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The New Terrorism

How new is the ″new″ Terrorism and what impact does it have on the contemporary world?

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Introduction

In the recent past, scholars of Peace, International Relations and History have sought to create distinctions between Old Terrorism and New Terrorism. While there are several definitions of terrorism, in this paper, terrorism is treated as an act of violence or intimidation, which is majorly targeted on many civilians living within a specific geographical region. As a practice, terrorism has been evolving rapidly. The manner in which terrorism was being executed more than five decades ago is much different from the manner in which terrorism is being practiced today. Because of the advancement in various technologies of war, the approach to terrorism has witnessed a significant change. Today, terrorists have access to a wide range of war technologies, and this has made terrorism an incredibly challenging phenomenon to states. Today, states are dealing with groups which are technologically and technically equipped, and their attacks can have adverse effects on targeted populations. For example, terrorists have access to chemical weapons and advanced technologies of rocket missile launchers which they can use or make long-range attacks. In this regard, terrorism has become an incredibly complex affair, and the acts of terrorists are capable of having adverse effects on populations. However, the dichotomy of new versus old terrorism is not to be understood in these lenses of the evolving approach to terrorism. However, the changing ideas, mission, belief and values and desired goal of acts of terrorism are the hallmarks of the differences between the old and the new terrorism. Old terrorism is viewed as acts of terror which were used by extremist groups to pass political messages, especially to states.However, the new terrorism is hinged on some vague and almost always conflicting religious and philosophical foundations. In new terrorism, extremist groups believed that they have some values which they feel need to be adhered to by all people.For instance, a group of people may have religious beliefs which they may feel need to be followed by all persons. The people who do not subscribe to these ideas and beliefs usually face the full wrath of the terrorists. While there are different motives between the old and new terrorism, it is essential to understand that their effects on society have not changed. Both of them lead to massive losses of life, property as well as the destruction of the moral fabric of society.

The old terrorism

The primary feature of old terrorism which differentiates it from the new terrorism is its use as a political weapon. In the old terrorism, terrorists used violence as a way of communicating political messages. It could be practiced domestically or internationally.Domestically, when a group of radicals feel that the government is not acting in their best interests, or when they feel that the people are acting in excess of their authorities, they will use terrorism a way of communicating their displeasure (Crenshaw, 2008). In this way, the terrorists hope that through their violence, they believe the government will blink first and act in accordance with their demands. For instance, it is possible that a group of people may want the government to stop a particular program such an as disarmament in a certain region. In rejection of such a policy, it is possible that individuals who are opposed to it may use violence to arm-twist the government to drop such a program.

In the old terrorism, just as it is in the new terrorism, the primary intention was not to cause harm but to be heard. The people thought that by harming or killing other people, the government or the people in authority would get to hear their concerns. In many instances, the old terrorism was used as a weapon of last resort. Ordinarily, the terrorists had lengthy communications to the government regarding what they want to be done. However, in the instances when the people felt that the government was not going to listen to them at any cost, they would resort to the use of violence and intimidation to force the hands of the government (Wilkinson, 2014). It is essential to note that there are instances when terrorists kidnapped some people and asked the government to act in a particular way to prevent the killing of these people. In such circumstances, the government is placed in a great moral dilemma whether to violate its policies and do what the terrorists want and protect the lives of the people or ignore the terrorists, an action which may lead to the loss of innocent lives.

In the old terrorism, the conflict was primarily between the terrorists and the government. Members of the public were not a party to the conflict in many instances. The members of the public were only introduced into the conflict as bait for the government to change its stance concerning the conflict. It is important to note that the foundation of any successful government is its ability to protect its citizens. When terrorists are meting violence upon the population, the government will be presented as a failure, and that is a situation which no government would want to have. In some cases, a government would yield to the demands of the group while there are also times when the government would refuse to yield to the demands of the groups. Thus, while there are times when terrorists succeeded with this approach, there are also times when they failed to achieve their goals.

Most governments usually have a policy of non-negotiation with terrorists. For instance, the United States, although it appreciates the fact that it is always a target of extremist groups across the world, has a policy which says that at no time should it negotiate with terrorists. The country holds that at no time should it cede grounds to the demands of terrorists since that would set a precedent where people can use violence or intimidation to push the government to act in a certain way. The government has a policy which suggests that it should confront terrorist head-on, regardless of the consequences. While this policy is likely to lead to loss of lives, it is necessary to note that in the long run, it sends a message to the terrorists that it is not possible for them to use violence to intimidate the government into acting in a certain way. Thus, terrorists will realize that the use of violence against innocent members of the public will not make the government adhere to their demands. It is out of this non-negotiation which was adopted by many governments that the old terrorism declined significantly in recent decades.

The new Terrorism

As discussed in the introduction of this paper, the new terrorism presents a significant departure from the old terrorism. While the approaches to terrorism remain the same, there are differences in motivations, rationalities and the nature of the conflict between the new terrorism and old terrorism. The new terrorism may be defined as an act of violence or intimidation against members of the public in order to achieve religious or any other moral or legal goal. Some scholars indicate that the new terrorism is directionless and visionless since it is always clouded in many conflicting and diversionary statements which are majorly based on religion (Wike & Fraser, 2013). In many instances, terrorists are vague concerning what they want, and that has made it incredibly difficult to determine the nature of their grievances and the parties to which the grievances are directed.

In spite of the apparent vagueness of the mission of the new terrorists, it is, however, possible to classify the new terrorism into three broad characteristics;

i.The first characteristic of the new terrorism is that it is ethnocentric and separatist in nature. In many cases, new terrorism is aiming at fulfilling the interests of a single community against the interests of the world. It develops when a group of people sharing ethnic foundations come up and state their cultures, especially religious cultures, are superior to other culture and therefore need to be followed. Besides, these groups are always pursuing a separatist agenda as opposed to unity. Thus, it is the interest of the new terrorism to cause division among people.

ii.The second characteristic of the new terrorism is “inspired by the rise of extremist fundamentalist religious factionalism”. The meaning of this statement is that the new terrorism has some fundamentalist and functionalist extremist religious teachings and practices. It is important to note that there are many religious practices across the world, and it is assumed that all individuals have rights to belong to religious organizations which are in line with the dictates of their consciousness. However, according to the new terrorists, they have a right to control the manner in which other people practice their religious beliefs (Combs, 2017). When other groups fail or refuse to follow these religious teachings and practices, they are encountered with violence. However, when these terrorists are advancing their religious teachings and practices, they usually fail to describe what is wrong with the other religious teachings or what makes their religions superior to the others. Looking at their actions, it is notable that religion is at the center of the new terrorism since some groups feel that they have a superior religion which should be practiced by all humans on earth.

iii.Finally, the new terrorism does not have a rigid structure and hierarchy similar to the forms of traditional terrorism such as the al-Qaeda. One of the main reasons which make new terrorism such a complex phenomenon is the fact that it does not have the conventional leadership structure and organization such as the old terrorism. Unlike the old terrorism like al-Qaeda, where there was a known leadership with a proper structure and chain of command, the new terrorism is difficult to describe with regards to the chain of command. In this regard, it becomes incredibly difficult to pin down this group and fight. To the terrorists, this lack of a rigid structure is important to its course since it gives autonomy to the constituent units who feel that they have freedom which allows them to pursue the shared agenda with the verve and vigor which is necessary.

Is the new terrorism really ‘new’ as suggested? And what are its potential impacts?

Religion has been at the center of many human conflicts for as long as humans have existed. A close examination of the nature of new terrorism across the world does not suggest that humans are confronting an entirely different problem from what has existed in the previous years. There are many instances where religious differences have led to adverse conflicts among groups of people, and in some cases, these differences led to war. Thus, while it is true that the new terrorism is taking a new angle of religion as opposed to politics which was the agenda in the old terrorism, it is also necessary to recognize that there is nothing novel in the new terrorism (Muschert, 2017). One of the most potential damages of the new terrorism is that it stands the risk of dividing society along religious lines. One of the potential impacts of these new practices is that it is capable of bringing the mentality of ‘us’ against them, and that is likely to have adverse effects on society. It will affect the consciousness among members of society, and that may lead to adverse effects in society.

Conclusion

While there are different motives between the old and new terrorism, it is essential to understand that their effects on society have not changed. Both of them lead to massive losses of life, property as well as the destruction of the moral fabric of society. The new terrorism may be defined as an act of violence or intimidation against members of the public in order to achieve religious or any other moral or legal goal. Some scholars indicate that the new terrorism is directionless and visionless since it is always clouded in many conflicting and diversionary statements which are majorly based on religion. Thus, while it is true that the new terrorism is taking a new angle of religion as opposed to politics which was the agenda in the old terrorism, it is also necessary to recognize that there is nothing novel in the new terrorism.

References

Combs, C. C. (2017). Terrorism in the twenty-first century. Routledge.

Crenshaw, M., (2008). The debate over “new” vs “old” terrorism. In Values and Violence (pp. 117-136). Springer, Dordrecht.

Muschert, G. W. (2017). Research in school shootings. Sociology Compass, 1(1), 60-80.

Wike, T. L., & Fraser, M. W. (2013). School shootings: Making sense of the senseless. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14(3), 162-169.

Wilkinson, P. (2014). Political Terrorism (p. 9). London: Macmillan.

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