Solving The Modern Terrorism Threat Criminology Essay

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The Oxford English Dictionary first contained the word 'terror' in 1795 after the French Revolution. Terrorism, however, is a distinct activity and although all terrorist actions will seek to create terror, not all acts of terror are committed by terrorists. From the latter half of the twentieth century onwards, facets of terrorism (both the perpetrators and their actions and objectives) can be identified that permit a tangible definition of 'modern terrorism'. This essay will begin by identifying some of these facets and with an analysis of the threats that modern terrorism poses. The essay will briefly set the context of the threat from an international perspective but will focus on the threats that modern terrorism presents to the United Kingdom (UK). The justification for this is that the breadth of issues associated with an in-depth analysis of the threats from a global perspective are outside the scope of this short essay. The threat to the UK and the subsequent analysis of the degree to which the UK's military can be used to solve it is deemed most relevant to the audience of this essay.

In conjunction with an analysis of the threat itself, it is necessary to define what is meant by 'solvable'. For example, the role of the military is very different in the context of neutralizing the threat of terrorism to the UK from eradicating international terrorism completely, if the latter is actually feasible.

The current UK strategy for countering terrorism is known as CONTEST. The aim of the strategy is 'to reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from international terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence' [2] . The strategy comprises four strands: Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare. The first two of these elements aim to reduce the threat of a terrorist attack being committed in the UK; the last two aim to reduce the vulnerability of the UK to an attack. [3] The military may have a role to play in any four of these sub-strategies. Therefore, in order to answer the essay question each will be examined in turn before reaching a conclusion as to the degree to which the threat from modern terrorism is solvable by military means.

Modern Terrorism

The UK's new National Security Strategy states that international terrorism is the most serious threat to the UK. Terrorism, however, is not a new threat: 'between 1969 and 1998 over 3,500 people died in the UK itself as a result of Irish-related terrorism' [4] . One of the key facets of modern terrorism though is that it is international and is not concerned with achieving nationalist or specific or single political objectives. Traditional terrorists such as the IRA had nationalist objectives and resided in proximity to where they executed their attacks. A more pertinent example in the context of modern Islamist Extremism is the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). Until 1991 the PLO used terrorism as a tactic to achieve a nationalist objective and consequently the terrorists' origin and the attacks were localised; the fact that the attacks were perpetrated by Muslims was unconnected to their objectives, it was their national identity that was important. Once it was apparent that the PLO could achieve its single political objective using other means the organisation 'rejected violence and terrorism; in response Israel officially recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people' [5] .

By contrast, Islamist Extremism seeks to achieve religious objectives and uses religion to justify the use of violence. These terrorists offer 2 choices to the world's population: fundamentalist Islam or death. The offer of this binary choice is clearly incomprehensible to most. The lack of a single, tangible objective and the resultant international nature of both the terrorists' nationality and the location that they conduct their attacks is the embodiment of modern terrorism. One important consequence of this difference is the confinement of the threat; Islamist Extremism is global since its aims are not confined to a single issue and nation state. Consequently, the security of any nation state can be threatened, by any number of individuals but, most significantly, potentially by its own citizens if they are susceptible to the modern terrorists' rhetoric. A second order consequence of modern terrorism is the undermining of "i faith and belief in their own system and way of life.

'In the past terrorist organisations generally were closed, clandestine cells with a hierarchical leadership structure and regular contact among members.' [i] Much of the research therefore was aimed at evaluating the motives behind the terrorist attacks, the vulnerability of the hierarchy and the weaknesses in the organisation. Recently, however, research into terrorism argues that terrorist organisations are evolving into a different model. More modern terrorist organisations such as al-Qaida increasingly are adopting a decentralised, non-hierarchical cell structure, connected by technology such as the Internet and satellite telephones and inspired by a common ideology or religion (although the cell system method was also employed by the IRA via Active Service Units). The new structures are less dependent on internal organisational dynamics to perpetuate themselves and their activities and more characterised by decentralised designs with stand-alone groups that are only loosely internationally connected. [ii] 

In practical terms, there are perhaps three implications of an apparent shift in the structure of new terrorist organisations. Firstly, component cells that operate independently are much more difficult to eliminate. Destroying the leadership has limited effect on the health of the overall organisation. Secondly, with no recognisable centre of gravity, it is virtually impossible to target the most vital point in the organisation. The annihilation of which will lead to the destruction of the organisation as a whole. Destroying a terrorist organisation that has multiple independently operable cells requires targeting each and every one of the cells to achieve any form of result. Thus the use of military force becomes complicated by the enhanced challenge of identifying the most effective target. Therefore, homeland security against terrorists that have little traceable interaction with other terrorists and who are empowered to act independently has the potential to become an exercise in paranoia and can aid the terrorists in their terror campaign. [iii] Lastly, the ideologies motivating these terrorist networks are broadly conceived. The relationship between terrorism and religion is becoming increasingly worrying because as an organisation matures it is the inspiration behind a belief and not necessarily a leader that leads to a terrorist act.

Threat and Solution

The definition of 'solvable' threat ranges from containment and isolation to eradication. The idealist definition would be the total eradication of terrorism. The threat and rot cause of it would be regarded holistically. However, such a solution requires nirvana cooperation between the international community and thus is unlikely to be achievable.

Yet for terrorism to be conquered, the twenty-first century must witness a closing of the gap between the developed countries and the rest of the world, which widened during the twentieth century. It is only, Sid-Ahmed claimed, when underdevelopment is corrected that people will no longer be willing to kill themselves to harm their enemies [6] 

A more realistic and achievable solution is to distinguish between solving the threat of modern terrorism and eradicating it all together.

However, it is clear that a range of responses will be required.

The West is now reacting to our adversaries' attacks, rather than setting the

agenda; if we are to regain the initiative, and win, we will have to operate in a

different asymmetric or hybrid manner that can give us an edge against our

enemies. To do this we may have to adopt responses that may well be

currently unfamiliar to us, and some we do not understand particularly well,

for example: prevention, stabilisation and cyber-operations. FCOC page 13

The role of the military in CONTEST

Prevent. No role for military.

Prevention. Given our restricted range of response options in this

timeframe, conflict prevention, through early and continuous engagement with

allies and other partners, will be required to fill the gap in our capacity and

provide us with the necessary agility. If undertaken, seed-corn investment

now will build confidence and local capacity; will increase understanding; and

may enable UK Armed Forces access to areas of operation in the future. It

however, be an increasing requirement to become involved in prevention

activity, on a far wider geographic scale, as the incidence of potential conflict

hotspots increases. While such activities remain important, their low visibility

within wider government circles make them vulnerable to cost cutting.

However, as part of the 'super-joint' approach advocated earlier in the paper,

the effectiveness and political utility of these forms of military missions may

become more apparent. Prevention, including deterrence, containment or

coercion, will be far more effective if it is backed up by credible military force. FOC page 27

Pursue. Military means, although limited in scope.

Protect. No military role.

Thus the role of the military

in homeland security and consequence management should be reviewed. FCOC page 18

Prepare. Possible military role.

Capabilities to respond to a terrorist

attack have been enhanced by the new

Police Counter-Terrorism Network, by joint

programmes between policing and the

Armed Forces, and by exercises to ensure

all these capabilities are effective. CONTEST page 16.

CBNRE capability

Conclusion 400 words

The role of the military in solving of the threat from modern terrorism is very limited.

The solution that CONTEST provides for the UK is realistic in its scope and it will never be possible to eradicate terrorism based on religious objectives, purely isolate and contain it.

Law enforcement agencies must take the lead role in countering terrorism at home and international diplomacy and cooperation must take the lead in solving the problem of modern terrorism in the longer term.

The military has part to play but ...

The military instrument must be configured to deliver broad utility and we

must better understand that the military instrument alone can rarely, if ever,

deliver decisive strategic effect. Enduring success will invariably require the

careful integration of all levers of national power. FCOC page 34