TERRORISM

 

World Trade Center wreckage, 2001 (Wikipedia)

 

TRANS-STATE ISSUES
 

Terrorism is a trans-state issue.  What does that mean?  1) Affects many states. 2) Can't be handled by any one particular state; states must act in concert to handle. 

 

Also, in the case of the Al-Qaeda terrorist threat, can't isolate targets in just one state, spread around the world, become "hydra-headed beast." (Hydra-ancient Greek, multi-headed water serpent)

 

Why is this the case? Track leaders, track perpetrators, track money, track materials used in attacks.  Must share intelligence, access to detainees/information/evidence.  Terrorists global, attempt to confront must also be global.

 

What are other trans-state issues?

Environment, seas, resources, proliferation, drugs, human rights, human trafficking, justice for crimes against humanity

 

US defines terrorism: "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents."

 

Snow's definition:  "the commission of atrocious acts against a target population normally to gain compliance with some demands the terrorists insist upon."

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF TERRORIST ACTS

 

Terrorist acts: illegal, random, unpredictable, intended to upset normalcy of life, purpose to frighten target group of people, want a lot of people watching (Al Qaeda mega-terrorism also want a lot dead).

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF TERROR TARGETS

WHY ENGAGE IN TERRORISM? WHAT DO THE TERRORISTS WANT?

IN PARTICULAR, WHAT DID OSAMA BIN LADEN WANT WHEN HE DECLARED WAR ON AND THEN ATTACKED THE UNITED STATES?

WAS BIN LADEN CRAZY/IRRATIONAL?

How does terror help you achieve those goals?  Why did Osama bin Laden choose the terror path?

 

WHAT ELSE COULD OSAMA BIN LADEN HAVE DONE?

WHY CHOOSE TERROR INSTEAD?

Is terrorism the exclusive provenance of non-state groups like bin Laden's Al-Qaeda?  Or CAN STATES ENGAGE IN TERRORISM AS WELL?

MUSLIMS OFTEN ACCUSE THE US OF TERRORISM; radicals often call Bush the "arch-terrorist."  Where does this charge come from?

 

HOW MIGHT A REALIST ADVOCATE DEALING WITH THE TERROR THREAT?

 

Go through IR Theory lecture and find clues as to what a realist should do: reality, states, anarchy, bad human nature, self-help, power, national interests, survival, balance of power, international organizations, morality secondary.

 

National interest of the United States and power as guiding principles. Attacked because had let power wane.  Rebuild military, enact harsh revenge on terrorists/supporters of terrorists.  International institutions superfluous to US national interest.  Cheney:  "One percent doctrine." One percent chance something going to happen, have to act as if it is a certainty and respond accordingly.  Key is not gathering evidence and checking facts. Key is responding in strength, war tact.

 

HOW MIGHT A LIBERAL? 

 

From IR Theory lecture: perfectable, progress, cooperate, peace, conflict as a result of misunderstandings and inadequate institutions or inequality/poverty, common humanity, non-state actors, interdependence, democratic peace thesis, international organizations.

 

As a trans-state issue, terror can only be handled by states working in concert.  Increase information sharing and cooperation.  Build multi-lateral coalitions to address terror threat. Make use of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies (attack on one, attack against all) and the UN.  Understand the causes of terrorism (such as deprivation) to address.  Recognition of mistaken US policies of the past (blowback--arming Bin Laden during anti-Soviet war). Use force where possible to attack terror, but hard to use force on hydra-headed Al Qaeda.

 

Discussion questions:

 

1. Is the "war" analogy a good one for the struggle against Al Qaeda?

 

Can you kill a technique? War against terrorists?

 

2. Is terror still a threat to the United States today?

 

Hydra-headed, Al Qaeda franchises AQAP and lone wolves like Nidal Malik Hasan/Fort Hood shooter 2009, WMD, militant interpretation of Islam still persuasive to some, resiliency, capacity

 

Updated: November 3, 2011.

Author: tanp@uncw.edu

Return to Dr. Tan's homepage: http://people.uncw.edu/tanp/