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The 21st century saw the dawn of the war on terrorism, as the 9/11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing dramatically changed society. Economic issues also moved to the forefront during the Great Recession as awareness of social inequality grew.
Are there ethical/moral/legal differences in the use of force between state and non-state actors?
Arguably, the world we live is rapidly changing, globalization, cross-cultural business, technological invention, and innovation, security issues, but above all terrorism has become the prioritized global concern. In the 21st century, acts of violence carried out by terrorism has become complicated by their change in nature o predict, counter and track. The events in the past have totally proven the lethality of terrorism.
War and Terrorism, is not something new in the world, it has been there in the past century, and the only difference is that it has changed its nature, making it relatively difficult to define. Regardless of its complexity terrorism is described as a strategy and tactic, holy duty and crime, inexcusable abomination as well as a justified retaliation to oppression. Terrorism and war is currently a contest between states and nations, carried out by force for revenge, redressing wrong doing as well as defense (Neuman 2008).
Perhaps, the nature of secular and political terrorism can at least be foreseen by the global security service, but in the case of religious terrorism, it is hard to predict and prepare to counter. Since the attack, on World Trade Center on September 11, and the relentless attack on Iraq, the security, peace and development in the world has been threatened. The nature of war and terrorism has changed tremendously, since we entered the 21st century. Most of the countries go to war to fight a common enemy most of the conflicts among different nations are solved by use of diplomacy (Lake 2002).
In the 21st century, terrorism has become something that is mobile. Terrorism executes their attacks anywhere at any time they want, regardless of economic class, race, or political affiliation. Anti-terrorism forces, determines different hiding places of terrorists, but in the real sense, they are everywhere.
In the world today, individuals, nations, and states, belief that peace is necessary and natural tool to prosperity. This belief has made war and terrorism attacks unnecessary. In the 21st century, enemies have established other ways of hiding making them less visible. International terrorism has become the focus of war, security and other defense policies.
The nature of war in the 21st century is mostly just. It is always waged to be the last resort in solving conflict. The ultimate goal of war is to re-establish peace, and redress a wrong doing. In fact, wars in the recent past are legitimately carried out. The unique war is terrorism they target people who are innocent, additionally. Its proportionality of attack if not justified at all.
Terrorism and war has cost the world billions of money. Since the 9/11 attack leaders of the world have changed their language, they speak of terror instead of focusing on development and social progress. Arguably, the trend of war and terrorism is believed to affect many conflicts in the future, unless significant economic and geo-political changes are carried out internationally (Jenkins 2001).
Conceivably, the nature of war and terrorism has changed in numerous ways. It includes motivations, tactics, aims actors, as well as actions. Nevertheless, war and terrorism in this century, has led to modern counter-terrorism measures. Terrorism and war has been pointed to the prominence of religious groups, especially radical Islamic groups. In the last century, the nature of terrorism was attributed to secular inspiration and orientation, in the 21st century terrorism is linked to the religious Islamic fanatics (Roberts 2002).
Terrorism has increasingly used excessive force indiscriminately during its attacks. This implies that its main intention is to destruct society as well as eliminating a large number of innocent populations. According to Neuman (2008), the threat of mass destruction of property and people is a fundamental part of nature of current terrorism. War and terrorism is motivated by extreme violence to obtain chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological weapons of destroying masses.
The change in nature of war and terrorism in 21st century is witnessed through lack of state backers. Due to its extreme violence and destruction, wars and terrorism do not have state sponsor or organizations to offer protection. Therefore, they destroy a wide range of area as they expect any backlash. Hence, the financing of illegal wars and terrorism, is based on resources and money received from drug trafficking, charities, donations from wealthy people, credit card fraud and video piracy (Byman 2008).
Terrorism in the 21st century, are predominantly armatures that work together, on a part time basis to carry out their action and separate. In fact, some of the terrorists do not receive logistical support or training they rely on modern technologies such as internet to exchange information.
With improved technology, wars and terrorism has is carried out at the highest degree of technological knowhow and operational competence. Certainly, the nature of communication is so advanced communication is carried out through satellite phones, emails, websites, as well as mobile to plan and execute attacks (Samuel 2003). In the 21st century, terrorists exploit the poor customs, insecure immigration controls, and intercontinental flights to go around the globe.
The fight against terrorism and other wars in the world have loosened hierarchical organizational structures and network. Most of the leaders have been killed since the beginning of this century. Despite all this efforts, it is difficult to penetrate and identify how their structures operate (Jenkins 2001). Terrorism and other wars in the world still operate in spite of lose of organization leadership. For example, terrorism still operates in the world even after the death of Osama bin Laden and Fazul Abdullah.
The wars and terrorism, have been demilitarized this implies that wars are fought partly by soldiers, and longer directed alongside military targets. The nature of war is accentuated by confusion over the applicability of humanitarian rules, which accompanies transitional conflicts. As a matter of fact, wars have been characterized by increased commercialization and privatization of conflicts (Byman 2008). The September 11 attack led to conflict privatization between international actors and the state.
Nature of war and terrorism is always dynamic. In the 21st century, the nature of objectives and goals of terrorism has profoundly changed. They are motivated by significant interests of a specific group. Additionally, their behaviors keep on changing depending on geographical setting, individual intelligence, organizational reach, as well as ideological commitment.
Arguably, typical nature of terrorists in 21st century, have changed and diversified their objectives. Their objectives include draw attention from the public to the grievances of the group, make obvious the weakness of the state to provide security, demonstrate illegitimacy of state departments, as well as encouraging empathy for their cause and unjust situation.
Furthermore, they terrorize innocent people so as to cause economic imbalance, attract global attention, and polarize the public and coercing the public into putting more pressure to the state into compromising outcomes. Scholars believe that terrorists and wars are meant to make people watch but not die. It is a dubious method of communicating grievances.
Until the year 2006, Abu al-Zwaqawi profoundly rejected traditional separation of government targets or military from civilians present during the attack. In order to instill fear and terror terrorists and other stakeholders of war employ brutal tactics such as beheading people in front of a video. Since the beginning of this century terrorism has looked appealing to many people (Lake 2002). Those who join the group look social, physical, and emotional rewards. Emotionally, it could be rewarding through power, sense of belonging and notoriety.
The effects of war and terrorism are in most cases not aimed at the victims. In this century, terrorism and other war intend to explore media, a way of gaining attention or passing information wars and attacks are carried out. Victims are always the objects used to pass information to the third party. The presence of media warfare has made the passage of information easy and transparent.
The tactics of war and terrorism has also changed in the 21st century. The changes are at all times taking place due to globalization. Some of the tactics include taking hostages, assassination of leaders, suicide bombing, bombing military and political targets, and increasingly targeting innocent civilians. As a matter of fact, terrorism and issues of war is more global currently than in the past. Their access to more sophisticated biological weapons promotes their intention of killing masses. Additionally, advancement in aviation technology has led to a new and complex form of terrorism (Lake 2002).
In the 21st century, no-state and state actors always seek to legitimize their use of force and violence. In fact, they translate this into justified and meaningful force, seeking support for their cause. They do so by demonstrating moral superiority over the state representatives, supplant state functions at confined level, as well as spreading persuasive messages.
There are moral, ethical, legal differences in the use of force between non-state and state actors. From terrorism to mercenaries, from volunteers to pirates, changing character programs traces the utilization of non-state actors and the use of force in the war. Perhaps, September 11 attack, signified immorality, unethical practice and illegal act by the terrorists. Today’s terrorists have clearly demonstrated inhuman behaviors, to destroy their own life and the life of innocent civilians (Jenkins 2001).
The difference in the use of force by state actors is nowadays viewed to be mortally worse than the way non-state actors execute their force. This is because modern state use of force claims a lot of life and resources than terrorism by non-state actors in the globe (Bellamy, 2002). Furthermore, state force is compounded by act of hypocrisy, deception, and secrecy on the other hand, non-state actors publicly profess their brutality.
Morally, state actors justify their use of force through the sighing of conventions against terrorism and international laws. Therefore, when the state actors use a lot of force in committing terrorism actions, it is a breach of their own commitments to international law (Shelton 2001). In real sense, the modern state actors are less justified to committing acts of terrorism.
Powerful nations in the world have over utilized its legitimacy to war in the 21st century. For example, United States is believed to have over utilized its legitimate powers in Iraq. In fact, there are provisions that define war in the international arena, these provisions can be put into practice without resorting to use of inflammatory terms (Roberts 2002).
Ethical the use of terrorism in irresponsibly, but in this century states have resolved to using the term in case of an attack. State actors use a lot of force in war against terrorism, even if the suspected groups are not terrorists. In most cases, Muslims have suffered these attacks unfairly. In the 21st century, we should accept that state actors use their powers unlawfully, especially when eliminating non-state actors. The way in which state actors respond to attacks from non-state actors is questionable (Bellamy 2002).
In the perused of terrorists, state actors have neglected the sovereignty of other nations. For example, in the 21st century war has been declared on terrorist’s organization, without approval of state leaders in the foreign nation. In fact, invasion of state actors has led to spread of terrorism to other peaceful nations (Shelton 2001).
Despite the fact, which nature of war and terrorism has changed in the 21st century, it still poses a threat to social, political, and economic sectors in the globe. Some of the consequences include loss of life, weakens the economy, psychological effects on people, as well as influencing outcome of elections and leadership. In order to win the fight against terrorism and reduce war in the globe, security stakeholders should emphasize on the root cause of terror. These causes include nationalism, ethnicity, globalization, poverty, economic disadvantage, non-democracy, religion, and dehumanization.
Resurgence of International Terrorist Organizations in the 21st Century
Terrorism is a never-ending phenomenon with its roots going back to the beginning of humanity on earth and will most likely continue until the end of it. Although the patterns and the spikes vary, it is sufficing to say that there has never been a period without terrorist activities throughout the history of humanity.
David Rapoport (2002), explains this variance of modern terrorism with his “four waves” concept. Rapoport (2002, 47) identifies the first wave as the “Anarchist Wave”, because the main aim of the terrorists was to assassinate the prominent figures of their time. It was the first example of international terrorism, which began in the 1880s in Russia and spread out to Europe, the Balkans, and Asia within a decade. The second wave, “the Anti-Colonial Wave”, started in the 1920s and ended in 1960s. It was followed by “the New Left Wave”, which disappeared towards the end of the twentieth century. Rapoport defines the fourth wave as “Religious Wave”, which started with the Iranian Revolution and continues today.
According to Rapoport each wave approximately last around 40 years this means that the “Religious Wave” is close to concluding with the start of a new, unknown wave following. According to Jeffrey Kaplan (2008) the fifth wave will be which grows from the movements that are emerging from the first four waves. Kaplan states that some “cut ties to their international benefactors or ideological/religious bedfellows and sought to realize a utopian vision of a radically perfected society… the reconstitution of a lost “Golden Age” model or an entirely new world in a single generation”. He states in his article that groups in this fifth wave have the similar characteristics such as radicalization, extremism, and violence. Today’s terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State and Levant (ISIL) and Boko Haram have these same characteristics. Data released by the Global Terror Index (GTI) are unfolding the dimensions of the fierce violence caused by this new wave. According to GTI, “terrorist activity increased by 80% in 2014” (2015, 4). GTI further finds that while 72% of the terrorist activities took place in five countries-Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria 74% of these activities were carried out by four terrorist organizations- ISIL, Boko Haram, the Taliban and al-Qaida.
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This data arises some questions, some of which are: what are the key reasons for this resurgence? What makes the fifth wave different from the previous cases? What are the new dimensions added to the equation? The aim of this paper is to analyze the key reasons for the resurgence of international terrorist organizations in the 21st century.
Key Reasons for the Resurgence
Although there are several reasons that resurgence of terrorism occurs, Barnes (2017) narrows the field into five main causes, including: “Ethnicity, nationalism and separatism, poverty and economic disadvantage, democracy (or lack thereof), disaffected intelligentsia, and religion”. Each alone, or a combination of overlapping factors, can drive people to resort to terrorism. However, the situation in the 21st century has become more complicated due to new inputs, such as the rise in the number of failed or fragile states and the widespread use of social media, which has facilitated the resurgence. Although it is difficult to find a direct correlation between failed/fragile states and terrorism, recent statistical data on terrorism indicate that most of the terrorist organizations as mentioned above, flourished or tend to flourish in areas where failed or fragile states are located. Furthermore, widespread use of internet communication through social media, albeit not a direct reason for the resurge, has become the most powerful tool for the spread of terrorism all around the world. Finally, the interventions by Western militaries to replace dictatorships with democratic regimes and ill-timed withdrawals, or the West’s reluctance to intervene in new cases, caused more chaos and bloodshed. In the following paragraphs, I will analyze these reasons in detail within the context of resurgence of terrorism throughout the last decade.
Ethnicity, Nationalism and Separatism
Ethnicity, nationalism and separatism were the main drivers of the anti-colonial wave, and however, we have still been witnessing the examples of nationalist and separatist movements (Rapoport, 2002). The most prominent example is the ongoing Ukraine crisis and the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The Ukraine crisis started as a nationalist separatist movement of the Russian speaking minorities living in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Crowds who initially rallied for regional autonomy and language rights, later turned into well-organized armed movements which took over government buildings and towns, then finally proclaiming independence (Trenin, 2014, 7). With the start of antiterrorism operations by the Ukrainian forces, the situation evolved into a high intensity conflict which resulted in thousands of deaths and mass population movements (Trenin, 2014, 7).
Although the crisis was labeled as a terrorist movement by the Ukrainian authorities, it would be naïve to narrow it down to terrorism alone. Behind the scenes, the main reason which elevated this crisis was the long-lasting hegemonic rivalry between the West (U.S.-NATO) and Russia, which had re-emerged during the Georgia crisis in 2008. Russian support arrived to separatists under the disguise of being humanitarian truck convoys although the West calls this “Hybrid Warfare”, it could also be speculated that this is the new version of state-sponsored terrorism (Motyl, 2014). Russia, having achieved its goals in Ukraine, used this crisis as a springboard to jump into the Middle East, which not only prolonged the ongoing Syrian crisis, but also fueled the radical terrorism in the region.
Another recent example of separatist terrorist organizations is the PKK in Turkey, which increased the number and intensity of its attacks, including indiscriminate suicide bombings which resulted in several losses. The PKK, largely benefited from the ongoing Syria and Iraq crises and strengthened during the so-called peace process with the Turkish government. Although the PKK is a regional terrorist organization, when considered in a broader perspective, it shares the same ambition of an independent Kurdish State with its sister organizations based in Iran and northern Syria (even though Turkey and its Western allies have different opinions on this issue). It can be argued that the PKK is part of broader, international terrorist movement which exacerbates the ongoing instability in the region.
Poverty and Economic Disadvantage, Lack of Democracy and Disaffected Intelligentsia
Boko Haram. Poverty and economic disadvantage were among the most important causes that led to the emergence of one of the deadliest terrorist organizations of this century. Boko Haram drew the attention of the international community when they kidnapped more than 200 girls in 2014. The Twitter campaign, “#BringBackOurDaughters” attracted millions which put pressure on the government of Nigeria to take necessary measures against Boko Haram. Despite the efforts taken by the Goodluck Jonathan government and the African Union forces, Boko Haram continued its attacks not only in the country but also extended its area of influence to neighboring countries such as Chad, Niger, and Cameroon while also targeting regional trade routes (Blanchard & Blanchard, 2015). According to GTI data, Boko Haram, which killed more than 5000 people in one year, was the second deadliest terrorist organization in 2015. Asuelime and David (2015, 6) argue in their book that “the high level of socio-economic inequality in Nigeria can meaningfully explain the emergence and persistence of the Boko Haram terrorism in the country.” Asuelime and David also highlight that the root causes should not be narrowed down to single elements such as economics, politics or religion and should be discussed in a broader context including poverty, unemployment, inequality, demography and development issues. Barna (2014, 5) in her paper states that Boko Haram, once a peaceful religious movement, following the reformist Islamic tradition, evolved into a radical terror group due to dissatisfaction with poor socio-economic conditions and widespread corruption in the Nigerian state.
Boko Haram, also named as Nigerian Taliban, originated as a regional movement in the first years of the 21st century with the aim of establishing a separate state with Muslim values in northern Nigeria. The name, Boko Haram, literally means ‘Western education is forbidden’ or ‘Western education is sinful’, in the Hausa language. As it is understood from its name, Boko Haram emerged as a movement praising Muslim civilization and rejecting western civilization and its education system (Asuelime and David, 2015, 65-68). However, after the death of its founder, Mohammed Yusuf in 2009, the movement turned into a radicalized extremist terrorist organization under the leadership of Abubaker Shekau (Barna, 2014, 7). Although it seems regional, a statement from 2009 and released in 2013 demonstrates the international ambitions of the group in it, the group declares its support to Osama bin Laden and states that it will carry out its operations until reaching their aim of an Islamic Nigeria (Asuelime and David, 2015, 77). The group also pledged loyalty to ISIL in 2015 and display a similar approach and actions to reach its end-state. This case leads back to the rise of Boko Haram, is an example of poor socio-economic conditions being disregarded by corrupt or unable states. This causes even peaceful movement to evolve into brutal terrorist organization.
Arab Spring and Effects of Failed/Fragile States to the Resurgence of International Terrorism. However, poor socio-economic conditions and widespread corruption were not the problems of just Nigeria but over the territory of all Africa, especially the Arab countries in the north of the continent and along the Arabian Peninsula. In 2011, a video released on social media sparked mass protests, which suddenly spread into the whole Arab world. “… [S]ocial protests that swept through the Arab world …, toppling some long-standing regimes and seriously destabilizing others, was the consequence of decades of oppressive and authoritarian political systems, failed economic policies, and socially alienated and disaffected populations, mainly youths.” (Aissa, 2012, 2). Dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were overthrown, while many others were shaken by the angry crowds. Peaceful protests in countries such as Syria and Yemen, where the ruling regimes couldn’t manage the process efficiently, evolved into armed conflicts which continue to date. Many of the states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region which could not fully control the terror within their territory which poses danger to the security of neighboring countries (Liang, 2016, 85). These collapsed or weakened regimes created a huge power vacuum in the region, which ignited a power struggle between regional powers. Specifically, the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia to export their ideologies and extend their influence, flared up the hatred and the conflicts in the region.
Furthermore, terrorist organizations realizing the vulnerabilities of failed or fragile states started making plans to reap the benefits of the revolutions. They were doubtless “that if they play their cards well, the revolutions, unrest, and turmoil of the Arab Spring could ultimately turn very much in their favor” (Byman, 2012, 76). According to GTI, 84% of the terrorist attacks and 95% of terrorism-originated deaths occur in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan and India). MENA region accounts for 44% of all killings in 2015.
It is difficult to show a direct correlation between resurgence of terrorism and the fragile or failed states. However, these states usually offer the appropriate environment for the terrorist organizations to thrive (Barnes, 2017). Herein, it is needless to say that terrorist organizations, no matter how powerful they are, need the help of transnational crime groups. “Historically an area known for smuggling and trafficking, recent civil conflicts and unrest in the Sahel and Maghreb have created the perfect storm for criminal operations to flourish” (Liang, 2016, 84). This relationship with criminal groups provides terror organizations necessary links to reach the financial necessities required in order to carry out their activities. For example, when the Qaddafi regime was overthrown in 2011, Libya became a safe haven for both terrorist and crime groups, due to persistent fighting between rival groups in the country. According to UN estimates, hundreds of thousands of arms from the Libyan arsenal captured by crime groups were subsequently sold to or fell into the hands of terrorist groups (Chivvis and Martini, 2014, 8).
Because Libya’s land and sea borders were so long and beyond total control, Libya offers the most suitable transit route for migrants and refugee traffickers. Libya became the main route for refugees, especially after measures taken by NATO to curb migration in the Aegean Sea. It is a well-known fact tactic that terrorist organizations in the region have been attacking refugee camps intentionally to force people to flee and benefit from the taxation of refugee flows which is a new way for “feeding the terror mill” (Liang, 2016, 85). Liang (2016) also states that “the economic importance of smuggling routes through Libya has led to fears that the country may become a new staging ground for ISIL.”
Religion and Radicalization
As Hoffman mentions in his book “Inside Terrorism”, the relationship between religion and terrorism is nothing new, which has thousands of years of history. He states that although terrorist organizations of previous centuries had some religious motives, they were mainly motivated by nationalist feelings. “For others like al Qaeda, however, the religious motive is overriding and indeed, the religious imperative for terrorism is the most important defining characteristic of terrorist activity today” (Hofmann, 2006, 82-83). At this point, it is important to mention that the term, “holy terror”, attracts radicals from all religious beliefs.
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Unfortunately, the biggest problem today, is labeling Islam as the sole motivation behind radical terrorism. As Maggiolini (2016, 81) mentions, this kind of generalizations, which we should avoid, will cause further marginalization and isolation in entire communities. Although they do not represent the whole Muslim community, four terrorist organizations which carry out their attacks under the pretext of serving Islam ISIL, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda, were responsible for 74% of all deaths from terrorism. Further, 72% of all deaths from terrorism is concentrated in the countries of Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria (GTI, 2016, 3). Interestingly, although these specific groups believe themselves to be the defendants of Islam, all of these countries have a predominant Muslim majority, or in the case of Nigeria, a 50% Muslim population, within the country. This means terrorism under the pretext of Islam is largely targeting other Muslims. Then the question arises, why is the West worried about these terrorist organisations? The basic answer is because of globalisation and the widespread use of internet and social media as a propaganda machine.
In fact, after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. and the following bombings in some European cities, the “Global War on Terror-GWOT” was successful to some extent as Western Societies tended to turn a blind eye to the imminent threat emanating from Africa and the Middle East. The belief was that danger was thousands of miles away and violence, terror, and death were nothing more than TV news that appeared for just a couple of minutes.
Globalization and the widespread use of internet and social media. Towards the end of the 20 th century, we started to realize the effects of globalisation in every aspect of our daily life, including our fight against terrorism became global. While our militaries were looking for al Qaeda terrorist, they were also looking for ways to hit their enemies at their homes the Internet was the key to achieving their goals.
The use of the Internet by terrorist organizations is nothing new, however, the emergence of social media has largely changed the traditional means of communication. Widespread use of social media among the young population provided opportunities to terrorist organizations, especially to al-Qaeda, to use social media for propaganda and recruitment. In his article, Weimann explains why terrorist organizations are very much interested in social media. He mentions that, social media channels “are popular with their intended audience, …are user-friendly, reliable, and free…, social networking allows terrorists to reach out to their target audiences and virtually “knock on their doors”—in contrast to older models of websites” (Weimann, 2014, 3). Anwar al-Awlaki, who was allegedly a member of the senior leadership cadre of al Qaeda and named as “the bin Laden of the Internet”, was among the most effective users of social media in reaching individuals from across the globe (Post, McGinnis, and Moody, 2014, 315). In his messages, he mainly blamed the West as the common enemy and focused on themes that the West was responsible for the socio-economic problems of Muslims, and therefore, jihad was the only way to defend Islam (Post, McGinnis, and Moody, 2014, 315).
Although several terrorist organizations have been using social media, ISIL became the most effective user of it in the recent years. With its twitter accounts and online magazine (formerly, Dabiq, now renamed Rumiyah), ISIL has successfully attracted thousands of supporters to the battle field in the Middle East. Additionally, ISIL used social media to encouraging individuals, who were not able to integrate into their communities. ISIL managed to conduct major attacks across the world and has spread the fear of terrorism into the lives of Western societies. It has bred a new type of recruit, whether it be the “lone wolf, sleeping cells or returning fighters”, social media has helped ISIL in terms of upgrading its terrorism from local to international level.
Sectarian Strife and the Power Struggle in the Region. The Syrian conflict, which was ignited by the Assad regime’s brutal tactics to suppress the unhappy crowds, evolved into a sectarian fight between Sunnis and Shias in the broader context. A power vacuum in Syria provided the opportunity for several terrorist organizations to flourish and strengthen in Syrian, such as al Nusra Front, Ahrar-al Sham, and ISIL. When ISIL captured Mosul and declared its caliphate in 2014, conflict spread into Iraq, widening its area of influence. Ong (2014) argues that although the Sunni-Shia strife has exacerbated the ISIL threat, the timing of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the security vacuum it created was another important factor to the resurgence of the group. Furthermore, the conflict became an international one with the participation of regional players such as Iran, Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey Western Allies and Russia.
In the ongoing battles with terrorist organizations in the Middle East, different opinions, interests and ideologies prolonged the conflict. Further, difficulties in defining what and who is a terrorist pave the way for the terrorist organizations, especially al Qaeda and ISIL, to gain more power and spread to new territory by making alliances with regional terrorist groups as is the example in the Sinai, North Africa, Afghanistan, India and Far East Asia.
Although time passes, the basic needs and ambitions of mankind never change. The fight between good and evil will continue to the end of time. This new wave of terrorism will likely last longer than previous waves due to its global spread but it will absolutely end soon. However, a new wave will most likely start soon after with new reasons, causes, names, methods and perhaps, in different territory. The rise of nationalism and the nationalist parties in Europe and the US might be the indications of a new emerging wave. A US Civil War Soldier and Writer, Ambrose Bierce, once mentioned that “Peace is a period of cheating between two periods of fighting”. However, this is not valid for terrorism as it is a never-ending phenomenon without any pause between either peace or fighting.
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Terrorism in the 21st Century
The events of 9/11, in the United States, brought to light the painful reality that the world is in a state where all countries, even the superpowers are vulnerable to terrorist attack. The attack can be launched from within a country and may be supported by different ideologies and parties or can be external launched. Today, many nations are vulnerable to terror attacks. For instance, there have been recent terror attacks in various European nations such England, Germany, Belgium, and France. Developing economies such as Kenya and Burkina Faso are also struggling with the problem. Although it is now more than a decade since the events of 9/11, there is still confusion on various issues concerning terrorism. There are still questions on who “terrorists” are, what “terror” is, and what motivates “terrorism.” There are also questions on the best way to combat terror attack. Besides, scholars from political science, sociology, economics, and psychology field have developed different theories to explain terrorism phenomenon. The study explores the topic of terrorism and various theories explaining the phenomenon. The aim of the paper is therefore to discuss various debates on terrorism, history of terrorism, and causes of terrorism.
The deadly rise of terrorism in the 21st century
Last year, the total number of deaths from terrorist atrocities increased 80% from the 2013 figure.
This is the largest yearly increase in deaths from terrorism ever recorded.
It’s part of a long-term trend: since the beginning of the 21st century, there has been over a nine-fold increase in the number of deaths from terrorism, with the number of fatalities rising from 3,329 in 2000 to 32,658 in 2014.
Most of it, as you might expect, driven by the rise of the extremely violent Islamic fundamentalist movements – Islamic State, which was responsible for last Friday’s attacks in Paris which killed more than 130 people, and the affiliated Boko Haram, which has been active in Africa.
According to The 2015 Global Terrorism Index from the Institute for Economics & Peace, Boko Haram and ISIL between them were responsible for 51% of all claimed global fatalities caused by terrorism in 2014.
In March Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to ISIL as the Islamic State’s West Africa Province. Making it the world’s deadliest terrorist group, causing 6,644 deaths. ISIL was responsible for 6,073.
The increased terrorist activity however was not widespread with five countries – Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria – accounting for 78% of deaths.
Meanwhile in the West, lone wolf attackers are the main perpetrators of terrorist activity, causing 70% of all deaths over the past 10 years. And 80% of lone wolf deaths were by political extremists, nationalists, racial and religious supremacists, rather than Islamic extremists.
According to the report the economic cost of terrorism also reached its highest ever level in 2014 at US$52.9 billion, an increase of 61% from the previous year’s total of US$32.9 billion, and a tenfold increase since 2000.
Free Example of Terrorism in the 21st Century Essay
Terrorism in the 21st century is very different than terrorism in the 20th century. In the past, acts of terrorism, which can be defined as attacks on civilian targets rather than military targets, were often committed as part of a campaign of independence or to achieve a nationalist goal. They were often geographically limited and did not cause large-scale civilian casualties. Today, terrorism is a global threat motivated by a very different ideology and is much more deadly. It truly is a scourge&mdashone that haunts leaders and policymakers around the world. In the course of this essay I will examine three aspects of terrorism then and now by looking at different groups with different aims. In the course of these examinations or comparisons, many of the salient differences between old terrorism and new terrorism will become evident. In the first case I will examine the Algerian-French conflict in the middle of the 20 th century. In this conflict, the French fought an urban guerrilla war against Algerian nationalists who wished to liberate their country from French colonialism. The brutal reprisals of the French were responded to by acts of terrorism such as blowing up mailboxes in Paris. While the conflict elicited a cri du Coeur from other colonial subjects around the world and inspired a great many anti-colonialist thinkers, it did not, for example, draw in foreign fighters or radicalize a generation of extremists. Furthermore, terrorism was to some extent a last resort for Algerians who were consistently refused real political influence or power over their country. Their aim was clear and their methods&mdashwhile highly objectionable&mdashwere coherent and connected to their aim. The Algerian terrorists of the time, while ruthless, could and did negotiate with the French. Indeed, the terrorist/freedom fighters were able to secure the independence of Algeria in 1962.
In the second case I will examine the conflict in Afghanistan from 1979, what many analysts believe is the genesis of the new terrorism. While issues raised by this very long conflict began with the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, which provoked a somewhat traditional form of terrorism in the form of freedom fighters and guerrillas, as in the Algerian in the 1950s, the form of resistance morphed dramatically by the 1990s and into the 2000s. These years saw the rise of a new form of terrorism, funded and inspired in part by Saudi Wahhabism, and an ideology of global jihad (Coll 2004, 87). These new terrorists did not have clear or rational aims but instead a hodgepodge of grievances against Western states, and foremost against American. Where the Algerian conflict had been limited to Algeria and to French urban centres, the new terrorists sought to expand their war to the entire world. They thought nothing of killing huge numbers of civilians and of engaging in suicide bombing. A political and moral nihilism lay at the heart of their terrorist credo.
The world has changed a great deal over the last century. Empires have come and gone, and political movements have changed the face of the world. One of the greatest changes has been the kind of terrorism that Western governments face today. In the past terrorist activity was usually nationalistic and rational. Terrorists could be more closely related to freedom fighters. They were usually small groups who fought insurgent or guerrilla warfare. Often they were members of liberation organizations and based in a single country. The freedom fighter/terrorists of Algeria are a perfect example of this. They had limited aims&mdashindependence for Algeria&mdashand limited means to accomplish this goal. They may have been influenced by Marxism and resentment against the West but this were, in the final analysis, ancillary motives for their actions. They were nationalists with rational goals. Today, in Algeria, they are celebrated as heros for standing up and defending their country.
But the terrorism of today is very different. In its most virulent form&mdashrepresented for example by Al Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas, and Hezbollah&mdashit is transnational and very difficult to deal with. It uses modern technology, has sleeper cells in Western countries, and closely resembles a death cult. It got its start in Afghanistan in the 1980s and into the 1990s, climaxing with the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. This form of terrorism can&rsquot be negotiated with or rationalized with. Its promoters and supporters are people with a skewed moral compass. Any idea of self-interest is non-existent or alien to them. Indeed, they have no problem killing innocent fellow Muslims to achieve their aims. They have warped the peaceful teachings of the Koran to create a monstrous ideology of hated. In the past, terrorism was a political phenomenon&mdashnow it has become a religious or fantastical one.
The Changing Face of Terrorism in the 21st Century: The Communications Revolution and the Virtual Community of Hatred
Correspondence to: Jerrold M. Post, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Political Psychology, and International Affairs, and Director of the Political Psychology Program, Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, U.S.A. E-mail: [email protected] Search for more papers by this author
The George Washington University, Washington, DC
The George Washington University, Washington, DC
The George Washington University, Washington, DC
Correspondence to: Jerrold M. Post, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Political Psychology, and International Affairs, and Director of the Political Psychology Program, Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, U.S.A. E-mail: [email protected] Search for more papers by this author
The George Washington University, Washington, DC
The George Washington University, Washington, DC
There are no psychological characteristics or psychopathology separating terrorists from the general population. Rather, it is group dynamics, with a particular emphasis on collective identity, that helps to explain terrorist psychology. Just as there is a diverse spectrum of kinds of terrorism, so too is there a spectrum of terrorist psychologies. Some terrorists, those in nationalist-separatist groups, such as Fatah and the IRA, are continuing with the mission of their parents who are dissident to the regime. The opposite generational provenance is seen among social-revolutionary terrorists, such as the Weather Underground and the Red Army Faction in Germany, who are rebelling against their parents’ generation, which is loyal to the regime. Four waves of terrorism can be distinguished: the “anarchist wave” the “anti-colonial wave” (nationalist-separatist), with minority groups seeking to be liberated from their colonial masters or from the majority in their country the “new left” wave (social-revolutionary) and now the “religious” wave. With the communications revolution, a new phenomenon is emerging which may presage a fifth wave: lone wolf terrorists who through the Internet are radicalized and feel they belong to the virtual community of hatred. A typology of lone wolf terrorism is proposed. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Putting the 21st century back on track
The sense of optimism with which the West rang in the new century 20 years ago has long since been replaced by the shock of terrorist attacks, financial crashes, pandemics, and other crises. But if we broaden our perspective, we will see that none of the challenges facing us is insurmountable, argues Javier Solana. This piece originally appeared in Project Syndicate.
Most readers will remember the widespread enthusiasm with which we met the arrival of the twenty-first century. It was a time of high hopes, grandiloquent editorials, and unfeigned daring on the part of the West. Yet in the blink of an eye (historically speaking), the spirit of the times shifted radically – even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. For much of the world, this century has been a period of frustration and disillusion. Many now look to the future not with confidence but with fear.
The changing face of terrorism in the 21st century: the communications revolution and the virtual community of hatred
There are no psychological characteristics or psychopathology separating terrorists from the general population. Rather, it is group dynamics, with a particular emphasis on collective identity, that helps to explain terrorist psychology. Just as there is a diverse spectrum of kinds of terrorism, so too is there a spectrum of terrorist psychologies. Some terrorists, those in nationalist-separatist groups, such as Fatah and the IRA, are continuing with the mission of their parents who are dissident to the regime. The opposite generational provenance is seen among social-revolutionary terrorists, such as the Weather Underground and the Red Army Faction in Germany, who are rebelling against their parents' generation, which is loyal to the regime. Four waves of terrorism can be distinguished: the "anarchist wave" the "anti-colonial wave" (nationalist-separatist), with minority groups seeking to be liberated from their colonial masters or from the majority in their country the "new left" wave (social-revolutionary) and now the "religious" wave. With the communications revolution, a new phenomenon is emerging which may presage a fifth wave: lone wolf terrorists who through the Internet are radicalized and feel they belong to the virtual community of hatred. A typology of lone wolf terrorism is proposed.
The ‘Religion Factor’ and 21st Century Terrorism
An iconic image from the 11 September 2001 that sparked much of the renewed interest in the links between religion and terrorism. Source: WIkimedia commons
Research and policy on terrorism in the 21st century seems to assume a strong link to religion and that this somehow makes 21st century terrorism unique in comparison to terrorism from previous historical periods. But is this really the case? Christian Frank explores these issues in today’s post.
Terrorism and terrorist activities are not a new phenomenon. What we today understand as “acts of terrorism” have been a significant part of social and political relationships for millennia.1 Nevertheless, the academic analysis of terrorism as a form of political violence is rooted in modernity. The term originates from the period of the grande terreur of the Jacobins who killed thousands of people during the quarrels of the French Revolution (1789 – 1794). Being a method to conduct political violence – ‘as a means to an end’, as a weapon designed for the weak against the strong – terrorism became an important parameter of international relations and affected us through the centuries to come.
What is significant for the 21st century is the fact that terrorism seems to be one of the major spooks that is perceived to endanger our everyday lives, since on September 11 three airplanes hit the symbols of US-American omnipresence with two planes crashing into the World Trade Center in New York City and one aircraft severely damaging the Pentagon in Washington. Nearly thirteen years later the world community seems to acknowledge that the attacks on a sunny morning in September marked an end to the promising ‘end of history’. Follow up wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, extensive and sometimes dubious counter-terrorism efforts, as well as terrorist strikes all around the world have tremendously shaken the relationship between Muslim-, Christian- and Jewish culture. To make things worse, the proclaimed Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) of former US president George W. Bush has in parts demonized Islam and brought massive turmoil into the Middle East as well as South Asia. Yet in the discourses that surround the GWOT, it tends to be forgotten that Islam and Muslim culture in itself is not homogenous, but is extremely diverse, with substantial internal disagreements and dissonances. As such, representations of “Islam” as a key factor in the perceived increase in terrorism in the 21st century often ignore or overlook the complex ways in which religion is entangled with political, economic, social, cultural and ecological dynamics that contribute to tension and fuel resistance and opposition, occasionally manifesting in acts of terrorism.
Bearing in mind the difficulty to present an acceptable overall definition2, it is possible to summarise the general features of terrorism as the use of violence against innocent civilians as the weapon of the weak which is designed to achieve political objectives while action is committed by an organized group where either the perpetrator or the target of violence (or both!) are not part of a government3.
But what distinguishes 21st century terrorism from terrorism the world witnessed in later periods? Prominent scholars claim that terrorism today is mainly driven by religion and the belief in spreading the word of faith through the method of undiscriminated violence.4 It has in fact become obvious, that the resurgence of the ‘religion factor’ within international relations has smoothly replaced the communist ideology which was dominant during the days of the Cold War5. As postulated by the Marxist historian Mike Davis6, it is the faith in god which has filled the gap of social space in the 21st century, a space that in the 20th century was occupied by the Marxist-Leninist ideology.
But has the ‘religion factor’ within in terrorism truly been a new driving force of violence? I argue that it is not the case! First of all it is important to make clear that the method of terror is not static. It is fluid, not a prerequisite of a single group or ideological preference and always a specific product of the dominating zeitgeist or the social-political context it is born into. One of the most prominent studies, illustrating the change within the patterns of terrorism, has been lined out by the scholar David Rapoport. In his historical overview of modern terrorism, Rapoport (2002)7 basically identified four phases of terrorist actions. They are characterized as waves, are consecutive, but also overlapping and last about forty years:
• First Wave: Anarchist Terror of the the late 1880s until the 1920s. Main theaters of action were the Balkans, Russia, Western Europe and Asia. Initiated as propaganda of the deed, ‘first wavers’ were eager to assassinate prominent officials and relied on bank robberies in order to procure money.
• Second Wave: The anti-colonial wave emerged in the late 1920s and lasted until the 1960s. Triggered by the Versailles Peace Treaty and the proclaimed principle of national self- determination, indigenous people of the former European colonies were eager to gain independence from their colonial masters and used the method of terrorist action in order to achieve their goals.
• Third Wave: Also known as the ‘New Left Wave’, was triggered by the agonizing pictures of the Vietnam War. Terrorists were born out of the student revolts in the late 1960s and were inspired by a radical Marxist-Leninist attitude. Their main area of operations has been the Western World and they identified themselves as the vanguard of the suppressed masses in the ‘Third World’. Prominent actors were the Red Army Fraction (RAF) in West Germany, the Action Directe in France and the Japanese Red Army. ‘Third Wavers’ are known for their internationalism as western terror organizations closely worked together with organizations (e.g. PLO) from the Middle East. With the end of the 20th century this wave ceased to exist.
• Forth Wave: The year 1979 marked a significant date for the current phase of modern terrorism. With the Iranian Revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by radical Islamists, the ‘Fourth Wave’ of terrorism is tied to a strong religious agenda, which distinguishes itself from other periods of terrorist action8. Nevertheless, religion was important factor in other periods, too. Clearly separating religion from politics is hence difficult as immediate goals of terrorism are often political9: But today, religion has created a different significance because it justifies the establishing of a new world order10. With the Soviet Union retreating from Afghanistan at the the end of the Cold War, Muslim terrorists and insurgents, backed by the US, Saudi-Arabia and Pakistan, acted in the believe that faith is able to bring down world powers and secularism. It was predominantly the Al-Qaeda network which was eager to keep on fighting against Western hegemony (far enemy), mainly represented by the United States, but also apostate regimes in the Middle East (near enemy). Beside this, we have to be careful to restrict religious terrorism solely to Islam! Other religious affiliated terrorists also committed political violence. The Norwegian lone-wolf terrorist Anders Breivik in 2011, Timothy McVeigh in 1995, and not least the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo in 1995, were inspired by a fundamentalist inter- pretation of Christianity, eager to kill and injure hundreds of innocent people in the name of a misguided faith.
Nevertheless, there has been religiously motivated terror way before the research of modern terrorism emerged. Political violence was already committed in the early stages of human history. One of the earliest recorded incidence of terrorism occurred in the years A.D. 66 – 73 in the Middle East. It was the Sicarii11 (dagger men) movement that exhibited as one of the first, aspects and methods of modern terrorism. The Sicarii were a religious sect located in Judaism and took part in the Zealot struggle against the Roman occupation of Judea. They conducted an underground campaign by either killing members of the Roman occupation forces or Jews who were suspected to collaborate with the Romans12. Another example were the Assassins in the eleventh century. The Assassins were a sectarian offshoot of Shia- Islam and acted mainly in Persia and the Levant. Eager to kill their victims with a dagger, they kept their operations in secrecy, as they were sometimes disguised in order to conceal their activities13. Prominent targets of the cult were Conrad of Montferrat, the Crusader King of Jerusalem, but also prefects, caliphs and governors14 The Assassins are said to be one of the first recorded, to follow the method of suicide terrorism as they were willing to die during their missions15.
While these examples are diverse, they all have something in common – and it is not religion. Terrorism of the ‘Fourth Wave’ and from former periods is a reaction to the ruling zeitgeist, the dominant worldview and values system. Al-Qaeda is regarded as the vanguard of contemporary terrorist action, but it is by no means the only one. Although the organization has a clear religious identity, it is also motivated by the unequal distribution of global power that dominated the unipolar world-system after the end of the Cold War16. As in the case of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated offshoots all around the world, it is in part a battle over identity. Muslim terrorists regard themselves as the acting vanguard in a fight over the survival of their culture, religion and way of living17. Islamic fundamentalists see their identity marginalized by Western beliefs in individualism, liberal democracy and capitalism. Although there are multiple forms of radical Islam, it is especially the radicalized, Sunni Islam à la Al- Qaeda, that is misused as a ‘just cause’ to fight the US and its allies which are seen as the forerunner of a unified, global culture.
Perhaps then, it is more accurate to describe the radicalization of religious beliefs, and global terrorism in its extreme form, as a ‘siren song of a counter-culture’, seeking to challenge hegemonic discourses that can be perceived to exclude the voices at the margins. Whether terrorism is an effective means for doing this or not, however, is a different question.
1. David C. Rapoport. 1984. „Terrorism in three religious traditions“ American Political Science Review 78(3): 658-677
2. Spencer, Alexander (2006): Questioning the Concept of ‘New Terrorism’. In: Peace Conflict & Development. Issue 8. p.440.
3. Lutz, James M. & Lutz, Brenda J. (2010): Terrorism. In: Collins, Alan: “Contemporary Security Studies”. Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
4. Hoffman, Bruce (2006): Inside Terrorism.Revised and Expanded Edition. New York: Columbia University Press. p.82. & Rapoport, David (2002): The Four Waves of Rebel Terror and September 11. In: Anthropoetics VIII, No.1.
5. Whelan, Richard (2011): Al-Qaeda’s Theorist. In: Survival: Global Politics and Strategy. Volume 53, No.2. p.159.
6. Davis, Mike (2004): Planet of Slums. Urban Involution and the Informal Proletariat. In: New Leftist Review. No. 26. p.30.
7. Rapoport, David (2002): The Four Waves of Rebel Terror and September 11. In: Anthropoetics VIII, No.1. Accessed Online: http://www.anthropoetics.ucla.edu/ap0801/terror.htgoback=.gde_3131037_member_5798090843084578819 [23rd March 2014]
8. Rasler, Karen & Thompson, William R. (2009): Looking for Waves of Terrorism. In: Terrorism and Political Violence. Volume 21, Issue 1. p.31
9. Sedgwick, Mark (2004): Al-Qaeda and the Nature of Religious Terrorism. In: Terrorism and Political Violence. Volume 16, No.4
10. Rapoport, David (2002): The Four Waves of Rebel Terror and September 11. In: Anthropoetics VIII, No.1. Accessed Online: http://www.anthropoetics.ucla.edu/ap0801/terror.htgoback=.gde_3131037_member_5798090843084578819 [23rd March 2014]
11. sica = short sword, that constitutes their favorite weapon
12. Laqueur Walter .(2001): A History of Terrorism. London: Transaction Publishers pp.6 – 7. Terrorism Research (2014): Early History of Terrorism. Terror in Antiquity: 1st – 14th Century AD. Accessed Online: http://www.terrorism-research.com/history/early.php [18th March 2014].
13. Laqueur, Walter (2001): A History of Terrorism. London: Transaction Publishers. p.8
15. Terrorism Research (2014): Early History of Terrorism. Terror in Antiquity: 1st – 14th Century AD. Accessed Online: http://www.terrorism-research.com/history/early.php [18th March 2014]. & Yonah, Alexander (2013): Terrorism Overview: History, Causes, and Definitions. In: Gürbüz U. (edit.): “Capacity Building in the Fight against Terrorism. Amsterdam: IOS Press BV.
16. Haynes, Jeffrey (2005): Al-Qaeda: Ideology and Action. In: Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. Volume 8, No.2. p.181. & Castells, Manuel (2010): The Power of Identity: The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture. Volume II. United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell. p.20.
17. Haynes, Jeffrey (2005): Al-Qaeda: Ideology and Action. In: Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. Volume 8, No.2. pp.186 – 187.