Term Paper: Forecasting Terrorism Major Trends

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Forecasting Terrorism

Major Trends in Terrorism in Recent Years

According to Raphael Perl, three major trends can be distinguished in terrorism: an increase in micro-actors, an increase in sophistication of terrorist activities, and an overlap of terrorism with international crime. In terms of the first, the increase in micro-actors is the result of a combination of different elements. Firstly, access to data relating to terrorist activities and ideologies has become much simpler than it had been in the past. The Internet and Arabic language television for example have acted as vehicles for information relating to terrorism. Furthermore, militant preachers can also spread their information much more easily via various media. As such, those who are susceptible to the terrorist idealism, are easily influenced by these media. Secondly, the above combines with recent U.S. And allied success in devastating the larger conglomerate of al Qaida leadership. This, together with more powerful information sources, have led to an increase of individuals and small groups entering the terrorist paradigm.

This is particularly problematic for fighting terrorism, as these groups and individuals have taken on many diverse characteristics. Not being part of large conglomerates, these groups have become increasingly difficult to detect. Other characteristics that contribute to the problem of detection include the fact that the groups have diverse motives for their activities, and also manifest these activities in different ways, according to their motives. It is therefore difficult to estimate where the next activities will originate.

Ironically, the United States' attempt to eradicate terrorism has resulted in a trend that is very difficult to detect. It is therefore estimated that there will probably be an increase in terrorist activities in the future, and that more of these will originate from within Western countries rather than from abroad. In attempting to eradicate terrorism on a large scale, the United States and the Allies instead created a much more dangerous, small-scale trend.

According to Emery, Werchan & Mowles (2005), the terrorism and security phenomena have changed drastically since 11 September 2001. As mentioned above, previous trends in terrorism tended to be operated on a large scale, and also tended to be focused on the industrial resources of a single nation-state. While the terrorist group itself may have been drawn from the international arena, the activities and the group itself tended to be physically based in a single location in a single country. This was the target, as mentioned above, of Western warfare.

Currently, this has changed to focus on micro-actors that can create great destruction with the use of technology. It is no longer necessary for terrorists to gather large amounts of manpower, or even to be on the premises of their target in order to create their projected destruction. Indeed, this can now be done by the push of a button, and frighteningly, terrorists are becoming increasingly good at this.

In response to the new paradigm of terrorist threat, the United States began to focus its defense efforts upon terrorists whose striking capability has global reach. This resulted in creating a military strategy that adhered to a capabilities rather than a threat-based approach. This means that defense professionals would concentrate on how the enemy might strike rather than who the enemy is, because the latter has become increasingly difficult to determine.

According to Perl, terrorists have also become increasingly sophisticated in using communications technology to their advantage. The global connections offered by Internet technology for example offers terrorists and potential terrorists the opportunity to improve and refine their operational planning, communications, targeting and propaganda. In this way, many more potential terrorists can be reached and recruited than the case was in the past.

One positive point in terms of fighting terrorism on a global scale is the very fact that the phenomenon has become global and web-directed. Because of the increasing overlap of terrorism with international crime, terrorists are increasingly using the same supply, transport and networks for money moving as do international criminal groups. This makes these groups vulnerable to law-enforcement detection, as international criminal groups feature prominently on law enforcement radars.

Lavrov (2004) also addresses the response to terrorism in terms of other global threats and challenges. He holds that new trends in terrorism also requires new trends in responding to the threat. This means, as mentioned above, that terrorism should also be considered in combination with trends in crimes such as illegal drug trafficking, organized crime, and extremist trends. This combines with the increase in international conflict while ignoring pressing humanistic problems such as hunger, poverty and underdevelopment.

Some suggestions for fighting the increasingly global trend of terrorism include the coordination of multiple nations in criminalizing all actions that can be regarded as terrorist activities (Lavrov, 2004). Strategies for doing this include:

Criminilizing the willful provision of funds for acts that might constitute terrorism;

Freezing the financial assets of parties who aim to commit terrorism;

Not providing support to anyone involved in such acts;

Denying safe haven for parties who are estimated to be terrorists;

Bringing to justice all who would engage in terrorist activities against any country;

Establishing all forms of terrorism as serious and punishable crimes in domestic law;

Assisting one another in criminal investigations relating to terroist acts;

Establishing border controls to prevent terrorist movement between countries.

The main important point of Lavrov's article is that the increasingly global and sophisticated international activities of terrorists can only be effectively combatted by international cooperation among nations. It is therefore vital that nations on a global scale put aside their differences and focus upon the threat to global peace and security.

2. Psychological vs. Strategic/Rational Choice Approaches to Analyzing Terrorist Movements

Terrorism, particularly as it manifests itself in the suicidal bombing variety, may appear to be an irrational form of fighting the enemy. Nevertheless, the widely-publicized promise of 72 virgins in the afterlife lends some incentive to the phenomenon. Because of the strength of this apparently irrational belief, many feel that a psychological model is optimally useful for analyzing this kind of terrorism. On the other hand, others feel that the rational choice model is more appropriate, as there is a sense of logica to the way in which terrorists make their choices.

Bryan Caplan (2005) considers terrorism and its concomitant apparent irrationality by using the rational choice model. The author identifies three types of terrorist: the sympathizer, the active terrorist, and the suicidal terrorist. The first type favors terrorism, but does not actively participate in its cause, while the second actively works for the cause, and the latter sacrifice their lives for the terrorist cause. It is the latter type that is seen as the most irrational of the terrorist types.

In using the rational choice model, Caplan also notes that the term rationality itself should be delineated clearly. He emphasizes that even suicidal terrorism can be classified as rational according to some general definitions of the term. There are however more stringent definitions that might more usefully be applied to terrorism, and particularly to suicidal terrorism. These include:

Responsiveness to incentives and Narrow selfishness.

The former refers to the results of a terrorist's actions. Terrorist sympathizers for example have the incentive of remaining on the sidelines because the risk to themselves is lower. Active and suicidal terrorists on the other hand have the effectiveness of their actions as incentive to continue in their actions. As such, these actions are also rational to a certain degree. This is so because even suicidal terrorists do not engage in their activities for the sake of committing suicide alone. They have a definite incentive for doing so. In addition to the promised 72 virgins, suicidal terrorists also have the incentive that their lives will be sacrificed for the good of the cause. Suicidal terrorism has been proven to be particularly effective in claiming the lives of the "enemy."

When seen in this light, Caplan concludes that terrorism is a rational phenomenon, as it responds to certain incentives. If terrorism were committed for its own sake, it would have qualified as irrational.

In terms of narrow selfishness, Caplan notes that suicidal terrorism is problematic to explain. While sympathizers can be said to be narrowly selfish, it is difficult to determine at first glance how active and suicidal terrorists can engage in terrorism in a selfish way. Indeed, it appears that these terrorists operates from a paradigm of self-denial in favor of the terrorist cause. This, according to the rational choice model, is decidedly irrational. The author observes that the deeper-lying reasons behind the terrorist paradigm should be considered in terms of selfishness. For active terrorism, for example, large amounts of money are provided for services, while there is fairly little risk to the lives of these persons. The incentive for suicidal terrorism is somewhat more sinister. Caplan notes that suicidal terrorists are often recruited by threatening their family members. Suicidal terrorists can also be motivated by payouts to their surviving family members. According to the author, the families of suicidal terrorists are often… [END OF PREVIEW]

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