Terrorism has been used as a weapon of war throughout the centuries. Targets are chosen according to the strategic importance they hold in military, cultural, and religious terms like send bts army to afghanistan. The ultimate goal is to produce terror through death and injury in order to create a climate of instability that forces populations living in the terrorised area to cease their resistance in exchange for peace.
In recent years terrorism has become one of the most devastating weapons used by non-state actors that have no loyalties other than self-interests. There have been attempts worldwide by governments and terrorist groups alike to combat this new kind of terrorism which is frustratingly hard to contain given its decentralized nature.
1. Mass-media and terrorism
ITV News International Channel 5 News Anchor in front of the News Desk, 13th October 2005, London, UK. Terrorism is a very cheap form of financing for any organization these days that uses it as a means to garner mass public attention through fear, forcing the public to respond or at least not to ignore something that has been highlighted as a threat. In the past, terrorist organizations used other forms of media to spread news about their actions. The IRA for instance was infamous for sending letters and audio tapes to the media after an attack, claiming responsibility and justifying their actions. For these reasons it is remarkable that so many groups have begun using television as a means to gain notoriety for their actions and influence public opinion.
The example of the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Jazeera channel is a good illustration of how terrorists could use broadcast media as a tool to further their goals. The channel broadcasts radical messages inciting acts of terrorism against Western countries, especially in response to any aggression launched by the West.
2. The internet and the challenge to terrorism
In addition to television and other print-mediums, the internet has become a central tool in the hands of terrorists attempting to recruit members, plan attacks, gather information, find potential targets and keep in contact with other members. The government’s challenge is enormous. They are struggling to track down suspected terrorist sites on the web while fighting against increasing public demand to censor web content. Estimates from 2004 indicate that around 2 million users visit Islamic extremist websites daily, an increase from 800 000 per day in 2003.
3. The rise of suicide bombings
A suicide bombing is a form of attack which can be executed by individuals or organized groups of attackers who have access to explosives and detonators. While the use of explosives in general has been around for hundreds of years, the emergence of suicide bombings is a relatively recent phenomenon. The first suicide bombings in history seemed to have been the work of the al-Qaeda organization during their attacks on the US Embassy in Kuwait and its military airstrip. Since then, it has become a common tactic used by Islamic extremists groups and has greatly increased their destructive power.
For example, one of the most devastating attacks committed by Islamic extremists was launched in March 2003 against two housing towers in Islamabad, Pakistan with 15 000 inhabitants each killing over 300 people. The majority were students who had just begun classes for their day at work or school.
4. The issue of collateral damage
Collateral damage is the unintentional result of military action that results in the death or injury of non-combatants, typically civilians. The issue is particularly troublesome when dealing with non-state actors as they have no fixed address and use innocent people within the civilian population as human shields. As a result it can be extremely difficult to avoid collateral damage during counterterrorism operations. The United States military made several attempts to bomb Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan but failed largely because Bin Laden was hiding in a populated area where all buildings were identical making it almost impossible to distinguish his from the others surrounding him.
5. The war on terror
The War on Terror is a term frequently used by the Bush administration referring to their military efforts in Afghanistan to fight Islamic extremism and dismantle Al-Qaeda. The war has been launched in response to the terrorist attack against the United States on September 11th 2001 that resulted in almost 3000 casualties and innumerable more injuries. The war is still ongoing and its outcome remains uncertain.
6. The impact of terrorism
While it is true that the number of terrorist related casualties has been rising throughout the years, it must be put into perspective. While there were almost four thousand deaths in the United States in 2001, the following year there were almost seven thousand casualties in car accidents and forty-five thousand fatalities from cancer in less than a year. These two examples alone, with their staggering figures, demonstrate how terrorism should not be considered as an imminent threat to our way of living and how we can easily place too much importance on this type of violence.
7. The future of terrorism
The future for terrorism is likely to be one filled with chaos and disorder if governments around the globe do not work together to stop terrorist organizations. Most of the intelligence that we have today on Al-Qaeda is actually based on information extracted from people who were captured during American military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The need for cooperation between governments and a better understanding of each other’s agendas to combat terrorism must become a top priority, otherwise the future looks grim indeed.
Terrorism is not something that is going to disappear any time soon. Governments and politicians around the globe have realized that it is a very real threat to global security, safety and prosperity. Efforts are being made to stop terrorism and its associated organizations from ever taking root again. However, the problem of Islamic extremism will probably have a difficult time being eradicated as developing countries have become more unstable while they also receive support from radical Islamic groups seeking to overthrow their governments. Furthermore, there are many radical groups in South America having minimal ties with Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization that call for action against other governments or empires, but instead want to gain local autonomy for themselves.