NEW CASTLE, Pa., Dec. 7, 2015 – Recognizing that terrorism is a form of violent crime reminds the world that the outcome of murder is the same no matter the motivation.
Understanding why perpetrators of violent crimes ultimately choose to engage in their attacks can help people cope with the consequences of violence and help authorities decrypt the patterns they need to prevent future violent crimes.
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 across the world 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.
People naturally respond to adverse 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, violence 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.
That means the San Bernardino attacks are terrorism. So was the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic massacre. The individual responsible for the attack was apparently motivated by his political stance on abortion. Using violence to force one’s views onto others is terrorism, yet the notion of someone defending the unborn is seen in a noble light by social conservatives.
Like environmental terrorists, those willing to kill abortion providers can be seen as heroic by some, which is also true of jihadists in the Muslim world; the use of violence against the nonviolent, however, makes their ideology-motivated crimes acts of terrorists.
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.
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. Violence gives individuals a way to express their views, forces others to respond to them and gives their grievances publicity.
Furthermore, terrorists use the loose definition of terrorism to push the perception that their cause is one of freedom fighters. They use any and all opportunities to claim that peaceful conflict resolution is futile, leaving violence as 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.
This can make it very difficult for terrorists to see beyond their violent ways.
Moreover, terrorism exists because people believe their violent actions are the only means of achieving their goals. 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, but not impossible.