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Terrorism is an ideology of violence or an extreme form of extremism that belongs to the group of the most severe crimes. Such crimes include arson, explosion, spraying of toxic substances, kidnapping, attempted murder and murder of individual citizens, seizure of vehicles and buildings, and many others (Schuurman, 2020). Naturally, the fight against terrorism is waged at all levels of the state hierarchy – from local to federal. Everyone cannot completely protect themselves from terrorist activities, but security education measures are taken quite often. Nevertheless, this phenomenon requires special attention and constant monitoring since human life is constantly at risk.
Before and After the War
Most of the crimes of terrorism committed in the world are local terrorism, aimed either at seizing power or against the current political regime, and less and less often, but at obtaining material benefits. Many terrorist groups have appeared in countries as rebels, in other words, during civil wars. They were not originally intended for a terrorist and did not imply arson, robbery, and attacks in their functions (Stanton, 2019). This example shows that it is pretty tricky to draw the line where terrorism starts and how it differs from military operations. Nevertheless, the need to establish this boundary exists since precision in terminology will make it possible to define the causes of terrorism in peacetime or wartime more clearly and, accordingly, prevent it.
During the war, as during terrorism, all human rights fail, regardless of specific national legislation. Wars and terrorism in different eras most often had the same motives; if before the 18th century they were more often religious, now they are political and ideological. From the point of view of modern definitions or attempts to define these phenomena, the difference is most often established in the globality of the character, duration of the act, and the number of actors and their motives (Van Schepen, 2017). Historically, wars and terrorist activities have always gone side by side, so it is tough to note the overall impact of terrorism before, during, and after a war.
If we consider specifically the Second World War, then terrorism before the war took place in more significant numbers than after it. This fact has obvious reasons for the overabundance of violence, declining birth rates, poverty, and population decline (Kiras, 2006). Another thing is how many terrorist actions were taken during the war. Here, again, there is a more complex issue of delineation since there is such a term as war crimes. Human experience after the war will try with all its might to prevent even a small part of what happening again. After the war, the percentage of terrorism has dropped. Before the war, there was still a generation alive that found the First World War, before them – that saw civil wars in their countries. In this regard, it is rather difficult to establish the causes of terrorism before and after one particular war – humanity, unfortunately, has always been surrounded in history by wars, violence, and terror.
Going to war is always primarily a matter of opportunity. Ideological motives and disagreement are usually the motives of the defending side. With little resistance, surrendering is an opportunity to save human lives. However, the experience of the Second World War has shown that aggression and discrimination can become an obstacle to this. In addition, the geographical factor can also determine the impossibility of maintaining neutrality or peaceful relations. Unlike terrorism, war necessarily involves the use of force, while terrorism, especially in our time, can only have a mental effect or be directed at technology.
2001 is considered the peak of terrorism in America, when terrorists destroyed two towers on September 11. Typically, many studies compare terrorism before and after this event. The results show that the level of terrorism in the vast majority of countries after September 11, 2001, began to decline, except for Muslim states. Even terms such as the “fourth world war” between militant Islam and the West have been used (Smith & Zeigler, 2017). In eastern countries, especially in which civil wars are open, the share of real terrorism is three quarters and affects the rise in the overall statistics of all terrorism crimes in the world.
In general, without considering the conflict countries, the trend of terrorism is declining, especially in recent years, due to several reasons. First, the development of security technologies is a priority in many states. Technologies are developing at a tremendous speed, but they are also used for the purposes of crime. Second, the global pandemic has brought bilateral adjustments to the issue of terrorism. On the one hand, people began to leave their homes less often to try to isolate themselves.
On the other hand, the economic crisis, which has hit many countries, has caused the people to have dishonest gains – robberies and theft have increased (Ackerman & Peterson, 2020). In addition, fraud has become more frequent in the context of incomplete and unknown information. Finally, in countries whose citizens had particular sentiments against the current authorities, the political situation has exacerbated, which almost always leads to riots, rallies, and, in the future, terrorism.
The latter fact leads to the conclusion that terrorism today is associated with rebellions against the authorities. Non-conflict countries consistently reduce the level of terrorism on their territory, while countries with unstable political environments tend to use terrorism as a tactic for the insurgency (Smith & Zeigler, 2017). Often in the literature, these concepts are even combined, although this can create terminological confusion, as in war.
Finally, another important factor is how terrorist attacks are reported in the media. As a rule, printed headlines are reinforced with words, creating intimidating readers, and giving the incident a trait of excessive hyperbolicity. On the one hand, this fact makes unnecessary stress and fear for the reader, even if the threat is geographically far enough away. On the other hand, even during a pandemic, the problem of terrorism has not gone away, and constant control over security will not hurt (Kruglanski et al., 2020). In any case, every citizen should create a more balanced understanding of terrorism, first of all for the sake of his safety and the safety of his own family and those around him.
Terrorism in Different Civilizations
A more precise definition of terrorism will make it possible to understand when it is possible to set a milestone for its emergence in history. As a rule, all researchers agree on recognizing the Sicarii in Judea as the first terrorist group. Members of the sect practiced the murder of representatives of the Jewish nobility who advocated peace with the Romans and accused them of apostasy from religion and national interests and in the event of sympathy for the Roman authorities. Religious and political motives drove them. In the Middle Ages, the assassin sect developed the art of secret warfare and sabotage. Their motivation was never fully determined, but it is believed that it was primarily religious. The assassins were based in Syria and Iraq, where there is still an extremely high percentage of terrorist attacks.
The very concepts of terror and terrorism appeared relatively recently. The roots go back to the French Revolution of the late 18th century. Systematic terrorist attacks began to occur in the second half of the 19th century. Again, as a rule, these acts were political and were undertaken by nationalist or revolutionary groups. Political motives were based on the hardships of existence, which forced citizens to wash away the rebellion due to the inaction of the authorities. Subsequently, after the First World War, terrorists found their refuge in the right-wing political parties of many states, as a rule, in Europe, which were inclined towards separation.
Terrorism, as a rule, is always motivated. In history, these motives have always been consonant with each other up to the present day, and they can be divided into political and religious. Political reasons are often associated with riots, and the struggle for their rights, including anti-colonial and national liberation movements, which took place mainly in the 20th century. General trends in terrorism today are most often associated with conflict countries, within which there are civil wars. Excluding these countries from the statistics, the overall percentage of terrorism in the world is falling, associated with the development of security technologies, a more thorough study of the legislative system, and public education. Under certain conditions, terrorist actions can lead to large-scale environmental and economic disasters and mass loss of life, so the fight should be intensified, as well as controlled by each state.
Ackerman, G., & Peterson, H. (2020). Terrorism and COVID-19. Perspectives on Terrorism, 14(3), 59-73.
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Kiras, J. D. (2006). Special operations and strategy: From World War II to the war on terrorism. Routledge.
Kruglanski, A. W., Gunaratna, R., Ellenberg, M., & Speckhard, A. (2020). Terrorism in time of the pandemic: exploiting mayhem. Global Security: Health, Science and Policy, 5(1), 121-132.
Schuurman, B. (2020). Research on terrorism, 2007–2016: A review of data, methods, and authorship. Terrorism and Political Violence, 32(5), 1011-1026.
Smith, M., & Zeigler, S. M. (2017). Terrorism before and after 9/11–a more dangerous world?. Research & Politics, 4(4), 2053168017739757.
Stanton, J. A. (2019). Terrorism, civil war, and insurgency (pp. 348-365). New York: Oxford University Press.
Van Schepen, R. (2017). Gerhard Richter’s critical artistic strategies: Politics, terrorism and war. Messages, Sages and Ages, 4(1), 7-23.