What Fosters Terrorism?

Nadeem Yousaf

What fosters terrorismTerrorism has become the most popular word around the world. Undoubtedly, all governments are excessively using this word in order to diminish importance of their opponents; all struggles of freedom have been declared as a terrorist activity since the events of September 11; and all countries are considering safeguards to save themselves from terrorism. Many leaders of the world like President Bush are innocently wondering as to why aggressive activities are taking place (indeed, they might have got the answer had they bothered to read research on topics of terrorism and citizen initiatives).

In this article, it is tried, explicitly and implicitly, to answer three questions regarding terrorism. Firstly, is it possible to define terrorism? Secondly, what are the reasons behind terrorism? Thirdly, whether or not terrorism is a legitimate mode of action? It is, indeed, very difficult to define terrorism. However, in short, we can define terrorism as an aggressive and violent action to force the opponent to accept one’s demands. There is, of course, a difference between individual criminal action and terrorist action. The former is done for personal gains whereas for the latter action it is, at least, claimed that it is committed to achieve certain benefits for a collectivity, which can be a group or a nation. Those who take aggressive stand in the name of collectivity strongly believe that they are correct in their thoughts, philosophy or ideology (we are not concerned here whether or not their belief is right or wrong). Usually, the term terrorist is employed for those people who do not draw power and authority form the state (sovereignty) but use aggressive means to achieve their goals (in reply to this term, state-terrorism is also getting popular). It may be correct to argue that the psychological state of mind of those who participate in aggressive activities is that they perceive themselves as a martyr; whether we accept or not, they consider themselves in a state of war (in a way they are because they can be killed during their activity) against the evil; thus, they do not take into account like soldiers of war whether they die or survive when they attack. Their aggressive actions, of course, create turmoil and chaos for the civil society because their actions are unpredictable (if the same terrorist activity is adopted by the army during war, it is considered as a ‘commando’ action). In fact, we can only draw a subtle line between war and terrorism, which differentiate between both. In the war, the opponents attack each other’s interest openly and such attacks are considered legitimate, whereas in terrorism, participants of the activity might consider that they are in a war like situation against evil but the counterpart may have different interpretation of their actions and consider it as an aggressive act of terrorism. For example, Palestinians and Kashmiris call their aggressive struggle as a war of independence while Israel and India call their struggle as terrorism. The war usually takes place between two independent and sovereign states but it is not necessary for terrorism. In short, what is and what is not terrorism is hard to define, however, this discourse will, directly or indirectly, continue in the rest of this article. Many research article shows that terrorism does not take place in vacuum without any reason. Quite a few political scientists, sociologists and social psychologists argue that it is important to look into the past to understand reasons and motives of terrorism. However, one of the fundamental reasons of terrorism is conflicting and opposing interests between the parties. The definition of conflict is that it takes place when two people, groups or states look at the same phenomenon with different perspectives. The definition of conflict tells us that it occurs, when, at least, one of the parties considers that the other party is ignoring its interests or affecting negatively its interests. The psychology of conflict is that it can frustrate, at least, one of the parties when it perceives that conflict might not be resolved with peaceful means and negotiations. According to Freud, all human beings have aggressive energies and if they are not channeled properly, they can negatively influence human relationship. ‘Social exchange theory’ points out another important factor that good mutual relationship is maintained until advantages are more than disadvantages or at least equal. The intensity of good mutual relationship declines when one party feels or perceives that keeping relationship is not benefiting according to the expectations. Similarly, the ‘theory of relative deprivation’ argues that people (or groups) compare their situations with other people (or groups) and they get prey to relative deprivation if they feel that other people (or groups) are living in better conditions and environment. It may not be wrong to contend that relative deprivation is one of the fundamental reasons provoking terrorism. Using Albert Hirshman ‘theory of relationship’ with the system, we can argue that terrorism is analogous to raising voice against the system. Ted Gurr points out that aggressive action is considered essential when one is dissatisfied with the system and peaceful initiatives do not bring any fruitful results. A political scientist, J.P. Olson, projected the same view. He writes that politically dissatisfied people get inclined to follow aggressive path when they meet deaf ears and closed doors of administration. Charles Tilly identifies another very important aspect of aggressive political action that people take aggressive actions when they believe that they carry enough power to create disturbance in order to bring the desired change in the system. Another vital ingredient, which encourages aggressive activities, is behavior of leadership. Ted Gurr argues that revolutionary activities increase when leaders indicate to their followers that the situation is getting worst and peaceful initiatives are failed. In the discussion of aggressive actions, it should be noted that access to weapons puts new life to violent initiatives. Experiments in social psychology indicate that access to weapons increase aggressive behavior (it seems that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair have good knowledge of this research, therefore, they intend to snatch all kinds of armaments from the world). Micheal Horward mentions in his article in relation to reasons of war that peace remains until power of the strong is not in danger. What Horward has written on the war is also applicable on other social, organizational and political relationships. Friendship, love and affection remain intact between weak and strong until the weak raise voice against the powerful. The moment the weak raise their head and employ aggressive initiative, the history shows, the label of terrorism is put on their activity. It is interesting to note that it is considered legitimate when the stronger use force on the weaker whereas vice versa is considered illegal and illegitimate. Keeping in view the said argument, we can argue that national and international conflicts can be amicably resolved when both parties are strong enough; for example, the Cuban crises of 1962 might have not resolved peacefully if any weak state other than USSR were a party to the conflict. It is observed when one party is weak and the other is strong, then conflict is usually resolved by forcing strategy. For example, we have observed that the USA is showing comparatively lenient view when it comes to North Korea recent decision to reopen its nuclear plant; the reason is that North Korea is relatively stronger than Iraq and Afghanistan; besides, she is strategically in a better position and has better capability to hit back. Since the concept of terrorism is vague and hard to define, thus it is hard to label which of the movements are revolutionary movements and which are movements of terrorism. The study of revolutionary movements shows that all revolutionary movements in the past such as French Revolution, Russian Revolution and 1857 War of Independence were considered movement of terrorism by the then rulers. The crux of the essay is whenever legitimate demands of the weaker group are suppressed it encourages violent actions. Keeping in view the current state of international politics and terrorism, this issue may be more important to discuss what options are left with the group or the nation whose interests are ignored than simply finding the means to curb terrorism. When all principles of resolving conflicts are set aside, the suppressed nations are left with no option other than aggressive actions. Indeed, those who consider violent activities of Palestinians, Kashmiris and Chechnyans as terrorism, they are living in a fool’s paradise. People of these nations are forced to commit suicide bombing because the world has not shown understanding to their problems and demands. To protect ones rights in a hostile environment by a weak group cannot be called terrorism. The sprit of the article is not to encourage violent actions but to make powerful nations and power brokers realize that they must look after the interests of weak nations and groups. Just decisions and rule orientation are tools to curb violent and aggressive actions. The world is spending huge amounts to find a few terrorists but not showing any interest to eliminate reasons of terrorism. The current strategy against terrorism is not nipping the evil in the bud but promoting terrorism. The fact is after 9/11, the ratio of aggressive actions has increased – the only difference is that this time victims are developing countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco. Americans and their allies must remember that terrorism will automatically eradicate when injustice is ended and the agreed principles of resolving conflicts are followed without any bias. We should remember, whenever a government at national and international levels wants to be a winner at all costs, it calls for aggressive actions. For example, we all observe that suicidal bombing has increased in Israel since she refused to follow the Oslo Peace Pact.

We have recently entered the new century and we must show more maturity in handling national and international conflicts. The world peace not only depends upon weak forces but also on the strong forces of a country and the world. National and international political leaders should leave the “obsolete” tendency to present “black as white” and “white as black” to reduce ever increasing aggressive actions.

Nadeem Yousaf

Article published in Frontier Post

http://nyousaf.com/articles/what-fosters-terrorism/

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