Roots of International Terrorism Term Paper

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International Terrorism

Acts of international terrorism can be traced as far back as 1931, with the first documented hijacking of an airline passenger jet in Peru. However, depending upon how you define "international terrorism," international terrorism might be traced even further back, during the Christian crusades in the Holy Land. There was, too, the French Revolution, which was preceded by acts of violence committed by covert agents of change. The American Revolution was effectuated in large part by covert agents acting against British law and authority and perpetrating acts of violence against the British soldiers. Authors Brenda J. Lutz and James M. Lutz define terrorism as an evil act of indiscriminate violence, or brutality. While this definition may accurately define that which might be considered an act of terrorism, it fails to give weight to the political, social, and religious philosophies that drive the modern day perception of terrorism and acts of terrorism. The modern definition of terrorism should include the agenda of the terrorists, which is one designed to interrupt the economic, political, and social arenas wherein such acts of violence are committed. International terrorism is intended to be on a broader scale, with largely recognized targets so as to capture the attention of the world community. This was the case of September 11, 2001, when commercial airliner jets were hijacked and used as weapons of mass destruction in New York City, the United States Pentagon, outside of Washington, DC, and in a field in Pennsylvania when that particular flight failed to reach its designated target, believed to be the Capital building in Washington, DC. It is perhaps the events of September 11, 2001, and those events that occurred since that time that now warrants a closer examination of what international terrorism is.

International terrorism has grown with modern communication and technology. As the world found faster and better ways to communicate, thus did the acts of international terrorism increase in such a way as to cause the world to judge the opposing forces being drawn to their attention, and for the public to choose sides. "Since the late 1960s terrorism has been used to coerce social change by a rapidly growing number of organizations." When an act of violence is deliberate in nature, intended to capture the attention of the world community, and in support of, or intended to make a social, political, religious or economic statement; it is an act of international terrorism. The rapid pace of modern technology, vis a vie the internet, cell phones which allows the user to be a verbal and photographic communicator, cable television, DSL, and even the ability of governments to zoom in on remote locations via satellite; have facilitated terrorism.

The manipulation of public opinion within a country and in today's world community has been an effective tool of change in political direction of a country. In 2004, the Madrid bombings that left a trail of death and destruction, was identified as an act of international terrorism, linked to the Al Qaeda, as a result of Spain's support for America's military presence in Iraq. However, just days after the bombings, Spain's elections were held and the outcome was a complete change in political direction for that country when the Popular party was voted out, and the Socialist party won election with widespread public support. It is a very poignant case where terrorism has indeed changed the political direction of a state government.

So long as the response to terrorism is one that is capable of bringing about significant change, as it did in Spain, the world can expect to see the use of international terrorism grow.

The Late 1960s

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is a group out of covert Irish agents whose goal it is to unite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. In the late 1960s, more accurately, 1969, the IRA was successful in its terrorism committed against the British government, which has domain over Northern Ireland, as to cause them to enter into negotiations with the IRA. The IRA had also been successful in disrupting the economic, political and social stability of the United Kingdom, and had drawn attention to its cause on a world-wide scale. Throughout Europe and the United States, people stood divided on the issues over which the IRA and the UK sat down to negotiate. The end result was one of give and take. Six counties in Northern Ireland remained under the control of the British government, while the remaining twenty-six counties became the Irish Free state. In what has become a well recognized response to international terrorism, the British were successful, in turn, in dividing the IRA sentiment amongst its own, and causing the violence to become focused within that group's internal organization and mechanisms. This allowed the British to regroup, and to secure the North as fighting within the IRA continued in the south and on Free Ireland's own soil. It also caused the international community to lose much of its sympathy for the IRA that had abandoned its negotiations with the British and were now absorbed with in-fighting.

The fuel that for so long, decades in fact, fed the IRA's drive against the British stemmed from the fact that Northern Ireland was, and continues to be, populated in large part by British Protestants. The south is populated by Irish Catholics, although there are what amounts to a Catholic minority living in the North. Therefore, in the minds of the world community, the violence that for decades raged in Ireland between Irish Catholics and British Protestants became an event of religious differences and preferences. "Any form of unification of the two parts of the island would result in the Protestants becoming a clear minority. One line of division between the two groups became the one identified with religion - Protestants divided from Catholics even if many of the Catholics and Protestants were not active churchgoers."

Today, as the world community draws closer together over problems like hunger, AIDS, and environmental issues that loom large on the horizon as a threat to life on the planet; it has become more difficult to sympathize with religious ideologies that give rise to death and destruction. However, the differences between the Irish and the British went beyond religion, though the international lines of support seemed to divide along the Catholic and non-Catholic religious affiliations. But it must be noted that nationalism had as much to do with the violence between the British and the Irish as religion did. Many of the British subjects in Northern Ireland could trace their ancestry back to Scotland, and were clearly historically politically inclined to loyalty to the British. This nationalism gave rise to grudges within the community of Northern Ireland, and while both the Catholic and Protestant factions and families were struggling against equally difficult economic factors, the Protestant majority, who dominated the political processes in Northern Ireland, discriminated against the Irish Catholics by withholding much needed social support services from the Catholics. As a result, prominent members of Northern Ireland's political infrastructure were assassinated, as was the terrorist course of action during the late 1960s.

The IRA took their terrorism against the British to an international scale when they attacked the British outside of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The IRA perpetrated acts of violence against military and political targets in Germany, Gibraltar, in addition to numerous bombings of targets and murder of political officials in England. but, once again, international support of the IRA waned with the in-fighting amongst the group's own leadership, but not before the violence and number of acts committed on English soil increased to an unprecedented number and frequency during the 1970s. The IRA hit close as it could to the heart of the British people when it was successful in carrying out the murder of Lord Mountbatten, who was Queen Elizabeth's cousin.

Today, there continues to be disagreement between Protestants and Catholics, but there is much less violent. Various groups and factions have grown as offshoots of the original IRA, and have come and gone, some persisting, but none having the momentum and international support as did the IRA during the late 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and even the early 1990s.

South America

While violence in South American countries has been ongoing since World War II, and even before then; it took on an international scale during the 1960s as one country crossed the borders of another country. El Salvador and Honduras are a case in point where this occurred. Much of the violence was economic in nature, third world nations vying for industry dollars in trade and the use of immigrant workers. It culminated with the invasion of Honduras by the El Salvadoran military in 1969.

During the 1970s, the nature of the violence and the use of international terrorism in South America would increase.


If one considers the definition of international terrorism as has been previously described, then perhaps Vietnam must dominate the 1960s as a continuous act of international… [end of preview; READ MORE]

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APA Format

Roots of International Terrorism.  (2007, March 12).  Retrieved January 21, 2020, from

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"Roots of International Terrorism."  12 March 2007.  Web.  21 January 2020. <>.

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"Roots of International Terrorism."  March 12, 2007.  Accessed January 21, 2020.