Terrorism has no internationally accepted definition. Simply put, the term is used to refer to any use of coercion or force to instill terror moans people. Terrorism is generally used to refer to coercive action or violent attacks that are carried out illegally by criminals or combats to create fear and cause harm or death amongst the target group of people. In most cases, terrorism activities are usually perpetrated for political or religious goals and deliberately target civilians. Terrorism may take different forms such as civil, political, non-political or limited political terrorism. Religious terrorism is usually carried by groups of persons with similar background in faith.
According to Carsten Bockstette, terrorism is an act of political violence that is intended to provoke and create terror and psychic fear through violent and cruel victimization, gulling and massive destruction of the target group (Law, 2009). Usually terrorists tend to induce this psychic fear by achieving maximum publicity from the media, hence, ensures that the target audience gets the terror message. However, it is unfortunate that the United Nations have not given any clear definition of terrorism and did not as well adopt this meaning that was forwarded by Carsten at the George Marshall Center for European Security Studies.
It is certain that though terrorism is not a new thing and has been widely used for centuries, there still exists no exact definition of the term. It is sometimes mistaken for deadly criminal activities. Interestingly, even different agencies dealing with terrorism within the US Government similarly give different definitions, though they work under the same governing body.
A definition given by the US Department of Defense refers to terrorism as “calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological” (Floden et Al., 2007). This definition gives three principle elements of terrorism, that is, it involves use of violence, to create fear and finally intimidate the non-combats in furtherance of political, religious or social objectives.
History of Terrorism
Terrorism has a longer history than even that of modern states. It has existed for several centuries. Over the past decades, terrorist attacks have resulted into massive and ruthless killing of innocent civilians. These acts have been alleged to political, ideological or religious reasons.
Objectives of Terrorism
The act of terrorism is usually intended to draw the attention of target audience, usually the government and/or the world at large. The attack activities are often directed towards the objects (often a local population or government) and aims at obtaining the greatest possible publicity.
According to Bolton, the public’s or government’s response is the determining factor of the effectiveness of a terrorist act. For instance, a bombing at the Beirut International Airport that left more two hundred and fifty US military personnel dead and a thousand others seriously injured was a possible attack message to the American people and the US government. In response, the US Federal Government decided to withdraw its Marines from Beirut. From the terrorist point of view, they succeeded in their mission of inducing terror/fear among the US Congress and the people (Bolton, 2004).
Other typical goals of terrorism are provoking of civil uprise to change governments or split states, forcing the state to recruit opposition leaders or to make naked illegitimacy state agencies. Terrorism can also be driven by the motive to demonstrate the government’s inability to provide adequate security.
Perspectives of Terrorism
According to Ricahrd and Hepner, there are three main perspectives of terrorism: the terrorists, the victims and the general public. They further suggest that terrorists view themselves as non-evil people but rather freedom fighters. The victims, however, view terrorists as dreadful criminals that are against humanity and human life (Richard & Hepner, 2011). Most people will often suffer from psychological disturbances after experiencing victimization by the terrorists. The general public, on the other hand, responds to terrorism with cruel condemnations, cries and calls for sympathetic support and sometimes initiate vigorous counterattacks against the terrorists.
Effects of Terrorism
Terrorism has had adverse effects on the political, social and economic systems of United States. Terrorism causes political instability and unrest. The US government responded with anger and revenge to avert perceived future attacks. For example, it responded to September 11 attacks by detaining several individuals, some of which were innocent and were detained without charges. A good example US Government’s revenge attack is its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It also imposed strict laws on immigration due to its inability to politically tolerate future attacks and threats (Lansford, 2011).
Social effects of terrorism, apart from the usual mass killing of civilians, include displacement of people, long-term and future health complications, inter-racial and inter-religion clashes, hatred and discrimination (Whittaker, 2007). Families that lose their loved ones would also be emotionally disturbed, live with grief and fear of possible future attacks.
Economically, terrorism has immediate effects on economy of United States. These effects are either direct or indirect and include loss and destruction of property, decreased productivity, increased spending on security, delinked supply chains, poor growth of private sector among others (Bruck, 2007). For example, suicidal bombing of the World Trade Center in New York led to an immense economic slowdown. Foreign investor pulled out of the US markets, most businesses were brought to a halt and the Airline Industry’s annual earnings dropped drastically due to the travelling tensions amongst passengers.
Religious Reponses to Terrorism
Most religious activists have strongly rejected and opposed the use of terrorism by governments and other religious organizations. In most cases, they view legal systems that are not in line with their beliefs and faith as illegitimate. Special religious groups have been formed to bar the efforts of governments and terrorist organizations.
Future of Terrorism
Just as terrorism activities have managed to survive, grow and evolve for many years, it is expected that it will continue to flourish despite the efforts of governments, including the United States Federal Government, and anti-terrorists organizations to curb it.
In the recent past, the world has observed a tremendous growth and development in terrorist activities. This has been enhanced and catalyzed by their high adaptive capabilities and adoption of new developments in technology (Whittaker, 2007). There has been increasing incapability of government agencies to counterattack terrorism. Similarly, terrorist groups have greatly improved their attack tactics, methods and techniques, hence, posing a challenge to security agencies.
Possible Approaches to Terrorism
In my opinion, I would recommend that the church should work closely and tightly together with the US State and fully support its efforts in combating terrorism, other than rebuking, condemning and exploiting the States’ weaknesses. It should create a network of faith-based organizations that link civilians to the state agencies.
The government as well should adopt a clear chain of command that would easily facilitate the fight against terrorism, for instance, the US Department of Defense should work closely with other departments such as Immigration and Foreign Affairs. In addition, Anti-Terrorists Organization should also be swift and flexible enough to acquire new technologies and improve the existing ones. This would assist them in ensuring smooth and reliable anti-attack and control operations.
Similarly, there should be open and clear channels of communications between the US government’s security agencies, religious organizations and the citizens. A good communication network would facilitate sharing data and information pertaining to terrorists. Religious groups should as well disclose any terrorists’ organizations that might be under hiding or dormancy and hence, possible future re-emergence of these illegal groups. Information outlets should as well be channeled to the right directions to ensure that vital information does not reach intended or unauthorized persons. This would help to reduce a misuse of information for personal interests and destructive activities by terrorist organizations. For example, data on total population, composition of the population, residences and occupations of civilians should be shared only with trusted people for official use only.
The governments should be willing to accept views from opposition leaders and, thus, reduce political terrorism that may result from revenge as a result of frustrated attempts for reforms. For instance, disadvantaged Catholic Christians in Ireland were demanding for better housing facilities, easy access to healthcare, increased employment opportunities and observances of civil and human rights (Smelser, National Research Council & Panel on Behavioral and Institutional Sciences, 2002). If the government lacked the will to address such grievances, there would emerge social disturbances and possibly terrorist attacks.
Religious leaders should also encourage good governance and proper use of authority, reduced discrimination and exercise of equality and equity in distribution of resources of the country. This will ultimately lead a decreased civil disobedience and social unrests. The citizens should also be allowed to exercise their democratic rights, for instances, holding peaceful demonstrations. This would help to ease social pressures and consequently reduce terrorist bombings. According to my view, the States should treat all religions equally. This would help to appease and release tensions between different religious organizations. From a Christian’s perspective, the church should support the US Congress in formulation and implementation of anti-terrorism policies.
As Stout suggests, the US Government Defense Agencies should develop sophisticated security systems and operations that cannot be easily understood or exploited by the terrorists (Stout, 2002).
Religious groups should also avoid prejudice, malice and rage towards other religions or non-followers of their faith. For examples, the Arabic and Islamic communities have been viewed by other religions as the masterminds behind most, if not all, of the terrorist attacks seen today. They should preach and teach virtues such as peace, love, unity and forgiveness rather than hatred, malevolence, rancor and enmity.
As discussed above, terrorism often involves acts of violence that negatively impact the society. I would recommend that the state and all its branches in conjunction with religious organizations should fully commit and dedicate themselves to combating the vice. Through its military, law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies, the US government should deliberately strive and toil to put an end to terrorist attacks and eliminate terrorism completely, if possible. This would rebuild the citizens’ confidence in the State’s ability to provide security and good leadership. This can be achieved through its Anti-Terrorism groups like the Delta Force, US Special Army and DEVGRU.
According to Mariani, some terrorist groups are small organizations that have limited access to firearms and other destructive resources and thus, can be easily controlled (Mariani, 2003). In my view, such groups can be easily eliminated by the US government if they could get adequate information pertaining to their existence, fields of operations and geographical settings or locations. This information could be furnished to state agencies deliberately and voluntarily by the citizens and the church. Based on this information at hand, the US Government will be able to take precautionary and preventive measures to stop rebirth of attacks.
Since most terrorist attacks are motivated by social, political and religious goals by rebellious groups, it is advisable for the US government to keep a vigil eye at abnormal behaviors that would symbolize possible terror attacks. Furthermore, the US Government should take responsibility for examination, evaluation, establishment and analysis of the sources, causes, nature and motives behind terrorist attacks as it has been experiencing in the past. This would enable properly planning and co-ordination security measures.
Last but not least, terrorism is a major problem facing the society and the world at large, and new attacks are expected to emerge each and every day. It is, therefore, important that nations join hands together in the war against terrorism. Adequate resources including finances, firearms, well trained security personnel and good infrastructure should be put in place to expedite, facilitate, aid and grease the wheels of efficient and effective fight against terrorism.