The whole world is living with the threat of terrorism over their heads. Every government is concerned with the challenge posed by terrorist. In the years gone by especially after WWII, people were not very concerned with terrorism. This has however changed and terrorism makes the headlines in the press the world over. The groups that are responsible in the propagation of terrorism emerged in the last half of the 20th century. They are organized groups with the basis of their activities being political, ethnical, religious or cultural backgrounds. Countries such as Afghanistan, Peru and those in the Middle East have been on the receiving end of terrorism. The United States has also been attacked by terrorists just like some African and European countries (Williams 14).
The aim of the terrorism groups that are well organized is to instill fear in the people. By perpetrating the violence, the terror groups intend to make the government of the day, give in to their demands. The financiers of these groups are very wealthy people and warlords who are out to achieve their own private goals. Some states sponsor terror groups to destabilize other governments. Often the sponsoring governments will justify their actions with claims they are undertaking the cause to help humanity in one way or another. The terror groups are taking advantage of the resources available such as the international media, which they utilize to send their demands to their target groups.
Terrorism is the conscious use of threats or violence to force changes in political behaviors. It makes use of symbolic actions that are intended to send political messages to those who receive the messages. Acts of terrorism that have occurred in the past have led to the straining of relations between some countries. The acts of terrorism have led to hatred between the USA and countries in the Muslim world. Al Qaeda which is the representation of modern terrorism was behind the 9/11 attacks on the US. These attacks led to the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan by US forces (Pillar 22).
Israel has had conflicts with her neighbors for a long time. Terrorist organizations like the Hezbollah and Hamas have mushroomed out of the conflict. The USA has been dragged into the conflict with terrorists for being friendly to Israel. Many people ask what motivates people to embrace terrorism where they kill and maim. The answers to this question can be as varied as there are terrorist organizations, since each one of them has reason for its formation.
The search into the reasons why terrorism flourishes in the modern world has not come up with a definite outcome. This is because of the complexity of the behavior of the groups. Each group has its own reasons of existence and therefore a comparison between various groups is not possible
Many terrorism researchers see frustration as the main starting point of many terrorism groups. The researchers agree that terrorists turn to it as an alternative after failing to achieve their political endeavors. However one wonders why this would be the motivation since there are very many other people who do not make it politically yet they do not turn to terrorism as an option (Betts 31).
Another psychological idea that illuminated how terrorists behave is cognitive dissonance. Human beings seek constancy in matters such as the environment, values and how they behave. When people have a disparity between what they desire and what they perceive they seek to limit it. There will be attempts to restrict the dissonance taking actions, changing perceptions or screening information. Cognitive dissonance is the difference between the actual and the desired state. Fear, anxiety and the desire to get rid of the discrepancy emerge.
When seeking answers to how people are converted into terrorist, researchers use the model of individual pathway. Terrorist groupings proclaim themselves as personalizing the society’s down trodden. They therefore take steps to recover that which is perceived to have been neglected or lost. Four fundamental elements emerge from this model. The first one is that people in a community that is violent will always come together to seek answers to their common problems. The second element is in the form of negative self-perception, which can be interpreted as narcissistic injury. Conversions into terrorism groups happen to people who have links with terrorism organizations (Kegley 29).
Terrorism is a strategy used by people who are not part of the government to propel their own agenda. It is aimed at destabilizing or influencing politics. In some cases, it is responsible for toppling governments. Terrorism is a tool used by the weak to attack the mighty. The history of terrorism in the 20th century shows success of terrorism in varied degrees. At the base of terrorism is the theory of shifting liability. The theory assumes that governments are responsible for giving protection to all those that are within its territorial borders. Another assumption is that it is difficult for the government to continue defending its territory against sustained terror attacks. After a period of time, the territory that is seen, as an asset to the government protecting will become a liability due to the increasing costs of defending it against the attacks. Eventually the government will abandon the territory in an attempt to mitigate the losses.
Terrorist believe that when they wage a successful campaign, the state will overreact and turn to be oppressive in its terrorism combating methods. This will expose the dark side of the state to the citizens who will in turn rise up in a revolution. In reality, this theory does not really bear results. The terrorists reasons for perpetrating violence against civilians is to further their political agenda through psychological effects stemming from the violent act.
The illegitimate actions of the terror groups are symbolic and they rarely succeed in attaining the intended political goals. Terrorist campaigns are designed to send messages to those in political authority and to prompt them to pay attention to the demands of the terrorists. Acts of terrorism are illegal political violence approaches, which are different from those witnessed during war or as a result of ordinary claim. Some of the tactics used by terrorists include bombing, kidnapping, assassinations, hostage taking and hijackings.
The acts of violence perpetrated by terrorist make us regard them as the enemies, yet the same violence is meted by the state, which we do not condemn as terrorists. We can therefore say that the behavior of terrorism is determined by the circumstances. Both terrorists as well as the governments violate basic human rights. The people behind terror actions can be perceived as friends or foes depending on which side one is. When the 9/11 attacks were made some people in Palestine were pictured celebrating, while America was weeping (Pillar 52).
To the USA, the people behind the attacks were not just enemies, but their behavior stemmed from the attributes of the individual whom to the Americans was evil. While this does not give explanations into the behavior of the people, it shows how different people view acts of terror depending on their perceptions and how they are linked with the victims of the attack or the attackers. This is a fact that should be heeded, when seeking ways of countering the acts of terror. This explains why the relationship between USA and Iran is a strained one. Iran is accused of financing the work of terrorist on one hand. On the other USA is guilty of the sin of being a close associate of Israel. On these same lines, countries have take sides in defining who is a terrorist and who is not.
Answers should be sought to the question whether some states carry out acts of terrorism or if such behavior should be grouped in another category of political violence. The violence that is blamed on governments is largely different from that waged by terrorist in both qualitative and quantitative terms. While terror groups are out to change the status quo, the government will be fighting to maintain it. The terror caused by the outlawed groups is usually condemned, while that perpetrated by the state is excused and seen as necessary in maintaining the current order of things. In the Cold War era, acts of terror were not taken seriously, as the priority at that time was to check and contain the spread of communism. Some governments such as the Philippines under Marcos at that time, Iran under Shah and Samoza’s Nicaragua perpetrated state terror to which the world turned a blind eye (Kegley 42-43).
States can take part in terrorism activities when they render support to kindred terror groups in other states. Such governments will never declare they are supporting terrorist groups. They will hide their involvement with claims of aiding independence or liberation struggle movements. Such terror directed to states is intended to influence the politics in the target countries. This is what is known today as proxy warfare or a part of the sponsoring country’s foreign policy. A good example for this kind of arrangement is the support the Hezbollah enjoys from Syria and Iran. Hezbollah is based in Lebanon but its activities fit properly into the foreign policy of both Iran and Syria.
The particular state can carry out the acts of terror. Such acts can be carried out openly or they are concealed from public scrutiny. This violence is similar to that of the government that is indirectly financing the terror activities of foreign groups. The only difference is that in this case there is no group to act as proxy. The people who execute the wishes of the government are in most cases sections of the military that are highly trained for the specific objectives using intelligence resources available. A good example of this is the bombing of the Pan Am flight which was planned and executed by agents of the government of Libya. The CIA has been accused of being behind terror acts in some countries.
There is terrorism perpetrated by groups with no links to any state, which have several objectives. These form a wide political spectrum and they include the Maoists in Peru and the right wing new Nazis in Germany. These groups often have the common objective of getting semi autonomy for the regions they come from. In the modern times, spiritual groupings are forming which are accused of perpetrating acts of terror. Both Muslim and Christian fundamentalists and other sects are accused of forming these groups, accused of perpetrating violence in various parts of the world. These fundamentalists aim their efforts at triggering the apocalypse. These groups take up the role of protecting the interest of those whose survival, they perceive to be at risk.
Minority groups can also form terrorist groups if they feel they are oppressed by other bigger groups from who they to liberate themselves. Well-known groups who have engaged in war on such grounds include Hamas in the Middle East, Tamil tigers from Sri Lanka and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Religious based groups use violent acts as a divine way of accomplishing their mission on earth. Groups such as Hezbollah do not wage war against their enemies for the sake of recognition, but to have them exterminated from the face of the earth (Betts 45).
Recommendation and conclusion
As much as people in the world would like to get rid of terrorism, it must be appreciated that it will not be easy to achieve it. It is as tricky as halting any warfare. When terror groups are attacked and destroyed violently, new opposing identities usually take their place leading into a new form of terrorism to those perceived to be the enemies. Such groups will have their own objectives, which they will pursue with violence. In the Middle East, there is a widening disparity of the ideologues between the Western world and Arab countries. The Arab states are behind terrorist groups to send political messages to the West whom they oppose for their support for Israel. The activities of Israel are terroristic in the eyes of her Arab neighbors. Countries may not go to full-scale war but will engage in acts of terrorism, as it is the new face of conflicts. The use of terrorism is posing a major threat to diplomatic relations.
Betts, Richard. Conflict after the Cold War. New York: McGraw Publishers, 2006 Kegley, Charles. International Terrorism: Characteristics, Causes, Controls. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990 Pillar, Paul. Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2001