International Terrorism Term Paper

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International Terrorism

Terrorism is widely considered to be an increasingly complex phenomenon and the events that keep the headlines each day come to prove this assumption. It has been rather difficult for both politicians and scholars to agree on a common definition of terrorism precisely due to its complexity and the eventual legal implications such a theoretical identification would have. However, despite the lack of a clear image, terrorism has been discussed and analyzed from various perspectives, political and scholarly alike. It may be that the eventual conclusions could point out a more coherent identification of terrorism and a future course of action.

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At the moment, there are different ideas related to the actual notion of terrorism. From a scholarly point-of-view, Paul Wilkinson considers it to be "special form of political violence. It is not a philosophy or a political movement. Terrorism is a weapon or method which has been used throughout history by both states and sub-state organizations for a whole variety of political causes or purposes" (2000, 1). With a particular focus on the notion of a political motivation behind the actions undertaken by terrorist, there are similar definitions. For instance, the FBI considers terrorism to be "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives" whereas the UN short definition, not generally accepted yet useful for guidance, considers an act of terrorism as a "peacetime equivalent of a war crime" (Payne, 2007), therefore making an association with a politically motivated action.

At the same time, there are views that are reluctant into giving the political motivation a central role. In this sense, "The National Commission on Terrorism found that fanaticism rather than political interests is more often the motivation now, and that terrorists are more unrestrained than ever before in their methods" (Morgan, 2004). Therefore it can be said that there is a certain divergence of opinions among scholars and politicians alike.

Term Paper on International Terrorism Is Widely Considered to Be Assignment

There can be no complete or comprehensive definition of the terrorist phenomenon because the complexity of the issue cannot be fully grasped in a single formulation. This is largely due to the fact that often the terms included in any definition can be subject to interpretation. For instance, the idea of the use of the unlawful use of violence against civilians can be perceived by one part as being a terrorist activity while the other sees is as a liberation movement. Therefore, in order to have a common point on the issue, it is important to define the limit between a terrorist and a freedom fighter.

Another reason for which neither definition can be considered to be comprehensive is the fact that each definition bears the mark of its creator. For instance, the UN definition offers a very broad range of elements which could be considered of terrorist origins, with no particular emphasis on a certain issue. Also, while the British government included in its definition a reference made to damages made to the electronic system (Payne, 2007), the American view fails to consider this matter up close. Therefore, while in the opinion of one state an act can be seen as terrorist, from the point-of-view of another state's legal system, the act cannot be condemned as such.

Finally, an aspect which can influence the way in which terrorism is perceived is a better definition of the actors involved in terrorist acts. Therefore, it is rather hard to admit that there is state terrorism, taking into account the fact that its political and administrative apparatus is not completely involved in conducting terrorist acts. Despite the fact that there have been situations in which the implications of the state have been proven such as the Iranian situation, there is no concrete evidence of state terrorism. Rather, it can be argued that it is a group activity. However, the actual definition of the group must be taken into consideration in order to reduce the ambiguity of any definition presently available.

Despite the fact that there is no generally agreed upon definition of terrorism, the act in itself as well as the attitudes of perpetrators have been thoroughly analyzed and interpreted. The results came in the form of more questions related to the motivation offered by terrorists after their attacks.

From a moral standpoint there is no admissible motivation for taking the lives of non-combating civilians, whether is voluntarily or not. However, terrorist activities in which innocents are killed are most of the times justified by their proponents by invoking the right of their group to fight for something they consider to be legitimate. More precisely, there is the matter of analyzing the difference of nuance between terrorism and freedom fighter. For instance, while Hamas and the Islamic Jihad for a longtime have been perceived as terrorist groups and were even labeled as such by the U.S. And the EU, for the interests they represent, therefore for the majority of the Palestinians, they are the clearinghouse of their national hopes and ideals. Therefore, from their perspective, the innocent and the civilians represent the price of freedom and achievement.

The strong ideological connection that determines terrorists to justify their actions and overlook the gravity of the human consequences is the liaison that has the biggest significance for the enduring structure of the organization. However, in order to maintain this allegiance, it is important to have continuous group reinforcement (Sageman, 2004) Thus, the ideological and fanatical relation between the individual and the group must be maintained in order to have the power of his own beliefs when conducting the tasks assigned.

In order to have a proper understanding of the real motivations and the incentives that drive forward terrorist groups, the structure and the organizational chart of a group may prove significant. Indeed, there is no universally applicable organizational framework. However, the general posts are common to most terrorist entities.

There are generally two types of organization when discussing terrorist groups. On the one hand, there are groups organized hierarchically and on the other hand, groups based on a system of networks (Terrorism Research, n.d.). The preference for either of the two models depends on the age of the group and of the connecting element. Thus, it has been seen that groups that have emerged in recent years have an organizational chart based on networks, while traditional groups, such as Al Qaeda are organized according to a certain hierarchical order. Independent of the eventual organization, each terrorist group is composed of cells, which represent the basic element of the entity. These can be cells formed based on family connection, jobs, or even relevance of the system of beliefs. However, although they are the basis of the group they are also the most vulnerable part of it.

There are certain benefits and shortcomings both for the law enforcement apparatus and for the terrorist groups themselves when choosing a certain type of organization. Therefore, when dealing with a group organized in a system of networks, there is now absolute hierarchy, and thus the law enforcement can act more quickly to catch the leader. However, the shortcoming would be that the span of the group's activity would be larger than in the case of a hierarchical structure. Even so, it depends of the size and importance of the group.

From a different perspective, terrorist groups that are ideologically based are most of the times hierarchical because they need to have a higher authority which could create the connection with the policy makers. The downfall would be that such a hierarchy makes the leader vulnerable to any pressure and most of all visible, an element which can be exploited by the law enforcement agencies. The advantage for such an organization is a higher sense of authority and control directed towards the lower levels of the organization, and a better grip could be exercised. Such a strong grip could determine and maintain a fanatic allegiance for the leader of the group and could thus be an important challenge facing the authorities fighting against terrorism.

Samuel Huntington proposed a thesis in the early 90s which suggested precisely the idea of the strengths of certain ties such as religion, culture, or even civilization (1996). These can easily be transformed in fanatic attitudes and can determine new rifts in the civilization system of the world. Moreover, he considered that future conflicts will be determined by a clash between the major civilizations of the world. He thus offers an important role to the unity within the civilization while denying the future of a global one. His points are stated rather clearly in his delimitation of eight cultural paradigms. These are the Islamic one, the Western, the Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and with a certain sign of reservation, Africa. (Huntington, 1996)

Indeed, the fragmentation may seen rather drastic; however, from the perspective of the current mapping of the terrorist phenomenon, it can be said that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "International Terrorism" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

International Terrorism.  (2007, November 16).  Retrieved February 20, 2020, from

MLA Format

"International Terrorism."  16 November 2007.  Web.  20 February 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"International Terrorism."  November 16, 2007.  Accessed February 20, 2020.