The Evolution of Terrorism

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Terrorism has been known as the clandestine use of threat or violence in order to coerce the mighty people of the society to bow to the demands of the terrorists. In the past, terrorism was used mainly as a tool for achieving political and religious ends. When minority groups felt aggrieved, mainly for issues relating to their political or religious inclinations, they sought audience with the authorities. If they felt that the authorities were unresponsive to their grievances, they sought alternative means of airing their lack of contentment. Most of such groups resorted to the use of unlawful violence or threat to force the authorities into consenting to their demands. The author of this paper attempts to explain the fact that terrorism is no longer just a means of achieving political and religious motives, but is now a means of protecting deep-seated economic interests, fighting adversaries, and revenging against foes. Terrorism, in the past, seemed the most convenient method of communicating a group’s sincerest desires to the government, or whatever other authority was in place. Terror groups may differ in their organization, command structure, methods of execution and even fundamental beliefs and cause. However, they have one thing in common: they all fight well-commanded, organized, and powerful systems, so powerful that engaging them in open fights would mean doom for the terror groups. The understanding of terror groups, therefore, is that they are groups, which do not possess sufficient machinery to engage a national army in open combat. Moreover, terror groups are believed to be driven by radical political and religious motives, and economic motives usually play lesser roles in the cause of such groups. Terrorism to Economic Ends The trend of recent terrorist activity points towards the fact that the interests of terrorist groups are adding to their menu of interests. The twenty first century has ushered in a new wave of terrorism that, in addition to advancing religious and political interests, is on an aggressive campaign to gain economic dominance. More than ever before, terrorist groups are executing acts of terror in order to protect their own economic interests, or those of close associates. The heavy funding that terrorist groups receive from their illicit commercial activities makes terror more difficult to fight than it was before. Terrorist activities that are executed to keep authorities out of the way of illicit groups are on the rise. Mexico is awash with examples of cartels that attempt to coerce the authorities into silence by the use of terror ( find more information about it here In 2008, the Sinola Cartel, an illegal drug smuggling organization, planned and executed the assassination of three top Mexican law enforcement officials. Homeland security reports that the transnational criminal organizations based in Mexico are only interested in getting as many as possible out of illegal drug trade. It would be misleading to think that Mexico is the only country where terrorism is used to mask the illicit economic interests of powerful clandestine groups. Societies and organizations that use terrorism to protect their economic interests cut right across the globe. There are examples in Nigeria, Russia, many countries in Latin America and the Middle East. In Afghanistan, for instance, the opium business drives the terrorist attacks staged by the Taliban against NATO. Illegal trade accounts for about 4 percent of total world trade, and this, if given close consideration, is a lot of money. The ability to run such a large volume of illicit trade can only be granted if the authorities are out of the way. With such massive amounts of money in their hands, it is not beyond the reach of organizations that run illegal trade to fund terrorist activities of the highest magnitude. Terrorism as a Tool for Diplomacy Another relatively new trend in matters terrorism is its use by governments or states as a tool for furthering political interests in other countries. State-sponsored terrorism is fast coming to focus as one of the methods states use to negotiate with other states. Iran has been identified as the most notorious nation in sponsoring terrorist activities against the United States. Important to note is that state-sponsored terrorism differs a lot from the conventional type of terrorism such as that practiced by the al-Qaeda. State sponsored terrorists are more troublesome to deal with, especially when the target of their terrorist activities is outside their own country. State sponsored terrorists enjoy government support in terms of financing, protection, recruitment, and technology. State-sponsored terrorists work as surrogates to the governments that sponsor them. The Hezbollah, for instance, enjoy support from the Iranian government to further the political interests of the Iranian government, such as what they believe is the liberation of all their captured lands. The Fidel Castro regime was the epitome of how government sponsored terrorist groups could be used to advance the political interests of one government in another state. In the late 1960’s the Fidel regime sponsored and recruited thousands of students from American Universities and trained them in leftist ideas, revolutionary and terrorist tactics. The students returned to America having exhaustively read manuals of revolutionary and terrorist tactics. Soon after, the United States found itself dealing with such revolutionary and terrorist groups as Weather Underground Organization and the Black Liberation Army. These were, in effect, leftist terrorist groups that had sprung up as a result of support and footing given to them by the Fidel Castro regime. Today, more than ever before, the United States and its allies face the threat of government sponsored terrorism. Two reasons explain this. First, the protection offered such terrorist group by the interested states makes it difficult for the United States to penetrate to the core of the organization. Respect for the sovereignty of each state limits the depth of anti-terrorism efforts that the United States can put in without the cooperation of the host state. Secondly, the administration has somewhat ignored the threat of state sponsored terrorism. This gives such terrorist groups humble time in preparing for staging terrorist attacks. The threat posed by state-funded terrorist groups is, indeed, considerable. Retaliatory Terrorism The motives of current terrorism have evolved from being just a tool of communicating a group’s demands and wishes; nowadays, terror groups are staging terror attacks as a form of retaliation against their adversaries. The death of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, for example, instead of causing the unlimited joy and relief it was expected to bring about, evoked a sense of fear that rippled across the world. Nations put their security systems on high alert, warning that the al-Qaeda would probably stage retaliatory attacks to avenge Osama’s death. Terrorism is more than a tool for expressing political interests or advancing religious ideologies; it is a tool for expressing the hurt and disappointment in a terror group. The problem with retaliatory terrorism is that anyone could become a target. This form of terrorism is indiscriminate and inconsiderate. It knows no bounds of any sort. Its sole aim is to inflict pain and suffering, and it shows neither discrimination nor selective preferences on its victims. This form of terrorism is dangerous because it is carried out on sentimental grounds, rather than on ‘reasonable’ grounds. This form of terrorism is capable of claiming an unprecedentedly high number of innocent lives, hence the need to guard against it. The twenty first century, indeed, has witnessed the evolution of terrorism from the conventional use of terror to further political and religious interests to more complex phenomena. New dimensions have been introduced to the concept of terrorism. Nowadays, terrorism aims to achieve economic ends, and it can be used in inter-governmental warfare as well. Moreover, terrorists have displayed a tendency to get back at groups or governments against which they feel aggrieved. These mutations make it much harder to deal with terrorism. Presidential leadership and the executive branch must then, renew the fight against terrorism from a more enlightened standpoint than before. The leadership of nations must redefine what terrorism is, seek new alternatives of combating the vice, and initiate a rejuvenated approach to fighting it. The presidential and the executive branch need to establish ways of economically outpacing terror groups, cutting the support of state funded terror groups and developing adequate intelligence capacity and appropriate preemptive measures in case of retaliatory terrorism. Indeed, there is a need to redefine terrorism, in accordance with the most recent developments. Terrorism has stopped being just a tool used by some inconsequential parties to gain political or religious ends. Terrorism has become a tool for economic emancipation, diplomatic negotiation, and retaliation. There is sufficient reason to believe that terrorism is rearing a new, uglier head this century. Terrorism is, indeed evolving.







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