Terrorism is complex. It has a long history and many different meanings depending on how it is used. Terrorism articles state that “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” It is agreed, however that there are two causes of terrorism. One is social and political injustice, and the other is the belief that violence is effective and ushers in change. It doesn’t matter what definition you use, the outcome of terrorism is the same: death and destruction.
World terrorism focuses on social and political injustice. Many choose terrorism when they want to right a social or political or historical wrong. They become terrorists when they take up arms to back their lands or rights.
There are those who believe that violence or the threat of violence will be effective in instigating change. You could say that violence justifies the end result. Terrorists sincerely believe in violence simply because they have no alternative.
The reasons for terrorism make very little sense. The causes are too simple; the theories are faulty or terrorism reasons just too confusing. Look at terrorism in history. Some were successful while others continue to cause death and destruction with no hope of an outcome.
• IRA or the Irish Republican Army terrorists who bombed English targets in the 1980s to make the point that they no longer wanted to be a colony of British imperialists. There were many deaths on both sides.
• During the 1960s and 1970s, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine attacked Israel because they felt they had been usurped. Many unnecessary deaths on both sides.
• Osama bin Laden’s avowal of war on America and the attacks of 9/11. Bin Laden believed that U.S. troops located in Saudi Arabia signified an abomination. “Death to Infidels” was the tone he took from his ancestors who were “terrorists” thousands of years ago.
• Abortion clinic bombers are terrorists, and the Animal Liberation Front believes zealously in their cause of animal rights.
• Were the American patriots who fought against the British in the Revolutionary War terrorists? An argument can be made that they were.
There are different types of terrorism, according to research started in the 1970s. Hijacking, diplomatic kidnapping, bombing, assassination, coercion, and fear are tactics used by violent terrorists to accomplish their aims. Understanding the terrorist tactics can help lead to countering and deterring these unnecessary death and destruction campaigns.
We have always been faced with state terrorism that uses the threat of force, without declaring war, to terrorize citizens and bring them into compliance. A great example of this type of terrorism was Nazi Germany. State terrorism can also travel beyond local borders to carry out foreign policy plans. An example is Iran, who is trying to force countries to accept their nuclear program by undermining world diplomatic negotiations.
It is difficult to claim that terrorism has a simple cause. It should be asked, what are the conditions that bring on terrorism? The answer to this question can be psychosomatic behaviors like self-absorbed rage, religious zealotry, or a feeling that only violence creates change. It should be explored that terrorism is a choice. It is not necessary to bring mayhem and destruction to elicit change, but a terrorist chooses to follow that path.