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Causes and Motivations of Terrorism Term Paper

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Updated: Jan 14th, 2022

In the current world, terrorism is one of the greatest threats. In turn, many resources have been assigned for the defense of innocent people, who have suffered from the wrath of terrorists. Terrorism is an act of violence that is mostly intentional, which is aimed at furthering some ideologies by the group of people involved. Some of the goals that terrorists seek to achieve are promoting their political, ideological, and religious objectives. Terrorists are out to achieve some certain goals in their activities. Understanding their goals is the best way to learn the motivation behind terrorists, carrying out their terrorism activities. To a terrorist, success is achieved when they achieve the goals, and the cost they incur is not important compared to the success they achieve from their goals.

In bid to determine the cost benefit analysis of carrying out the act of terrorism, a terrorist will first determine the protection measures that he has to get through to get to the target, and how much it is going to cost. It is after this analysis that the terrorist decides on the best way to strike. As earlier noted, many resources to fight against terrorism have been assigned. Some of these resources have also been used to determine the reason behind existence of terrorism. Many theories have been derived aiming at determining existence of terrorism in the world today. Through analyzing some of these theories, the paper seeks to determine various motivations that lead to existence of terrorism through the various theories explaining the existence of terrorism.

One of the main motivations of terrorism is ideological influences. When ideology is the main objective of a group, it aims at achieving power politically or raising their political awareness. Depending on their ideologies, terrorist organizations tend to be discriminative and selective in the kind of violence they get involved in. To this group of terrorists, keeping the number of casualties at a minimum is one of their objectives (Beiner, 2011). The reason for keeping the number at a minimum is to avoid any incidents of backlash that may ruin the reputation of the organization and try to show the legitimacy of the grievances they try to air out. Among the reasons, why these people tend to keep their attack at a minimum number is ensuring that the support of the organization is getting economically maintained as well as political support externally. Terrorist groups need to make sure that they maintain the balance of various considerations because of existence of political ideologies to make sure that there is no rise of splinter groups that result from the organization’s activities.

Political theory of terrorism has several types and has notable groups in them. Among them is the political theory of Anarchism (Bell, 1982). Although this is not quite a a political expression inherited from terrorism order, Anarchism means rejection of coercive governance, which his in fact an opposition to the regime – what terrorists do – but a very latent and antiwar one. The theory is against any sort of exploitation or dominance by a certain group of people in the society. Anarchism highlights on the importance of having a society where the resources in the world are accessed freely and shared equally among all the people of the world to ensure that there is positive freedom and fights against existence of negative freedom. To campaigners of Anarchism, central or external governance should not be in existence and instead there should be packs that are aimed at promoting selfless leadership in the society. The world has seen a great number of people who are campaigners of this theory, who have different views about the theory (Laqueur, 1999). However, the common characteristic about these people on the theory is how they intend to ensure fairness treatment of people in the society (Beiner, 2011).

Another dimension of political theory of terrorism is the aspect of nationalist and revolutionalist terrorism, which are mainly due to the differences between the terrorist organization and the state. Nationalist terrorism aims at the establishment of a new independent state, while revolutionist terrorism seeks the collapse of the state. Nationalist terrorism holds a less violent nature than the revolutionary one does. The nationalist terorism is a form of expressing political disagreement with political order usually by the opressed people. The later were fighting against ethnic, religious, or group identifying beliefs. The revolutionalist terrorism occurred in history several times. A very good example of it is the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia that lead to the overthrow of the Tsar dynasty. There is a state terrorsim – acts of violence carried out by a country against another country. Political values are playing dominant role in this case. Also, state terrorism may refer to acts of terrorism against own state and people. In 1982 thew President Ronald Regan included Cuba in the list of terrorist states. Earlier state terrorism comprised dreadful Soviet regime against its people in 1920s through police state measures. Among those was artificially created hunger in 1930s – lots of people died. German Nazi regime in 1930s and 1940s is an excellent example of state terrorism against own people.

Fascism is the other constituent of political theory of terrorism. The meaning of the word Fascism is to impress or scare people by use of power. Fascism terrorists are associated with lies and false grievances and leaders of these groups of people cannot be trusted at any given time, unlike contemporary democracy form of government (Richardson, 2006). Support of terrorism is home based and even in areas abroad when it comes to Fascism (Kraemer, 2004). The leaders of these groups usually have a lot of power and they direct this power to ensuring that they dismantle any movement that promotes peace by intimidating them. The aim of these leaders is ensuring that they achieve the objective of people worshiping a certain person or a certain party. If a fascist fails to gain control of the country he/she belongs to, then he/she tends to become internal terrorist. The result of this is due to belief that people do not enjoy the rights their country gives them equally. The target of a fascist in a certain country is usually the group of people whom they deem to be foreign and who they consider corrupt and poisonous. Fascism is generally contradictory in nature when it comes to beliefs they have. The meaning of this is that they tend to support both anti-modern and pro-modern society. In pro-modern they are in support of the ancient life of the society in question. On the pro-modern bit of them, they tend to support the modern technology, growth of big business and commercialization of sports. The two groups: Fascism and Anarchism tend to commemorate anniversaries. During these specific days when they are cerebrating anniversaries of a certain group important to them, they tend to carry out their attacks to coincide with the days.

Another motivation to carry out terrorism is religious orientation and their result – existence of millenarian groups. Religious motivated terrorism usually attracts a great number of casualties. To this motivated group of terrorist, the more casualties the better and loss of life is of no essence to them. Due to their religious beliefs, the people that die during their activities benefit from the fact that their afterlife is of benefit to them. When it comes to non-believers who may be killed intentionally or as collateral damage, these terrorist view it as their moral duty (Ranstor, 1996). A good example of such a group is the bombing of the U.S Embassy in Kenya where the local inhabitants were the biggest number of casualties. To religious motivated terrorist, backlash is insignificant to them as their main aim is to increase the reaction of enemies and continue widening the conflict. To these terrorists, it is a command of God to carry out these activities and it is his approval. The aim of these groups is avenging their past and continually looking forward hopefully for a bright future. These groups tend to convince people to involve themselves in terrorism by highlighting to the believers that failure to carry out these activities is fundamentally neglecting a duty of their religion. However, it has to be mentioned that such organizations do care more about political goals rather than religious ones, indeed. They simply cover politically oriented terrorist attacks with the veil of utmost religious devotion. This, however, is the finest mean to get as many people involved as possible. Since religion has always been a crucial motivation for Islamic nation, terrorists involve many people for the sake of God. Al Qaeda is transnational Islamic organization charged for several damages caused to the US including 9/11 attack. So, as a way of promoting their actions, this set of terrorists tends to mingle politics and religion (Ranstorp, 1996). Another example of such religious organizations is Klu Klux Klan. By using religious symbols, they tend to blame the political leaders of their negligence for their beliefs. The result of this is a blame game of the leaders of the betrayal. Later on, the accusations are directed to foreign influence that affects the country.

Modernization is one of things deemed to be foreign influence that these groups oppose. There are several reasons why modernization is opposed by these groups. First, it does not have the interest of the religion these people have in mind and limits their survival. The other thing is that makes the terrorist have a hatred altitude towards modernization is the fact that they believe that modernization brings about competition in their religion. Finally, terrorists view modernization as a force that has an evil like attributes (Borum 2004). When these reasons come into place, an enemy is created out of modernization. Fundamentalism then results and seeks to bring about a change, which is vague in nature. Then the terrorists create a scenario where they tend to show the importance of defending their religion. In bid to restore the dignity their homeland deserves, elements of terrorism rises up. It is from this view that they defend their actions and highlight that God is the only one they are responsible before, and that he has chosen them to carry out the sacred mission of defending their religion. Notable about religious terrorism is the fact that it is usually extreme in terms of the tactics used. The terrorists are not threatened by any type of threat that is highlighted by the media as they usually follow their doctrines, which are at times different from other religions in terms of their interpretation. More destruction by terrorists can be done if both politics and religion are all about the service of people. When this occurs, people tend to view acts of terrorism as a service to both God and the country, and this can be very dangerous. Though not world-wise dangerous, also other motivations lead to acts of terrorism. Among such causes is disagreement on the type of policies that are followed in a certain country. Also known as special interest terrorism, failure by some organization to be accommodative or observe certain policies cause the country to turn to extremist behaviors (U.S. Army, 2010).

To learn of the motivation and the ideology of a certain group of terrorist, the way to go is observing the target group of people they tend to carry on their activities. For those who are politically motivated, they tend to focus on carrying on their activities on symbols of authority. Symbols of authority include both individuals and institutions, and are of political importance. Instructional symbols may include multinational corporations, banks and government offices. When it comes to individuals, they focus on the representatives of things that they do not believe in. It may include individuals who are known to promote social injustice, individuals deemed to promote exploitation economically, or those people who promote political repression. Though religious terrorist groups may occasionally focus on symbolism, most of their activities are out to promote greater devastation. They may at times incorporate missionaries and worship services in promotion of their religious views. Usage of symbolism does not always end there; at times, the political groups are known to strike at times when there is commemoration of anniversaries.

There are different kinds of terrorism currently existing in the world. The terrorist attacks planned by the group of utmost believers in what they do can be carried out due to political, national, personal, or ethnic beliefs. The state terrorism seems to drag the most dreadful results especially carried out against own nation. Fortunately, this kind of state terrorism is a gone-by practice but there still are state terrorist investors and sponsors that make it possible to carry out terrorist attacks against other states. One common feature of all of the kinds of terrorism is that people exercising it do not care for the aftermath and costs (lives of other people). The reason for that is utmost belief in the correctness of their deeds because of the devotion to the ideology or religion. Although some historical terrorist acts are way beyond common sense, terrorism nowadays is much more serious since it may involve weapons of mass destruction. So, it is necessary to hope for the next generation to be more peaceful and wise.

Works Cited

  1. Beiner, Ronald. Theories and Causes of Terrorism, 2010.
  2. Bell, Bowyer. Psychology of Leaders of Terrorist Groups. Columbia: Columbia University, 1982. Print.
  3. Borum, Randy. Psychology of Terrorism. Florida: University of South Florida, 2004. Print.
  4. Kraemer, E. A Philosopher Looks at Terrorism. Upper Sandle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2004. Print.
  5. Laqueur, Walter. The New Terrorism. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999. Print.
  6. Ranstorp, Magnus. “Terrorism in the name of religion.” Journal of International Affairs and the Trustees of Columbia University 50 (1996): 121-136.
  7. Richardson, Louise. The Roots of Terrorism (Democracy and Terrorism). New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
  8. U.S. Army. A Military Guide to Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Cosimo Reports, 2010. Print.
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