How Could a Terrorist Be Radicalized? Essay

Pages: 17 (5491 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 30  ·  Level: Doctoral  ·  Topic: Terrorism

Radical

How could a terrorist be de-radicalised?

terrorism strategies

How Could a Terrorist be Deradicalised?

In the last two decades there has been a rapid increase in the threat of both international and domestic terrorism in the world. This increase has been dramatically emphasized by a number of major terrorist attacks, such as the Oklahoma bombing in 1995, the attack on New York in 2001 as well as the suicide attacks on the London transport system in 2005, among others. These and many others events have not only raised concern in terms of the increased sophistication and the use of modern technologies, but also on the concept and reality of the radicalization of terrorism.

Ii should be noted at the outset that terrorism has a long history. A number of studies in the literature pointed out that terrorism as a means of attaining political and social ends is an endemic part of human history. As Schelling (1996) states, the use of violence to terrorize the enemy is as old as human warfare. However, there is an alarming difference between modern forms of terrorism and older forms of this phenomenon. This includes the greater intensity of modern terrorism, which many see as a reflection of its more radical nature. As Evens (2000) states, "….while terrorism has a long history; the current wave of this form of violence has been given impetus by a series of new developments in the post-World War II period. Any analysis of terrorism in the contemporary world must begin with a discussion of these developments." (Evans 2000, p. 11)

This has led to as new trajectory of research and thinking on this subject with one of the main issues at stake being the development of methods and policies to deal with terrorism which focus on the modern radicalization and deradicalization of terrorism (Mowbray, 2005) This discourse refers to the analysis and understanding of the underlying motivational aspects and ideological underpinnings of modern terrorism. This view of the root causes of radicalization and subsequent methods of deradicalization will be the focus of this paper.

A central thesis that will be discussed in the paper is that in order to deradicalize the terrorist, the nature, motives and ideological foundations of terrorist actions have to be understood in the broadest possible sense. It will be suggested that it is only through this kind of comprehensive and insightful understanding that methods, protocols and policies can be developed that will be truly functional in deradicalizing the radical terrorist

2. Definitions

A common assumption is that the terms radical and terrorist are synonymous. However, this view contains a host of debatable issues and presumptions that are in need of clarification before one can discuss the possible methods of the deradicalization of terrorism. For example, from the perspective of the terrorist the term radical may be seen as a stereotype imposed by the "enemy" or the Other that is intended to vilify the aims and objectives that the terrorist deems to be justified and morally legitimate. One therefore has to take into account the dilemma and paradox raised in many of these debates about who is fact is the terrorist: the radical Muslim terrorist will claim that the Americans and British governments, among others, are the real terrorists. Therefore, in the process of understanding the world view of the radical terrorist one must take into account how they perceive themselves, as well as what constitutes the psychological, social and ideological makeup of the terrorist. In order to do this one must first define terrorism and radical or extreme terrorism.

The FBI had defined this form of terrorism as, …the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or its territories without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

(Terrorism 2002- 2005: FBI)

However the term is also one which is open to numerous interpretations, often from very conflicting points-of-view. An understanding of the term is extremely difficult to achieve from a purely semantic point-of-view. The perception and understanding of 'terrorism' requires a more holistic sensibility and is more realistically achieved through a relative cultural, political and historical understanding of this phenomenon. This also refers to the complexity of understanding terrorism in terms of its distinction from criminal activities. As one pundit notes: "Both political and academic efforts to get to grips with terrorism have repeatedly been hung up on the issue of definition, of distinguishing terrorism from criminal violence or military action" (Townshend 2002, p. 3).

The above refers to terrorism and radicalization in terms of implied and assumed negative connotations. Terrorism therefore becomes a derogatory label rather than a comprehensive and insightful definition. "...'terrorist' is a description that has almost never been voluntarily adopted by any individual or group. It is applied to them by others, first and foremost by the governments of the states they attack" (Townshend 2002, p.3). In this sense the definition given of terrorism by the United States is "...the calculated use or threat of violence to inculcate fear, intended to coerce or intimidate governments or societies (ibid). In the United Kingdom terrorism is defined as "the use or threat, for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, or ideological course of action, of serious violence against any person or property" ( ibid).

The above discussion leads to a commonly held belief among writers and researchers on the topic that pursuing a clear and unambiguous definition of terrorism is a fruitless endeavour. Typological definitions of terrorisms tend towards a biased view of terrorism (Townshend 2002, p.3), while other attempts at defining terrorism include the characterization that terrorism is an act of random violence. However this attribute fails to take into account that fact that many terrorist acts are not random and have a directed and stated political intension. Those accused of terrorism also claim to have a form of legitimacy on their side. Other arguments attempt to delineate the parameters of terrorism or terrorist acts by focusing on the fact that they target innocent people.

Terrorism is therefore best understood firstly as a radical response. In political terms this refers to a response to overwhelming odds, where formal or conventional modes of conflict or opposition are not a viable option. This places the term terrorism in a more authentic and legitimate light and refers to terrorism from the perspective of the terrorist as a defence against a much larger and more technically equipped opponent. In this sense terrorism loses its more negative connotations and becomes another term for "freedom fighter'. It is this type of thinking that underlies many of the methods aimed at deradicalizing the terrorist by, in the first instance, entering into his or her worldview. The intention here is to point out that there is a relativity of perception that should be taken into account in investigating the perceptions of terrorist actions and activities and that this perception should be inclusive of all points-of-view.

From the point-of-view of most formal definitions the four main elements of terrorism are premeditation, a publically motivated as distinct from a purely criminal act and, thirdly, it is usually aimed at civilians, although this is not always the case and it is generally carried out by groups that are not associated with an army or a particular country.

From the point-of-view of the problem of deradicalization the above definitions points to an essential aspect of the problem under discussion; namely that one cannot begin a deradicalization of terrorism unless one understands the nature of what motivates and emboldens the terrorist to commit radical acts of violence and social disruption.

2.1. International Terrorism

International terrorism is seen as one of the paramount threats to the progress of modern civilization. Globalization and the rapid increase in travel and communication technologies are central factors in the increase and proliferation of radical terrorist views, technologies and actions. This has specific import for the present topic as the internationalization and growing interconnections between various terrorist groups, and the spread of radical ideologies via the Internet, in effect means that terrorism cannot be adequately controlled by conventional security or defensive means alone -- hence the need for programs and protocols to reduce the spread and influence of radicalism. In this regard it is important to note that many modern definitions of radical terrorism refer to the fact that terrorism transcends locality and national boundaries.

International and radical terrorism therefore transcends boundaries and is promulgated via technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones. Therefore, Osama bin Laden vision does not only threaten countries in the West who have a presence in the Middle East but also threatens allegedly corrupt and non-Islamic regimes in the Middle East region. One could in this regard also briefly refer to the interconnections between transnational extremist and terrorist entities and groups. The connections between these often disparate groups… [END OF PREVIEW]

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