Global War on Terrorism Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2856 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Terrorism

¶ … History of Terrorism

Historical depictions of warfare often lead one to think that war, especially as conducted on European soil, was an event of rules and engagement and strategy. Conducting war has been described as an "art." Famous men throughout history have become famous because they were perceived to be great strategists; Napoleon Bonaparte, William the Conqueror, Alexander the Great, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, to name a few.

The image of war that came to the minds of many people was that of two forces standing on opposing hills, so to speak, facing off and, then, when the great leader gives the signal, engaging in battle. As warfare progressed into modern history, there were rules of engagement and rules governing the treatment of prisoners taken in war. The Geneva Convention is one such document that was written with the intent to protect those men captured in war. The rules war have changed with the global social conscience, as have weapons. Today it is possible to drop a bomb on a target, take out the target, and inflict minimal casualties amongst the civilian population. But rules of war have always governed the people who describe war as an art form, who write books about great strategist sending thousands of lives into battle to face an enemy. The enemy is the person not wearing the same uniform, and is distinguishable from the civilian population because he wears the uniform of the force for which he fights. The enemy has historically posed a threat to one another, or represented a geographical or political milestone to be realized by defeat.

Today, all these notions associated with warfare have changed. The enemy no longer wears a uniform that distinguishes him from the civilian population, and is not necessarily backed by a government sponsorship. The use of commercial transportation that can be converted into a weapon of mass destruction, or, more recently, the use of handicapped individuals who do not have the capacity to form a political or ideological thought have been used as human weapons (MSNBC, 2008). This form of warfare is called terrorism, and it has become a constant and seemingly permanent force in the lives of people on a global scale, and something which nations, especially Americans, are trying to understand and respond to.

The History of Terrorism

William D. Perdue (1989) quotes former United States President Richard M. Nixon administration official Raymond Price, discussing terrorism in terms of the past, the present (1985), and cautioning that it is something that governments in the future would have to learn to confront (p. 1). That future is now for America, and words like terrorism, suicide bomber, and the loss of lives of American soldiers has been a part of the daily lives of Americans since the events of September 11, 2001, when terrorists successfully - and they must be credited for having been successful in their goals; commandeered commercial passenger jets and turned them into weapons of mass destruction. The American response was to go to war, first, in Afghanistan; then, on a second front, in Iraq. September 11, 2001, was not the first time that America had experienced terrorism on American territory, but it was the first time that terrorists had succeeded in their goals such at it brought commercial air travel in the United States to a standstill for 24 hours. The lives lost, the economic hardship brought about by the destruction and the interruption of daily lives, the image of the American political machine and military power draping a flag over the Pentagon that was successfully penetrated, and the vulnerability represented by the level with which the American and American intelligence community were caught completely off guard on September 11, 2001 denotes the success in the goals of the terrorists.

Terrorism, however, has a history (Perdue, 1989, p. 1). Domestic and international terrorism have been waged against large forces, usually governing bodies, since the advent of war. It began with the earliest responses of the non-governing bodies to the laws and people that governed any society where there is a history of revolt to those laws and to the governing body by the people.

Unlike traditional warfare, terrorism is a recent study historically in order to gain an understanding of this increasingly utilized means of revolution and confrontation. Andrew Silke (2003) says that it is only since 1970s that society has made an effort to understand the individuals behind terrorism and the acts of terror (p. 4). Perdue quotes a 1980s report to the senior George Bush, then president, describing terrorism this way:

Terrorism for most people is captured more in images than in words. In the West, high-impact media portrayals feature personal and dramatic accounts of victims and their families, with the signature of the terrorist written in blood. In the 1980s, a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy became its "low-intensity" war on terror, legitimated by the imagery of senseless, brutal, and random violence. It is in this spirit that the Public Report of the Vice President's Task Force on Combatting Terrorism proclaimed in 1986 that "terrorism is a phenomenon that is easier to describe than define." Undeterred, the Bush report cites: "the unlawful use or threat of violence against persons or property to further political or social objectives. It is generally intended to intimidate or coerce a government, individuals, or groups to modify their behavior or policies." This cabinet-level attempt at definition also specified the methods of terrorism, including "hostage-taking, aircraft piracy or sabotage, assassination, threats, hoaxes, indiscriminate bombings or shootings." And finally, the document portrayed the targets of terrorism as innocent, noting that "most victims of terrorism seldom have a role in either causing or affecting the terrorist's grievances (p. 1)."

For more than 25 years, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) waged a successful campaign against British occupation of Northern Ireland. While the violence waged against the British protestants by the Irish Catholics did not cause the British to give up or leave Northern Ireland, it did win representation for the Irish and concessions on the part of the British that has brought about an end to the violence (Perdue, 1989, p. 3). While the tensions go back to the late 18th century, the terrorist campaign waged against the British began in 1971, when the first British soldier was killed by IRA forces. The violence escalated, involving bombings of official government buildings, targeting high profile British government officials, and even claimed the life of Lord Mountbatten, a member of the British royal family (Smith, M.L.R., 1997, p. xx).

The economic damage wrought on Ireland and England during the campaign of terrorism waged by the IRA against Britain was devastating, politically polarizing, and, because of it, there continues to be deep resentments between the Irish and the British today. The lives lost on both sides were numerous and painful to the families who survive today. Even though numerous cease fires had been called and broken, in October of 1994, a cease fire was called between Britain and Ireland, and both sides worked out a plan for moving forward without violence. The Irish and British had not worked out the details of their plan, but it was agreed that it would be a process that moved forward and gave the Irish representation.

Algerian nationals waged a campaign of terrorism against the French during the French colonization of Algeria from 1954 to 1962, when Algeria won its independence from France. The French resisted the campaign being waged by Algerians against French occupation of their country (Evans, Martin, 1997). The French understood the motivation of the Algerians, but because they had occupied Algeria for nearly one hundred years, they felt a sense of ownership of Algeria. Martin Evans interviewed people who had experienced the war in Algeria, and found:

The decision to resist the Algerian war forced interviewees into an agonising confrontation. The more they learnt about the war, the more they suffered from bouts of radical self-examination, leading them to question the limits of their allegiance to the French nation and the French state. Importantly too, they reflected on how their sense of personal and national identity intersected with a myriad of other loyalties related to family, gender, class, ethnicity, religious convictions and political parties. For resisters, resolving these moral dilemmas and coming to a clear political position was a common starting point for action (p. 31)."

The French did not go into Algeria and establish a base of representation for the colonized Algerians, did not invite their participation in government or laws that impacted the Algerians way of life; since the French were Christian and the Algerians were Muslim. The French treated the Algerians as second class citizens in their own country, reducing them to roles of servitude to the French elite. In this case, it is not so difficult to understand the Algerian response to French occupation that led to violent resistance of French authority, rule, and efforts to sabotage daily French commerce and living. That the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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