Case Study: Terrorism Is Not a New Concept

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Terrorism is not a new concept or method. It has been used throughout the history of man but defining what is and what is not is a difficult proposition. Depending on one's point-of-view, it can be defined as political or military tactic or strategy, a crime, a holy duty, or a justified reaction to oppression. It contains elements of military action while also having political and social implications (Alex, 2010).

In recent years terrorism has become increasingly more popular among a variety of different groups attempting to influence society. The success and failure of these various groups differs but the impact of their actions cannot be denied. In this paper an attempt will be made to examine the actions and philosophies of several of these groups in an attempt to understand the generalized nature of terrorism and its effect on society.

Ideological Terrorism

In the late 1960's and through the 1970's three small terrorists groups in what was then known as West Germany joined together to form what became known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang (Aust, 1987). These three small terrorist groups, The Red Army Faction, Movement 2 June, and Revolutionary Cells claimed only about 100 members between the three of them but their impact on Germany at the time was considerable and resulted in the German Government eventually instituting terrorist fighting legislation that gave the Government broad powers in fighting terrorism.

Those who have studied the Baader-Meinhof Gang differ as to what the intent and purpose of the gang was. A significant number view the Gang as a group of radical German students, comprised of essentially middle class students, who were determined to fight against the German capitalist establishment. This small group apparently felt that the German establishment of the late 60's and early 70's was beginning to mirror the attitudes and practices of the Third Reich that rose to power under Adolph Hitler and that it was their duty to ensure that this did not occur. Despite the extreme measures used by the Gang, they enjoyed widespread popularity among the youth of Germany who believed that there was some legitimacy in the Gang's views. Needless to say, on the other side of the issue, there were a great number of people who say the Gang as nothing more than a group of murderous thugs who lacked any political or social goals.

The Gang's activities during the approximate ten years in which they operated inside Germany began with the bombing of two Frankfurt department stores in 1968. The perpetrator of these bombings was captured and imprisoned but such action by the Government resulted in a series of killings, plane hijackings, bombings, and kidnappings that caused havoc throughout Germany for the next decade.

The precise goals of the Gang have never been fully detailed. Some believed in the Gang's interest in curtailing what they believed was a German return to the beliefs and practices of the Third Reich but there has never been any clear statement of the Gang's purposes. Whether or not that was the group's intentions will likely never be known as the group's activities diminished in the late 70's and diminished entirely by the late 80's.

Nationalist Terrorism

On the small island of Sri Lanka off the coast of India a different form of terrorism took place in the form of a group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) also known as the Tamil Tigers (Manoj, 1996) The LTTE, a separatist group, advocated for a homeland for an ethnic group identified as the Tamils. The Tamils as a group live primarily on the island of Sri Lanka but comprise only 10% of the island's population. The Tamils differ religiously from the other inhabitants of the island in that they are Hindus while the large majority of Sri Lanka residents are Buddhists. These religious differences and small number of Tamils led to the Tamils feeling that they were being oppressed.

Beginning in the 1980's the LTTE, composed of members of the Tamil ethnic group, started agitating for the establishment of a homeland for the Tamils. In the process of doing so, the LTTE initiated the terrorist tactic of using suicide bombing jackets and the use of women in suicide attacks. Over the course of the LTTE's terrorist actions, the group either took credit for or was blamed for over two dozen assassination attempts, two hundred suicide attacks, and an actual war that resulted in the deaths of more than seventy thousand individuals.

The terrorist efforts of the LTTE endured for nearly a quarter century and was believed to have ended with a cease fire agreement in early 2002 following the 9/11 bombings in the United States. Some argue that these bombings played a significant role in the tempering of the LTTE efforts but, regardless of the cause, the group's efforts were limited for a number of years. This sabbatical ended recently, however, as the group has again begun agitating.

Religious Terrorism

A third form of terrorism is the state sanctioned form that is characterized by the nation of Iran (Simon, 2010). Many experts believe that the stated goal of the Iranian Government is to command the Muslim world. As a corollary to this goal, they also seek the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state and the end of American influence in the Middle East. In attempting to reach these goals, Iran has actively funded and trained terrorists and terrorist efforts throughout the world.

Iran is arguably the strongest military power in the Middle Eastern region and they continue to build their power through the manufacturing of bombs and missiles. More significantly, Iran has participated actively in providing financial, moral, and protective support for many of the world's most active terrorist groups including Hezbollah, Al-Queda, the Palestinians, Hamas and many others. Although the spectrum of Iran's purpose in supporting terrorism is wide, its primary goal must be its interest in dominating the Muslim religion. Although Iran has supported a variety of terrorist groups each with its own individual goals and objectives, Iran has always done so with an eye toward establishing itself as the leader of the world's Muslims. Toward this end, Iran has been the leader in state sponsored terrorism.

II. Analysis

The three forms of terrorism discussed herein have all differed in scope and operation but they all represent groups attempting to pursue extreme goals within the confines of specified area. For the Baader-Meinhof Gang the goal was to curtail the possible reintroduction of Fascist style ideology and practices inside Germany; for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam it was the establishment of a separate homeland for the Tamil ethnic group; and for the Government of Iran it is worldwide dominance of the Muslim religion. The common thread throughout all three forms is the use of violence, fear, and intimidation. Regardless of what or who a particular terrorist group may be targeting the true victim is society in general. The true strategy of all terrorist efforts is commit acts of violence that draw the attention of the local populace, the government, and the world, in general, to their cause. In planning their attacks terrorist groups have traditionally done so in a manner to obtain the greatest publicity and targeted individuals or institutions that best symbolize what the group is opposing. The fate of the specific victim is not what concerns terrorist groups; instead, it is the effect that the attack has on the public in general.

The nature of terrorism is that they do not view themselves as evil and they do not view their activities as evil (Combs, 1997). They see themselves as legitimate combatants battling for what they believe in and to do so in whatever method necessary to achieve their goal. Terrorist rely heavily upon the fact that society in general will adopt diverging attitudes toward the terrorist acts. Some will adopt sympathetic views that see the terrorists as a form of "Robin Hood" while others will view the terrorists as mere criminals. The terrorists take a calculated chance that not everyone will view them as evil and that a significant number of individuals will see them sympathetically.

III. Differences

The use of violence in the use of terrorism has generated a number of theories as to the cause of such violence (Ruby, 2002). No specific theory has enjoyed widespread acceptance. Terrorist groups have adopted a wide range of violent acts to express their point-of-view and there is no specific style or type of methodology used. Terrorist violence is deliberate and calculated. There is little or no impulsivity involved in terrorism. Terrorist groups are strategic and their actions are strongly linked to and justified by ideology, whether it is political or religious, and their acts are rarely, if ever, performed in isolation. They are group acts involving numerous individuals. The complexity involved in the operation of most terrorist activities makes effective analysis of terrorism a difficult task.

The differences in the three forms presented herein are considerable. The Baader-Meinhof Gang was… [END OF PREVIEW]

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