Roots of Terrorism
Since the September 11 attack on the WTC in the USA and the consequent scenario of global antiterrorist campaign created by the US government, terrorism has been the dominant issue in a quest to define it. There exists a wide diversity of definitions of terrorism. The vast majority of people is inclined to understand terrorism in terms of perpetrating premeditated violence by instilling fear and death on civilian populations with an aim of achieving political, religious and ideological goals. According to the United States Department of Defense, terrorism can be defined as “the reckoned use of forbidden violence to establish fear; intentionally planned to intimidate, or coerce governments and societies in the achieving of goals that are religious, political, or ideological” (“What is Terrorism?”, 2012). In Longman Dictionary, the term “terrorism” is viewed as “the use of violence such as bombing, shooting, or kidnapping to obtain political demands such as making a government do something” (“Terrorism,” n.d.). There is a growing tendency to perceive terrorism in the political dimension at first. Therefore, in the study, political roots of terrorism are surveyed and discussed. The connection between politics and terrorism is proved by Alberto Arbadi (2004), “countries in some intermediate range of political freedom are shown to be more prone to terrorism than countries with high levels of political freedom or countries with highly authoritarian regimes”. Furthermore, a study by Krueger and Latin (2003) revealed that there is little connection between economic factors such as poverty and level of terrorism.
In most cases, terrorism can be classified as a criminal activity. However, unlike ordinary criminal activities, terrorism is sometimes supported by the governments of the nations which favor it. In other words, existence of terrorist groups has political footing. State-sponsored terrorism is fast coming to focus as one of the methods states use to negotiate with other states (Aubrey, 2004). 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 to 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. Political organizations may protect terrorists and even give them necessary support. However, the matter of controversy of such terrorist groups is the fact that while some people may regard them as terrorists, others will see as freedom fighters. The light in which such groups are highlighted depends largely on their image in media, which form public opinion and perception of such groups. For instance, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the United States supported local fighters mujahedeen and supplied them with the latest weapons which changed the course of the war. Because the Soviet troops had superiority in the airspace, air defense weapons were of particular importance. The problem was solved by the newly developed personal portable infrared homing surface-to-air missiles such as FIM-43 Redeye and FIM-92 Stinger. However, after the end of war thousands of well-armed mujahedeen were left and entered Taliban or Northern Alliance groups. At first, activities of these organizations were governmental and legal. Later on, they turned into militias and terrorist groups with a clear hierarchy, strict rules, large areas of influence, good equipment and common goals. Such terrorist groups involve individuals who are highly organized in the manner in which they run their activities and missions. In this case, they use very sophisticated intelligence services in order to conceal their activities and also to get information about their targets. This has enabled them to survive for a long time. Terrorism is also carried out by an organization governed by individuals whose real identity is not known and cannot be traced easily. Most of the terrorist activities are politically driven. It is often used as a political tactic by extremist groups who believe that it is the only way they can achieve their interests (Nyatepe-Coo, 2003).
Terrorist attacks are normally conducted with an aim of causing great damage to property, infrastructure, and it also involves massive killing of people. This is done with an aim of leaving serious psychological effects on the victims. They also launch severe attacks on national symbols, in order to show their might and also to interfere with the stability of the countries they are against. “Very often, the victims of terrorism are targeted not because they are threats, but because they are specific symbols, tools, animals or corrupt beings that tie into a specific view of the world that the terrorists possess” (Howard, 2003). The suffering of their victims enables to achieve their political and religious interests.
Another political reason of terrorism existence is the fact that, in some areas, military conflicts are the ultimate tool of solving geopolitical conflicts. From this perspective, those who resort to military action as the most effective instrument of achieving their political goals can no longer follow the law – the reason why terrorism appears. Furthermore, such concept of terrorism as a tool of fighting for political freedom has changed the perception of terrorism on the international arena. Thirty years ago terrorist groups were believed to be a by-product of numerous confrontations between the Soviet Union and the USA. Today terrorism has become the milestone for many Western countries.
Political roots of terrorism have become very strong and vivid. Aggressive policies of governments against particular countries have led to the formation of illegal radical groups dissatisfied with the current state of affairs and who look for political freedom. Furthermore, governments of certain countries may sponsor terrorist groups in pursuit of their own goals.