What Are The Motives For Terrorism Criminology Essay

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The terrorist organization is typically motivated by "political, religious, or ideological objectives." Although this idea proves that a terrorist organization can be complex by nature and can have varying ambitions, it is important to realize that common methodologies connect them all. These methodologies come in the form of military target selection or in their general intentions. Specifically, most terrorist organizations intend to achieve some combination of the following:

Spread Fear: This is the hallmark of terrorism. When surprise attacks occur the effect is particularly profound. This is especially true when the attacks focus on innocents.

Publicize a Cause: The goals may be to obtain an independent homeland or to overthrow the current government. Terrorist acts generate extensive media coverage. Who, for example, was really aware of the Palestinian homeland issue prior to the 1972 Munich Olympics incident?

Advance a Cause: This can be problematic: while terrorists hope that their cause will be advanced, terrorism can actually turn the public against them and be counterproductive. The media attention is almost always focused on the terrorist act and not the underlying cause of the act.

Revenge: In recent years, this has been an increasingly important objective. For example, Osama bin Laden's supposed grievances include the deaths of Islamic children resulting from the policies of the U.S.

Exact a Price: Whether in terms of casualties, economic damage, or psychological impact, terrorists intend to choose targets in order to exact a price in the pursuit of influence.

The attack on the Pentagon is an example that illustrates all of the above. When the attack occurred, it created fear on a national level. Additionally, it helped publicize al Qaeda to the point that the group has become part of the collective conscious of the American people. Al Qaeda's cause was also advanced throughout the extremist Muslim society due in part to the fact that the organization was successful in attacking the greatest military on earth on its home soil. The attack was also justified in the extremist mindset due to U.S. foreign policy and religious and ideological views. Lastly, influence for the group was solidified throughout the extremist Muslim world due to the fact that all of the above factors were present.

Motivational Triggers

The type of environment that motivates terrorist organizations is much too dynamic to discuss; however, identifying situations that may trigger the motivations of potential adversaries can assist in developing some idea of what interests are served by such attacks.

Presence: Many antagonists are opposed to the presence of U.S. military forces in a particular area, or the presence of organizations U.S. forces are safeguarding. Frequently, this opposition is because the U.S. presence is preventing particular political, military, or criminal activities, but it can also be culturally inspired.

Culture: Antagonists who are directly opposed to one or more major characteristics

of American culture, such as capitalism, secular democracy, polytheism, pop culture,

women's rights, sexual freedom, or racial tolerance will attack Americans wherever

found. Groups primarily motivated by cultural differences will not differentiate

between civilian and military targets, other than in their respective degree of risk

and difficulty to attack.

State of Conflict: Groups that feel that they are "at war," or in a social or political

conflict with the U.S. will target military personnel and facilities to gain

legitimacy and make statements. Likewise, states that are engaged in or anticipate

hostilities with the U.S. will use sponsored terrorist organizations or clandestine military or intelligence assets to attack military targets. [1] 

There are a large number of terrorist organizations active in the world today, and a wide variety of them are potential antagonists willing to attack U.S. military forces throughout the world. Some of these groups, such as al Qaeda, are transnational in nature, whereas others such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are more regionally focused. However, in both cases, they have identified the U.S. military as potential targets. The most common motivations in recent history are presented below:

Demonstration of Capability: This is a method to demonstrate a group's ability to deliver on its threats, and to establish a level of effectiveness as a future threat. Targets may be selected for either military or symbolic value, but the true intent is to show that the terrorist has the capability to negate a U.S. military advantage and concurrently promote their organizational agenda.

Changes to U.S. Policy: It is also important to recognize that terrorists typically attack military forces with the intent to force a change in U.S. policy. For example, Hezbollah and their Syrian sponsors were concerned that the deployment of international peacekeeping forces into Lebanon in the spring of 1983 would reduce their freedom of action in the ongoing Lebanese Civil War. Near-simultaneous suicide truck bomb attacks on the U.S. Marine and French paratroop barracks in October of 1983 killed 241 U.S. servicemen, and 60 French paratroopers. Combined with an earlier bombing campaign against the embassies of the U.S. and other countries, these attacks resulted in the withdrawal of the international military force. [2] 

Ideological Extremism

The word terrorist coincides with the term extremist. Likewise, the word terrorism reflects the term extremism. Extremists are those who oppose in principle and practice the right of others to choose how to live and how to organize their societies. Additionally, extremists support the murder of ordinary people to advance extremist ideological purposes. [3] 

When we delve deeper into the motivations and intentions behind terrorist attacks against U.S. military forces, we discover that ideological factors embody why terrorists are who they are and do what they do.

Ideological extremism is a shared belief system. It is a way of thinking about human existence and the purpose of life that bases itself upon the core philosophy that violent acts (i.e., terrorism) will bring about meaningful ends. The DoD recognizes this and has concluded that there is a direct relationship between the extremists' ideologies and willingness to use terrorist tactics. [4] 

The enemies of the U.S. are motivated by extremist ideologies opposed to freedom, tolerance, and motivation. Their willingness to disrupt and destroy American society is based upon the belief that the American way of life is both deserving and punishable by death.

In an article in August 2004, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated the following:

"The phenomenon of ideological extremism-of which terrorism is the weapon of choice-stands in the way of global political progress and economic prosperity, threatens the stability of the international order and clouds the future of civil society . . . because it cannot be appeased, it must be confronted on many fronts by all civil societies." [5] 

Ideological extremism aims to undermine all Western influences, redefine the global balance of power, and fundamentally change the very nature of the world order. This "phenomenon" is currently spreading to a global scale, often referred to as globalization. The globalization of ideological extremism is spreading based upon a few key factors:

Telecommunications: A worldwide dissemination of data is occurring. Knowledge through mediums such as the internet is available in real time.

Rise of Opportunists: Opportunists are criminal organizations and rouge states providing resources to the extremists. A relationship of convenience is formed due to the fact that the extremists and the opportunists support the satisfaction of their own needs.

In the worse case scenario, opportunists could contribute to the proliferation of dangerous technologies, such as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Through the use or threat of use of such weapons, the extremist group can provide its ideology with a realistic and terrifying end.

Ideology is the component most critical to extremists and sustains all other capabilities. This critical resource is the enemy's strategic center of gravity and removing it is the key to creating a global antiterrorist environment. [6] It is ideological belief, reinforced by propaganda operations, that convinces recruits and supporters that their actions are morally justifiable.

Countering ideological support and the enemy's propaganda operations involve both actions and words. Amplifying the voices of those who promote ideas of freedom and democracy de-legitimizes extremist ideological leaders. An example of this would be the strategic placement of Hamid Karzai as President of Afghanistan. Additionally, there is value in actions demonstrating that the U.S. possess, and is willing to use, overwhelming force against terrorists and other extremists. [7] This is evident in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

Module 2 Summary

Incentives for terrorism are wide-ranging. However, when attempting to identify these incentives, a common thread of intentions, motivations, and beliefs emerge. These facets are a clear view of the common methodologies to which terrorist adhere. By recognizing these methodologies, the CI professional can better deter and neutralize threats when supporting AT operations.

In this module we have identified the overall intentions, motivation triggers, and ideological goals of terrorist organizations and discussed how to utilize knowledge of these traits for support of AT operations.