finally single issue groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (Newburn, 2007, p.872).
Although Newburn didn't mention it, there is also state terrorism, this type of terrorism involves the state as a terrorist actor by funding other groups to do activities they could not get away with and vice versa. This form of terrorism also includes groups that are stateless attacking other states (international terrorism) for example Al Qaeda but it also equally fits under the label religion (National Research Council Staff, 2002, p.28).
For whichever type of terrorism we need to understand both the psychology behind it and what motivates them, the general public will often look at terrorists as 'irrational fanatics' rather than individuals at the 'last resort' with deep psychological needs (Howard & Sawyer, 2002, p.53).
To understand motives we need to look ahead to what they are trying to achieve. When talking about politics it is clear we have to examine why they choose violence as a political weapon. It is obvious that some violent acts are used as a tactic, for example, to force an opinion into the public eye in a form of fear and the use of propaganda (Gilbert, 1994, p.78).
Gilbert goes on to discuss that In strong contrast to other criminal motives, when a terrorist bomb goes off the number killed can be irrelevant, it's the message they are sending out that counts, this is not like everyday crime, it is a problem far more complex (1994, pp.78-80).
Non-religious groups will try to keep casualties and fatalities to the minimum amount that is necessary to attain the intended effect without damaging their organisation. In contrast, religious groups will often try to involve the highest number of casualties possible in the view that the more fatalities the better reward in their afterlife (Terrorism Research, N.D).
The terrorism research article goes onto state that for groups with political or social motivations use symbolic targets with authority such as banks, national airlines and institutes that have a direct link to the established order whereas religious groups aim for greater devastation and can often target religious activities or individuals (Terrorism Research, N.D).
The Jihad war on America started four years previous of the September 11th bombings but many people felt this was the starting point of Islamic war, little had been mentioned before even though Osama Bin Laden had documented the start of the wall in February 1998 in a London based Islamic paper. At the time Bin Laden was a rich Saudi man who had immigrated to Afghanistan (Roshandel & Chadha, 2006, p.3).
Even President at the time George Bush stated in a press conference following the attacks on the Twin Towers 'why do they hate us?' and this confusion flooded through America and their allies, but it had all be explained and warnings were sent previously just no one took them seriously enough. (Roshandel & Chadha, 2006, pp.3-4)
America had previously spent billions of dollars to drive the soviets out of Afghanistan during the 1980s so it is understandable to be naive enough to think the Muslims, that Americans have spilled blood for wouldn't turn and attack their once allies.
As said before, this essay is looking at the motivations behind terrorism, so it is important to tackle the question of why did they launch an attack on the state, government and public of the USA when surely their gratitude should be shown.
Jihad was of course fought as a holy war on Jews and Americans so even with this basic knowledge it is clear these actions are being made with a religious motive.
Religion has come back to be a motive for political and violent actions, the ideas and practices of earlier times and cultures that we felt no longer needed to exist are taking place again (Weinberg & Pedahzur, 2004, p.11).
The denial of death according to Weinberg et al is part of all religious belief systems but the majority of the religious population keep this at their margins, but now many feel martyrdom has returned so certain minorities of some religions are using it as an active factor to gain power or as a tool for politics or self honour (2004, pp.12-13).
Many feel the change has accorded because of the separation of religion and state. Many religious laws have been abolished that were once sanctioned by the state themselves. The contrast is further when we look at the change from religion being public and inherited to becoming private and often freely chosen. This change is often said to be down to the state and also science, science have delivered many blows to religious beliefs and views which people find hard to take, so the science acting under the state was never going to get on with certain religions when arguably they are proving them wrong (Weinberg & Pedahzur, 2004, p12).
Religion is a very unique ideology where people have to commit and form a network of relationships both real and imagined stated Weinberg et al, the USA adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the 10 December 1948 which is a declaration of the success that the enlightenment and a political programme have had which are set on destroying communities of religions and people. If we choose to support this enlightenment programme the threat of terrorist will also be present in a retaliation of us breaking down their views, beliefs and fundamental aspects to their religions (2004, pp.32-33).
It is now an appropriate time to note that not all terrorism is violent, the Animal Liberation Front, which are labelled as a terrorist group with two of the main figure heads facing terrorism charges in the USA. Terrorists can use non violent action such as strikes, they purpose that the government can be deeply damaged economically and also put under pressure from those that are also affected economically from such terrorist actions (Gilbert, 1994, p.80).
Some people believe the root causes that turn people to act in a terrorist manner can be down to social factors. For example, the crowdedness and density of population in an urban area contribute to problems such as deprivation and vulnerability which are known factors to cause dissatisfaction, sense of no belonging and a feeling of victimisation. This mixed with being around so many opportunities to build a violent strategy aimed at attacking the many possible targets present in urban areas (Whittaker, 2007, p.14).
The most typical terrorist in this present day are the minority, young and well educated who act on behalf of the majority whose interest and approval are not guaranteed. Whittaker goes on to speculate that terrorism is most likely when 'elite dissatisfaction encounters mass passivity that does not seem sufficiently provoked', he even quotes Martha Crenshaw (2001) by her findings from her research behind motivations, 'for the terrorist, the end may now justify the means'. In other terms, the terrorist committing suicide believes the rewards for his actions and sacrifice will outweigh the commitment of killing yourself in honour (2007, p.15).
The government understand that the only way to stop the threat of terrorism is by tackling it with strategies that will stop young, vulnerable men and women turning to radicalised forms of groups and religions in the first place. Ever since 9/11 the prevention of terror-related crimes whether they are inspired or set up by Al-Qaeda has been of a high agenda. In the UK, the government has set up community-based approaches to try to stop terrorism of a violent nature.
These approaches include practices set up in education, health and housing contexts, and even the criminal justice system, helped by agencies such as police, prisons, youth justice and other services (Spalek & McDonald, 2009, p.123). Community-based approaches have been favoured over others with people feeling they are the most effective in combating terrorism, the government's main strategy is called CONTEST but has recently been updated and reinforced and labelled CONTEST 2. Spalek et al in their journal article go on to discuss that before the events that shocked London on 7th July 2005 the government's strategy was hard policing, heavy surveillance , intelligence gathering and the implementation of anti-terror laws. It was clear the government was worried by the threat that terrorism carried and they felt the best chance of countering it was by a physical hands on approach. The problem with this tactic is they are targeting the Muslim society almost labelling them all has suspects, the media even went further to categorise young British Muslim men as 'fifth column enemy within' (2009, p.124). These police counter tactics simply alienated the communities and many believe made the situation worse and the threat more imminent.
The government soon realised that this was not the best strategy for counting terrorism so began to adapt 'softer' ways of combating the terror. The aim is now to work with representatives from many sectors such as children and youth services along with help from Muslim communities. They are no longer being victimised as a community but instead used as a tool for changing the path many young Muslim men take. These strategies are all the main structure of 'Contest 2', the latest operation set by the government (Spalek & McDonald, 2009, pp.124-5).
In more generalised terms the sole objective of counting terrorism is the process of neutralising terrorist groups and organisations. This does not translate to mean killing the terrorist but remove the source of threat or the initial stage of recruitment (Whittaker, 2007, p.293). In three simple terms it is the spoiling actions, deterrence and response that governments use to combat terror crime.
It is important to understand that these methods for counting terrorism are specific to a certain type of terrorism; there are different methods that are undertaken when trying to stop other types such as state-sponsored terrorism.
Countries such as Iran, North Korea and Sudan are all considered to have a role in facilitating terrorist groups. To counter this some countries try to enter negotiation phases, add diplomatic pressure and even if need be economic sanctions.
The future of terrorism is a cloudy one, although more is being done to prevent terrorist movements, the threat is always present and the weapons and strategies they choose are constantly changing, if we are to ever stop terrorism taking place, it is clear we have to tackle the problems at its early stages with the aid of community run practices to stop young people going down the route to being radicalised.
Terrorism itself has changed over the last few years. New motivations, new rationales and new adversaries have all emerged of late. The future could well bring the feared moment terrorist groups turn to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) although many hope this is either a long way away or preferably, the situation get to this (Whittaker, 2007, p.309).
It is clear that Whittaker just like the then president George. W. Bush feels that we are in this war together. Straight after the 9/11 disaster US diplomats flew around to countries to get them to join a coalition, these countries to some peoples surprise even included Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt (2007, p.312).
It is clear there is worked being done and this is shown in this review, throughout we have looked at the problems that exist in dealing, managing and counting terrorism. People turn to terrorism for a large range of reasons and motives with each terrorist group having different reasons, not one definition can sum up the motivations or strategies that all terrorist units have.
Although only a few got focused in this report it still gave a in depth view into the problems around dealing with terrorist and why the problem is simply not going to go away. Whatever happens, terrorism will continue to fill our media, political agendas and security risks for many years because we never can completely stop it or know when they are going to strike next.