In the chapter “Ideology and Terrorism: Rights from Wrongs?” Synthis Combs tries to examine the causes of terrorism and their transformation throughout time. Thence, the author strives to point out the ever-lasting motives as well as those triggers that have recently appeared. A particular emphasis is put on the problem of justification. Otherwise stated, Combs tries to determine whether violence provoked by other violence can be justified from a moral standpoint.
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First and foremost, Combs points out that the character of modern terrorism is different from that existing a few centuries ago, even though their cause is similar. Hence, the main distinguishing trait of the new terrorism is that it is targeted at the guilty parties but applied to innocent groups.
Combs reminds that violence would be initially applied to the cause of the problems, whether it was the government or external aggressors (36). At the current point, it is applied to citizens – those people who are not considered to be guilty even in the terrorists’ opinion. Therefore, terrorist philosophy has changed significantly. Today, it is not the state that is the victim but a “third party whose injury or death is intended to hurt or frighten” the targeted politicians (Combs 37).
To illustrate the changes that the concept of terrorism has undergone, Combs compares it to the anarchist violence in Russia and the USA, showing, in such a manner, that the latter would not target a third party as a victim. Therefore, the author believes that the so-called “revolution violence” has gradually transformed into what is now called “terrorism” (Combs 39). As soon as the transformation has completed, terrorism became inadmissible from the legislative perspective. Otherwise stated, revolution violence could be explained and partially justified by the people’s will to fight for their rights. Also, as it has been already mentioned above, it was targeted directly at the state. Terrorism, in its turn, cannot be justified as it involves third parties – innocent civil people.
Speculating upon violence, Combs points out that it is intolerable notwithstanding the motives and causes. In the meantime, the author agrees that it is sometimes hard to distinguish between acceptable and intolerable violence. Hence, Combs provides the example of Nazi Germany that was proclaimed to be the universal evil. Combs notes that bombing the Germans led to the numerous deaths of innocent citizens, even though its motives were justified (41).
Another critical problem elucidated in the chapter is the right of nations for self-determination. Thus, the author admits the necessity for such a right, pointing out, meanwhile, that its realization signifies inevitable violence. Combs refers to the example of the conflict between Palestine and Israel to show the ambiguity of this problem (42).
A significant part of Combs’s speculations is devoted to the so-called “religious terrorism.” First and foremost, the author points out that this phenomenon appeared a long time ago. Thus, it would be wrong to regard it as a modern tendency. Combs provides the example of the first Christians who would also be rather radical while establishing their faith (44). In the meantime, the author admits that the process of globalization has become a strong trigger for religious terrorists’, or “zealots,” activity. Hence, the motive, to preserve the faith traditions the way they were initially established, is relatively new.
Moreover, the process of globalization has simplified the process of engaging people in terrorist activity significantly. Thus, social networks and other channels make it easier for terrorists to communicate their ideas to society. Modern people know more about the lives of others, so they are more exposed to experience anger and jealousy on the grounds of injustice. These feelings are skillfully used by terrorist organizations.
Finally, the author points out that even though the causes of terrorism are always similar, the motives and methods of different terrorist groups can vary. Hence, for instance, religious fanatics seek to advance the ideas of Supreme Being through suicide bombers. Neo-Nazis get involved in armed conflicts with the government, preserving the relevant ideas. The author also mentions separatists that employ violent methods to communicate their requirements to the government.
Finally, Combs distinguishes the so-called “issue-oriented” terror (48). This type of violence is commonly targeted at particular social groups, whereas the methods used might vary significantly. Thus, for example, the author refers to the example of a terrorist group that bombed the hospital that provided abortion services. Combs, likewise, suggest considering such types of terrorists as “pathological” and “counterterror” (50). The former carries out terror for the sake of joy, while the latter does it to take over the control. In the meantime, both result in the deaths of innocent people.
In conclusion, Combs points out that modern terrorism has acquired new forms and adopted new motives. The author puts a particular emphasis on the fact that this violence is inadmissible notwithstanding the reasons underpinning it. Meanwhile, Combs notes that understanding the motives is likely to simplify the fight (50).
Combs, Cynthia. Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, Raleigh: Routledge, 2015. Print.