WASHINGTON, September 11, 2014 — Marking the 13-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with America committing itself to another campaign against a terrorist group is ironic to say the least. That said, the Islamic State is not the only terrorist threat in the world. With the failure of George W. Bush Administration’s “War on Terror,” the world has once against started to neglect its interests in addressing globalized terrorism. A large part of the problem in convincing international leaders of the need to undermine terrorist groups is rooted in a vague understanding of what qualifies as terrorism.
Understanding why terrorism exists begins with defining what qualifies as terrorism. Often politicians skirt around the distinction, because they need to leave room to protect rebellious groups that espouse useful ideologies yet engage in questionable activities. Unfortunately, terrorists also use ambiguous definitions to help gain support for their activities and recruit reluctant individuals into their groups.
Furthermore, people naturally respond to aversive conditions with violence; therefore, the ability to justify terrorist activities and recruit new members helps terrorists maintain the vicious cycle that allows terrorism to continue to exist.
Terrorism is violence intentionally directed at a civilian population that has been designed by individuals, groups of individuals, or governments, to force a particular ideology or policy onto that people. Often causing panic and a strong public response, terrorism can be a very effective tool for getting attention and forcing a reaction.
Where a political faction or minority can simply be ignored, a series of violent acts can quickly draw a great amount of attention to a particular group’s agenda or force a population to submit to a governing body’s will. For people who feel isolated or oppressed, terrorism offers a way to express their views and force others to act on their views.
Furthermore, most people who become terrorists do so not because they see themselves as evil, but because they see their targets as oppressive, complacent, or evil. Terrorists use the loose definition of terrorism to push the perception that their cause is one of freedom fighters. Meanwhile, they use any and all opportunities to demonstrate peaceful conflict resolution is futile with violence the only viable option. This means terrorists coerce each other into seeing their terrorist activities as a necessity and a lack of action as inexcusable. Overall, this can make it very difficult for terrorist to see beyond their violent ways.
Moreover, terrorism exists because people religiously believe their violent actions are the only means of achieving their interests. Unfortunately, terrorists are easily created when the powerful intentionally, or unintentionally, disenfranchise a group(s) while terrorist supporters and sympathizers are created when people are polarized to the point they decide the terrorists more closely represent their interests.
Ending terrorism is possible without appeasing terrorists so long as people try to address the concern of groups on the verge of violence. Ending terrorism is a long and difficult battle, yet it is not an impossible one.