The terms terrorism and political violence are related and are sometimes used synonymously. Political violence can be referred to as any form of rebellion, revolution or war, or tyranny that is politically motivated. The definitions of terrorism are normally varied depending on the context in which the term is being applied. It refers to acts of violence meant to intimidate civilians or to coerce the government to implement certain policies. Some of these terrorist activities include mass destruction, kidnappings, and assassinations (Lutz 10).
Terrorism is neither an organization nor a movement, neither is it an enemy that one can declare war on. It is a tactic of indiscriminately attacking the targets who are normal civilians to instill fear in them and incite a counterproductive attack from the opponents. Terrorism is normally used by fighters who feel weaker than their adversaries in terms of manpower, machinery, and even financial stability. It is normally cheap in terms of finances and manpower, rendering its victims vulnerable (May para. 17).
There are times when the leaders take advantage of such social anxiety and moral panic for political gains. This is because fear can be effectively used to prevent criticism and to constrain internal opposition. When the state instills fear in citizens for political gains, the result can be referred to as state terrorism. State terrorism has been practiced by many countries and it includes such acts as killing political opponents (May para. 24).
Challenges of Analyzing Terrorism and Political Violence
There has been a very minimal understanding of the terms terrorism and political violence. This is because of the various flawed definitions given to terrorism. Most of the definitions of terrorism are individually based on the individual’s experience of terrorist activities. The definitions are also subjective; this is to say that most people associate terrorism with only extremist Islamic behaviors, yet there are a lot of terrorist activities going on right under their noses. The ordinary definitions are normally evocative and normally refer to terrorism as an intense fear and dread. This in itself does not give a legal definition of the term since any form of violence cause terror to the victim (Held 224).
Another problem is the labeling of opponents as terrorists; this dehumanizes and demonizes them, making them appear like extremists who can not be reasoned with. This is a challenge because even the acts of counterterrorism are not very different from those of terrorism and equally instills fear in the civilians. Political resistance is allowed, and criminalizing it shows oppression of the opponents. Judging from this point of view, it may be right therefore, to justify terrorist activities. To maintain the legitimacy of the law, it may be right to justify some of the terrorist activities which could be illegal but permissible.
From certain point view, terrorism has been associated with revolutionary movements, religious hardliners and to some extent militant groups that are opposed to the government. It is without a doubt that most people will be shocked to know that sometimes governments use terrorist methodologies for political reasons. Such kinds of revelations are normally met with a lot of prejudice, since most people believe that terrorist’s activities are normally acts of enemies of the government rather than the government itself.
Counteracting the activities of the terrorists has become an uphill task to most of the countries. This has been due to a misconception that terrorism is an organization or an enemy that can be attacked. Terrorism refers to tactics of war that are usually well calculated and are targeted to the civilians to sow fear in them and provoke the opponents.This has therefore led to the attacks being aimed at the individuals instead of focusing on their tactics.
Playing double standards in addressing the issue of terrorism is a big challenge to the understanding of the term terrorism. Various countries have their foes and allies and therefore, if it is their allies who are involved in the terrorist activities, then it will be justified, but if it is a country they consider as an enemy, then it is referred to as terrorism. Such duplicity distorts the whole meaning of what terrorism is.
Nature of terrorism and political Violence
Terrorism is normally a rational intentional act of violence that is normally aimed at causing fear in target audience to force changes in a given society. The terrorists are normally driven by a political desire and their activities are normally meant to satisfy the political interests of certain individuals. The terrorists normally have different ways of discharging their actions and may use any of the three most common sets of weapons. First, they may use weapons of mass destruction which are virtually aimed at creating destruction on infrastructure such as communication lines, dams, railways and ports as well as premises. An example of this is the attack on Twin Towers in New York. Weapons of mass casualty interfere with the people’s health, whereby harmful biological or chemical substances are used against people, the result of which is health complications and to some extent demise or disability. The chemical attack Japan some years back is a good example of this form of terrorism. Weapons of mass disruption are mainly employed to break down or disrupt the social, economic and political environments in a country, thus weakening the society.
Terrorism and political violence are normally goal centered and they normally act to create fear in the civilians to achieve given political objectives. Their activities are either motivated by their objectives or by terror. The government and the enemy may enter into a dialogue to enact a common policy. An objective driven act may not necessarily involve the use of violence. A terror driven act is normally carried out as a sign of retaliation for a perceived wrong or at times it is usually carried out as a warning to the enemies. (Criminal justice council para 5).
Another nature of terrorism and political violence is the indirect targeting of individuals. The terrorists do not make selection on who should be attacked as long as their mission is accomplished. Terrorists normally plan for a specific location at a specific time and all those found in that location at that time will all be victimized.
Terrorism is also a very rational act. This is to say that the attacks are never random but are carefully selected to create a desired impact. This could mean a lot of public anxiety. The activities are normally executed in such a way that they appear random, but this is never the case because making it appear random makes people to develop a feeling that anyone of them could be a victim of the attacks and as a result, the public develops a lot of angst.
The activities of the terrorists are normally implemented in such a way that it will cause the reaction of the large portion of the society. The attacks are normally pointed towards structures that are symbolic to the public such as public buses or hotels and when attacked will cause reaction of the society since the attacks are normally aimed at creating a change of behavior by the public.
Another important nature of terrorism and political violence is that, unlike warfare, terrorism emphasizes the killing of the targets and not the target itself. This means that people killed hold no significance to the terrorists; their interest is to have the targeted people killed (Boyd and Sullivan 3).
Reasons behind the Persistent Nature of Terrorism and Political Violence
The modern day terrorism is based on the Islamic religion. The foundations of most of the terrorists groups are built on the Islamic principles and the terrorists have been able to successfully intertwine the Islamic teachings and the principles of terrorism thereby making their activities to be widely acceptable among the Muslim communities. For instance, they relate the Quoranic holy wars to the wars they are fighting with the belief that the wars they are fighting are holy because they intend to redeem their people.
The terrorists also have a strong government backing in some of the countries where they are well established. This enables them to freely plan their activities from such places and then execute them elsewhere. The government also gives them immunity against international justice, and makes it difficult to have such people captured and held responsible for their activities (Stout 191).
Terrorism has been in action for so many years; hence it has managed to expand and to be well established in several countries across the globe. This makes it quite an intricate task tackling it right now. Terrorism has representations in almost all the countries around the world, making it so persistent despite the attempts to stop it (Held 5).
Terrorism is also based on some of the Islamic dogmas. This has been a great spur in their activities. The terrorists are never forced to blow themselves up; they do it willingly, since canons of the terrorists groups are in themselves an impetus to have them indulge in such activities.
Ways through which Terrorism and Political Violence can be studied effectively
There have been a lot of misconception about terrorism and the judgments made have also been misguided. This therefore implies that the study of the subject has been in efficient and substandard. It is therefore important that in the study of the subjects, the learner develops a wider perspective of the issues at hand to be in a position to make a subjective judgment. The underlying causes of terrorism must be taken into account. These may include resource deprivation and mobilization, the role of politics in the terrorism activities and the structural cause (Gupta 14).
It may also be important that the learners are allowed to have a bigger picture of the issues. This means that it is important that the learner develops an objective oriented definition of the terms. This is because it is from the definition that the greater meaning will be developed (Dartnell para. 1).
Terrorism and acts of political violence are daily occurrences in the day today lives of many people around the globe. They are normally politically instigated to serve the interest of political chiefs. It is therefore imperative that the wider meaning of the terms is developed. This will help create a mutual understanding between different communities and religions. To combat terrorism and political violence; the animosities between different countries must be settled. However, in extreme cases, it may be worth a consideration of attacking the enemy itself not the innocent civilians (Lesser 127).
It is also important to know that terrorism is not an activity that has developed today; but has been in place over the years, except that it has taken different forms. This will enable people to stop victimizing certain communities just because they are associated with the modern day terrorism. It may also be important to know that the terrorists keep on changing their nature and tactics making them very difficult to combat. Learners also need to be exposed to the facts about terrorism and political violence. It should be in such a way that they will be able to have a wider understanding of the terms. This will allow them to make informed opinions concerning such issues and if possible they can be able to help in finding a solution to the problem.
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Criminal Justice Council. “The nature of terrorism.” The Delaware Criminal Justice Council Terrorism Research. 2007. Web.
Dartnell, Michael.” Grammar of Terrorism: Captivity and the Study of Non-State PoliticalViolence.” Grammar of Terrorism: Captivity and the Study of Non-State PoliticalViolence. 2008. Web.
Gupta, Dipak K.Understanding terrorism and political violence: the life cycle of birth. London, Routledge publishers. 2008.
Held, Virginia. How Terrorism Is Wrong: Morality and Political Violence. London, Oxford University Press. 2008.
Lesser, Ian. Countering the new terrorism. Washington, Rand. 1999.
Lutz, Brenda. Global terrorism. New York, Rouledge Taylor and Francis Group. 2004.
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Stout, Chris. The Psychology of Terrorism: Theoretical understandings and perspectives. West port, Praeger publishers. 2002.