WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 1, 2012: New Threats—Terrorism, Environment
In common understandings, terrorism is seen as a goal and people believe the
sole aim of terrorism is causing harm and violence. Terrorism is a means to a
goal, not a goal itself. It is a strategy, in most cases.
Terrorism involves the use of violence by an organization, individual, or any non-
state actors, with the aim or terrorizing or intimidating a state’s government or
its citizens, with the aim of coercing that government to change a policy.
It is usually driven by a fundamental grievances, such as the drive for self-
determination, or nationalist goals—“freeing the homeland”. More moderate
goals could be territorial—political autonomy, separation. Ethnic conflicts and
civil wars were states are seen as guilty of discrimination against a particular
group could inspire terrorism.
Ex) al Qaeda—originally the goal was to keep Americans out of Iraq, the
birthplace of Islam, but progressively this involved getting the Americans out of
the Muslim world in general, because they were seen to be spreading western
thoughts and undermining Islam.
The LTTE sought a massive amount of autonomy for the Tamil region of Sri
Lanka, and the goal was independence for a Tamil state based on a conviction
that the Tamils would never be treated fairly under the Sinhalese majority. They
wanted to intimidate the government and the Sinhalese majority.
Other examples are Hamas (Palestinians motivated by the desire to have Israel
give up Palestinian lands), and the PKK (Kurdish separatist movement engage in
terrorism to get the Turkish government to recognize Kurdish economy).
What are the forms of terrorism?
There are two ways in which they can pursue their strategy:
The first is “demonstrative” (hostage taking, airline hijacking, pre-announced
explosions). They use violence, but try to minimize and limit the violence. This is
aimed at getting sympathy of onlookers and audiences for their goals. The
audience could be outsiders and they could seek to indicate to moderates and
even those in the government that strong grievances do exist in the minority or
oppressed population, and if these grievances are not dealt with the violence will
escalate. The third audience is third parties and the international community—
they hope low-moderate intensity acts will attract attention of third parties who
might not have paid attention to the problems in the first place but can
recognize that problems exist and push the state into being more moderate.
The second case, which occurs eventually in most instances, is “destructive”
terrorism, or suicide terrorism. This is what we associate with terrorism. They
are willing to give up sympathy and support and risk the possibility that they will
use the support by resorting to more violence that will cause real harm to the
target state or society. They want to maximize violence and destruction. There
is a trade off when you increase in violence but lose sympathy. Over time, groups tend to go with the more destructive forms of violence. The decision to
use this violence is often based on a strategic belief or experience in moderate
policies that have not worked. They believe that the only way the adversary
state will be forced to do something about the population is to make them
aware that the actual costs of not doing so are extremely high. It is more of a
coercive bargaining strategy—a form of compellance. Suicide terrorism pushes
the logic of coercive bargaining to the extreme, but there is a reason why it is so
effective. First, it is the tactic that causes the most damage and loss of life.
Usually it involved suicide bombers blowing themselves up and it strongly
conveys the message of the pain to come. It does not work against deterrence,
because if a person is willing to kill him or herself there is nothing you can
threaten them with. It also is difficult to stop because it does not require
meticulous planning. It is likely to create fear and they will use a more
dangerous or more extremist method of spreading fear. Democracies tend to be
the primary target of both suicide bombers and all other types of destructive
terrorism. The targets cold be military personnel of enemy states, but more
often they are aimed at killing as many domestic civilians as possible. There is a
trade off here too- violence will turn off moderates, and decrease the chance
that international actors will intervene of the terrorist group’s behalf.
Terrorism seeks to overcome actual