17 Jan 2010

Sample Essay: Modern Day Terrorism Compared To Past/ Historical Terrorism

The Encarta Online Encyclopedia defines terrorism as “actual or threatened use of violence for political goals, directed not only against the victims themselves but also against larger, related groups, of a scope often transcending national boundaries” (Encarta). All around the world and in history, terrorism has occurred. No one has been able to stop it. As a result, the “war against terrorism,” is a war without end.

The concept of “terrorism” has been a political argument since the late eighteenth century but has been especially important and well known since the 1970s (Halliday). It was originally used to represent the use of terror by the French revolutionary government against its opponents (Halliday). Terrorism is also the way in which it was used. An example, of this is the Bolsheviks after the 1917 revolutions (Halliday).  This usage of the term, to cover terror by governments, has now become less common, the modern usage of this term covers acts of terror by those opposed to governments or races (Halliday).

Since terrorism has been present throughout history, the acts of terrors can be divided up into three phases. The first one, since Ancient Rome and Greece. This is the “pre-history” of terrorism, with the tyrannicides which were the ones who killed the tyrants or the despots (Lexico), the Zealots of Palestine, a Zealot is a member of a Jewish movement of the first century A.D. that fought against Roman rule in Palestine as unable to get along with strict monotheism (Lexico).or the Hashashin of medieval Islam (Halliday).  The Hashashin meaning the “assassins of the souls,” in Arabic (Sidesshow). Many of these cases were often regarded as extremely morally lawful (Halliday).

The second phase was the use of violence by political groups in the nineteenth century, especially by rebels and some nationalists (Halliday). The assassinations of Czar Alexander II in 1881 and of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 were perhaps the most famous cases (Encarta). There was extensive support of bombing by anarchists in Europe and the United States. A number of nationalist groups, practiced assassination, bombing, and various forms of violent quiver and destruction of properties (Halliday).

The third and last phase of terrorism in history is since the end of World War II. In a range of nationalist conflicts in the least developed countries such as Israel, officials and citizens of the denominating state were attacked as part of what in the end were successful campaigns for national independence (Halliday). In other cases nationalist movements that did not succeed also used this terrorism, for example, Palestine (Halliday). Most revolutionary groups claimed relationship with the political “Left” parties, but in the 1970’s and 1980’s there were also major campaigns of terror by “Right” parties’ groups, that especially developed in France and Italy (Halliday). During the 1980’s there was the rise of religiously inspired terrorism in a number of Muslim countries (Halliday).

More recently On September 11, 2001, the United States and the world, suffered the most devastating terrorist attack its history has ever seen. Osama bin Laden, who ordered these terrorist attacks, is the leader of the Al-Qaeda group. He is the world’s number one terrorist. In synchronized attacks, hijackers commanded four airplanes and succeeded in using three of them to attack U.S. targets. The hijackers crashed two of the jets into the Twin 110-story Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center, causing both of the massive skyscrapers to collapse (Hoffman). The third place crashed into the Pentagon, the headquarters of US military operations, causing total devastation (Hoffman). The fourth jet crashed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Over 4,000 people died in the terrorist attack, including all that were aboard the four airplanes (Hoffman).

The war against terrorism is a movement to terminate terrorism in the world. Terrorism had not been a very big concern to the U.S. before the September 11th attacks (White House).

The war on terrorism didn’t begin on September 11th at the CIA, where they have been working against terrorism for a long time (Harlow). The Counterterrorism Center was set up in the mid-1980s (Harlow). The attacks against the U.S., one of the most important countries in the world, triggered the “war against terrorism” (Harlow). It is a war against terrorism, and in wars, sadly, some battles are lost. Everyone must see that the war against terror is one of these battles. They are the battles the U.S has been fighting for because this war is going nowhere. Bin Laden is a very intelligent man and over a long period of time, he’s not going to get caught. People have to realize and accept the truth.

This war against terrorism has not worked at all. Instead, it is causing not only political, but also economical and social effects as well especially in modern times compared to historical times. Some of the political effects include many other countries and governments which have different opinions and points of view on the sides of the terrorist attacks. For example, many people in the United Nations can’t say that Israel’s Prime Minister is a terrorist, but still many others say Yaser Arafat is. In this case, the United Nations can’t “pick a side.” This may cause political problems within the nation and internationally because many countries fight over who is right. Also, within the nation, the population suffers any attacks that the country has been facing due to terrorism. It is also said that in Afghanistan “where also terrorists are known to be sheltering, the story is different. Cruise missiles and smart bombs seek out secret nooks and crannies where intelligence reports say terrorists and their supporters lurk. Bank accounts around the world are frozen. Most wanted lists are published with bounties worth millions of dollars” (Selective War).

During a speech, a month after the terrorist disaster of the World Trade Center, President Bush addresses to the war against terrorism:

“The attack took place on American soil, but it was an attack on the heart and soul of the civilized world. And the world has come together of fight a new and different war, the first, and we hope the only one, of the 21st century. A war against all those who seek to export terror and a war against those governments that support or shelter them.

We’re mounting a sustained campaign to drive the terrorists out of their hidden caves and to bring them to justice (. . .)” (Bush)

Of particular interest to American Muslims was the President’s promise that the Peace Corps will “join a new effort to encourage development and education and opportunity in the Islamic world” (Abdelkarim). President Bush went on to proclaim: “America will lead by defending liberty and justice, because they are right and true and unchanging for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. We have no intention of imposing our culture, but America will always stand firm for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity” (Abdelkarim).

What Bush may not have realized is that the world’s Muslims, including many American Muslims, hardly paid any attention to his comments on the war against terrorism, promoting education, and development in the Muslim world. Instead, most noted that his war was two-thirds Muslim population, with North Korea “thrown in for window dressing” (Abdelkarim). They also noted that the only organizations he categorized as terrorist were Muslim, including the Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Jayshi Muhammadi (Abdelkarim).

A few isolated areas have been accepted, the Taliban have surrendered control of Afghanistan and a new government is in place. On December 16, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that Al-Qaeda was defeated in Afghanistan (World Press Review). This is what is said. Still, if there is a new government and bin Laden is still alive, isn’t there any chance of more terrorism led by him in the world? Apparently, the U.S. government has been working against terrorism for many years; still no positive result about winning the war has been said.

Attention about terrorism has now shifted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iraq, since there has not been much done to terminate terrorism.

The U.S have experienced political violence over the past 2 decades, pre-9/11, from the Bierut bombing of the U.S embassy and marine barracks in 1983, the Khobar Towers and U.S.S Cole bombings the following decade as well as the attacks on its embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam. However, the most significant was the attempted destruction of the World Trade Centre in 1993 which was fourteen years ago but still shook the country and, if successful, would have killed up to 10 times as many as 9/11. There has therefore been action by radical groups to achieve their political goals. Worldwide growth of technology has been a catalyst for an increase of terrorism. The development of civil aviation has created new vulnerabilities for the West to deal with and increased the number of targets for terrorists to exploit, as shown by 9/11. Airliners have substantially increased security measures for flights with many Western governments threatening legislation to be passed this year, such as armed personnel on our flights. The advancement of the media can help terrorists gain the instant worldwide publicity they crave, therefore magnifying the terror and gaining awareness for the cause. Modern weapons technology has allowed terrorist to be more efficient, using modern plastic explosives such as Semtex, and lightweight firearms such as the Uzi sub-machine gun.

In recent times Bush has taken a tough stance against modern day terrorism and has built on this by adopting the same basic principles of the 2nd Reagan administration; both were unilateralist, drawing clear distinctions between good and evil, claiming extended rights, promoting missile defence, and relying on the threat of terrorism to justify it all. Powerful countries have always tried to shape the international system to help them and the U.S is no different. This change to international law will have considerable influence on world politics in the future. Using it the U.S will be able to invoke it again when the circumstances aren’t so bad. They may even be trying to include the right to anticipatory self-defence. Bush has adopted Machiavellianism and taken it to another level, believing the end-security of the state-to justify any means necessary to achieve those ends.

Resulting from the extension of self-defence the US has ignored the resolutions and declarations of the U.N General Assembly and pays little attention to the decisions of the International Court of Justice. Therefore, international law applied by the U.S is further showing little resemblance to international law understood by everyone else. The U.S is attempting to create a new rule book for itself alone with development of these exceptional rules depending on the responses of other countries to the exceptional claims. Given the potential military, political, and economic costs of opposing the U.S, it is likely that agreement would occur. In this sense, Bush has adopted the Realist ‘self-help’ approach to their security by claiming the right to use lethal force to achieve their objectives. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Geneva Convention have been labelled as ‘outdated’ by the U.S who claim it is no longer bound to treaties it entered before the end of the Cold War. This disregard for International treaties is another example of Bush following a Realist example by rejecting them as soon as their interests are threatened. There is very little stopping them. The Bush administration is heavily funded by the oil industry and has thereby rejected the development of the International regulatory system on the emission of greenhouse gases. It is my view that the ‘war on terrorism’ is good, if not impossible, but can also be used as a thick smokescreen for the pursuit of other, less important political goals.In modern day terrorism the exact desired effect which not always the case with historical terrorism. More often than not the terrorist act has the opposite effect. Osama Bin Laden wanted the Americans out of the Arab world and now there’s a greater military presence than before and even the C.I.A are getting involved. So the question is, is terrorism more effective now than it was decades ago? The answer would seem to be maybe, however Bin Laden proved that the Western world could not afford to ignore Al Qaida and therefore the West were drawn into a military conflict and Al Qaida had made their point. “Legitimacy means that there are good arguments for a political order’s claim to be recognised as right and just; a legitimate order deserves recognition. Legitimacy means a political order’s worthwhileness to be recognised.” (Plant 1991 preface p.2). Theorists mentions that by engaging a terrorist organisation in a military conflict or in negotiations you legitimise their actions. Again taking the World Trade Centre’s and the series of air strikes on Afghanistan afterwards effectively makes Al Qaida’s actions legitimate. This is the same for all terrorist organisations according to Dahl (1963). If a terrorist group carries out a military act such as bombing and then the Government responds by going into talks with the group responsible then the Government has recognised the terrorists as a legitimate political group thus they cease being a terrorist group. What is power? This is the hardest element to define in both the political world and the question. Dahl set out to discover who has power by looking at who has power. Everyday people have the right to vote in this and most other Western cultures and so can exercise their power over the state. Without the little people the perceived group who has power would have none. So then if a terrorist organisation is just a group of like minded people who have been failed by their traditional means of exerting power on the leaders. Then terrorist acts are just another form of attempting to exert their power on the state. Dahl recognised that a set agreeable definition of power does not exist and that other authors use power, influence, might etc as interchangeable terms for the power. Dahl talks about the “Three Fallacies in the analysis of Power:

1. The Lump-of-Power Fallacy: Power is thought of often as if it were a single, solid unbreakable lump. The lump can be passed from one actor to another, but cannot be shared. Either one has the power or one has no power…but in society and politics things rarely fall neatly into two and two piles…dichotomies are often misleading…there is no reason why power….need(s) to be conceived of in this fashion.

2. Confounding Power with Resources: When we simply define influence or power as equivalent to resources, we not only lose specificity as to the subject matter but also we ignore an important empirical problem – whether and how the relation of influence is to be explained by the way in which one of the actors in the relationship uses resources.

3. Confounding Power with Rewards and Deprivations: If we were to define influence or power as exactly equivalent to its consequences for the allocation of rewards and deprivations, we once again would deal with empirical questions…we would not demonstrate a relationship, we would proclaim it.” (Dahl, 1963 p.20-22) Dahl quite clearly shows that defining power, in any of its various forms, is seemingly impossible and is evidently stating that modern day terrorists excercise more power over historical terrorists. Therefore if we leave the defining of power as a whole to the political scientists for now and look at terrorism as a mechanism of power. Modern say terrorism is just a form of exerting power by the powerless. Terrorists have chosen to attempt to exert their power from outside the established arrangement be it the I.R.A in Ireland or Al Qaida in Afghanistan and the surrounding area. Dald used the I.R.A as an example to emphasize his point. The members still have the power to vote as they are anonymous and they even have a legal, legitimate political party that shares in the decision making in Northern Ireland. By allowing Sinn Fein into the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland it has made the actions of their militia, the I.R.A, legit.

Effectiveness, Legitimacy and Power all play a vital role in todays terrorism. For example if you have power you can legitimise your actions thus this is an effective means. Dalh used Hitler as an example of this. The persecution of the Jewish population of Germany and the conquered areas shows that Hitler had power; he set up an effective fashion to remove the Jew’s and then legitimised his actions by claiming the Jewish people were a plague on German society. Hitler was not a terrorist in the traditional sense but Dahl used it to illustrate the fact that power, legitimacy and effectiveness are interchangeable much like might, coercion, influence and force are all interchangeable with power.

Modern day terrorists promote their ideas through the media and neither the journalists nor the audience can even always realize it. It was said: “It is easier to dominate someone if they are unaware of being dominated” (Dalh, 1963)This is what we have: the journalists need hot headlines for their articles, the people’s attention gets caught by those titles – the terrorists have done their job.

It’s plain and evident that modern days terrorism achieves more. Terrorism is an effective and legitimate mechanism of power. Modern days terrorists use more high tech equipments which was not the case historically.


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http://www.globalpolicy.org/wtc/terrorism/2510t.htm f May1, 2002

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