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‘Fervor is the weapon of the impotent.’

Frantz Fanon BLACK SKIN WHITE MASKS. Book 1952.

In International politics, terrorism has been the issue of secondary importance till the end of cold war. Since the event of Sep 11 2001, terrorism is recognized as the principles security threat. Thus from the peripheries, terrorism has become one of the core issue.

What made terrorism a core global concern?

1] Globalization. How? Globalization increases the role of non state actors. MNCs, Social movements, NGOs etc.
2] US declaration of Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).
It is USA that has made terrorism a global concern.
We can also apply Copenhagen school of thought. Nations securitize the issues, USA has securitized terrorism.

Whether there is a global terrorism or not?

Not to the extent it is being talked about. By its ideology, more than Al-Qaeda, it is ISIS, which is giving rise to global terrorism. It is said that security is a speech act. Global terrorism is not as a big concern till date as it is being talked about.

What is terrorism?

Terrorism can be considered as a political strategy to gain certain political ends. It is as old as human race.
The term terrorism is associated with the history of France. The period from 1793 -94 is called as ‘rule of terror’. There were mass executions by Jacobians led by Robes Pierre. Later on the term terrorism came to be associated with communists. Communists had the aim of insurrection. Towards 1st WW, terrorism has been used by those who wanted their own nation.
It is believed that terrorism is a non western phenomenon but the fact is there has been terrorist movements in Northern Ireland (IRA _ Irish Revolution Army), Basque (ETA), FLQ in Quebec etc.
In the western world, terrorism is primarily linked to the middle east and the Islamic world. e.g. PLO _ Palestinian Liberation Organization. However scholars like Noam Chomsky attribute terrorism in middle east to the geopolitical objectives of US foreign policy. He prefers to call USA as a first terrorist state.
Lacquer has categorized terrorism into two types. 1) Terrorism from above – e.g. State sponsored terrorism and state led terrorism.  2) Terrorism from below – It is led by non state actors.

Type of war of terrorism.

Terrorism is called as asymmetrical war. The reason is terrorism is a weapon of weak. Those who cannot prevail over the opponent will go for gorilla war, to compensate the greater strength of enemy. The strategy of terrorism include war of attrition i.e. protracted struggle to weaken the power of the enemy. The distinguishing feature of terrorism is propaganda and highly publicized atrocities. To intimidate enemy and to mobilize the popular support.
Terrorism is ideologically contested, emotionally charged and pejoratively used term. There are two interpretations of terrorism.
1] Conventional interpretation – attack on civilized humanitarian values. Threat to humanity.
2] Radical view – They view terrorism as an attempt to advance justice. It is an attempt to counter bigger violence.
3] Critical school – They are against essentializing terrorism. It means warn against linking terrorism to a particular religion or a culture.
Hence terrorism is a highly contested concept.

Types of terrorisms.

1] Insurrectionary terrorism – To overthrow the state e.g. Left Wing terrorism.
2] Nationalist terrorism – To overthrow foreign occupation.
3] Global terrorism
A) To weaken US hegemony (ISIS, Al Qaeda). The aim is to inflict damage or humiliation on global power.
B) To change the global civilizational values. (Clash of civilizations).
4] New Terrorism.
Earlier terrorism was secular – means 1) For nationalism 2) To end capitalism or exploitation. New terrorism is religious terrorism. Majority of terrorist organizations have religious character. Religion itself has become an ideology.

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Comparison between old and new.

1) Old terrorism was selective, pragmatic political strategy. New terrorism is a sacred duty. 
2) Old terrorism was satisfied with limited changes or partial accommodation of demands.  New terrorism has become ‘total war’. It is not just political change, it is the change of society, moral values, way of life. 
3) Old terrorism was institutionalized, there was military style, command and control. New terrorism is not an institution, rather and idea. Al Qaeda or ISIS is not an organization, it is an ideology. Hence it is diffused, leaderless, amorphous, connected to the cells. ISIS and AL Qaeda represent leaderless Jihad.
4) Since it is not a institution and an ideology, it is not enough to end the organization and the leader. It gives rise to foot soldiers.  Hence it is difficult to manage. Thus the new terrorism is more destructive, globalization helped in making it global.

However it is believed that the threat is overstated. Terrorism is still confined to certain countries. Jihadis are not a cohesive entity. Jihadis are turning into motley groupings. The concern is changing from ideological to economic. The so called global character is hardly intrinsic. Others are describing and using the term. The number of causalities are smaller in comparison to regular warfare. Clash of civilizations is the construct of USA. The aim is to keep western world united and controlled by USA after the end of communism. Terrorist campaigns have hardly been successful. In most of the situations, it has provoked popular hostility.

Future prospects.

It may become more dangerous. There is a fear that terrorists can acquire weapons of mass destruction. New tactics like Lone Wolf attacks, inspired by religion and seen as martyrdom.

Strategies to deal with terrorism.

Realist approach – since they are threat to national security, hence should be countered with all means. No regard for civil liberties or rights.

Liberals – Liberals face the dilemma how to counter fundamentalist ideologies without infringement of liberal values themselves. If they accommodate fundamentalists, it will create protest movement. If they do not accommodate, it will counter their own values.
Critical school – They suggest to distinguish between wholesale and retail terrorism e.g. Chomsky accused USA for wholesale terrorism and non state actors as retail terrorism.

Social constructivists – 1st we have to reject the stereotype. When we keep on branding certain groups as terrorists, we are overlooking many other actors who are also terrorists. Branding some as terrorists allow others to legitimize their terrorism.

Among the counter terrorism strategies following ideas are proposed.
1] Strengthen the state security.
2] Military repression. However terrorism through this method can only be reduced to manageable level, it cannot be ended.
3] Heart and mind strategy. Not just dealing with the symptoms, rather treating the cause.
4] Political bargain. However, it may not work against the fundamentalists because they want to create the new order rather than political accommodation.

It is suggested that excessive force is counter productive. Terrorism achieves its ends not by the violent attacks but by communicating the legitimacy. When govt. becomes more repressive, sympathy turns towards the terrorists. The strategy of terrorists itself is to drain govt. in the cycle of repression. Once govt. slips into authoritarianism, it becomes more convincing to legitimize their own action. Hence it is suggested that terrorism cannot be tackled only by robust state security approach. There is need to fight war at two levels. 1) War of position.  2) War of movement. War of position will require the use of soft power. In the war of terrorism, state need to gain moral high ground. Hence state needs to appear more sensitive to human rights, protection of freedom and development.

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Govt. of India has offered 5 point for formula to counter terrorism.

1] Exchange of timely and actionable intelligence.
2[ Prevention of misuse of modern communication systems.
3[ Building capacities to increase border controls.
4] Sharing the information on movement of persons.
5] Designation of counter-terror focal points for effective response.

India has also proposed CCIT (Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in 1996). What is feature of CCIT?
Accept the universal definition of terrorism to be adopted in the domestic laws. (It means no differentiation in good and bad terrorists).
2] Ban all terrorist groups and shut down all terrorist camps irrespective of the country.
3] Prosecution of all terrorists under special anti-terror laws.
4] Mandatory extradition of terrorists involved in cross border terrorism.

What is the status of CCIT?

1] It has been not accepted by following groups.
USA – USA suggests to exclude the acts committed by its armed forces without the mandate of UN.
OIC countries – exclude national liberation movements.
LA countries – they are concerned about human rights violations.

What is a silver lining for India? For the first time SCO has approved CCIT. Progress so far. Though comprehensive convention is not in force, yet some other conventions are in force.  1) 1997 – International convention for the suppression of terrorist financing.  2) 2005 International convention for suppression of the acts of nuclear terrorism.

Former secretary general Kofi Annan suggested the strategy of five Ds.

1) Dissuade the terrorist groups to resort to terrorism. 
2) Deny means to carry attacks. 
3) Deter states from supporting such groups. 
4) Develop capacity of the states to prevent terrorism. 
5) Defend human rights.
According to him, terrorism and human rights are not conflicting rather mutually reinforcing. Any strategy to fight terrorism has to be grounded in 1. Rule of law 2. Victim centric 3. Reduce the appeal of terrorists.  4. Civil society participation against propaganda war.  5. Deal with the root causes like poverty.  6. Cooperation among the nations.  7. Condemn terrorism in all forms, whomsoever, whatsoever, wherever.  8. Implement international conventions.  9. Global solidarity will weaken the temptation to use terrorist tactics.

There is big question mark on future of human civilization because terrorism has become catastrophic and there is a fear of non state actors acquiring even the weapons of mass destructions. Some scholars believe that the threat is overstated. Kofi Annan has suggested 5D strategy. Still civilization can win over the most violent and animal instincts of human race, subject to the condition we are determined to save the humanity and fight against terrorism. We have to reject terrorism in any form, anywhere. Humanity have no option but to prevail over terrorism. It is a time to relook over Comprehensive Convention proposed by India.

This topic is also related to current affairs. So please visit the following website and read the recent articles on the topic of terrorism

Test Your Knowledge!

1] Who is the author of the book Black Skin White Masks?
a) Frantz Fanon
b) Andrew Heywood
c) Rajeev Bhargava
d) Mearsheimer

Show Answer

Ans: a) Frantz Fanon

2] Who classified terrorism into two types, i.e 1 State-sponsored and 2 Terrorism led by non-state actors.
a) Robes Pierre
b) Lacquer
c) Noam Chomsky
d) Frantz Fanon

Show Answer

Ans: b) Lacquer

3] Which country proposed a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in 1996?
a) China
b) US
c) France
d) India

Show Answer

Ans: d) India

4] “Consider the following statements regarding Terrorism.
Terrorism is called an asymmetrical war.
According to the radicle view terrorism is an attempt to advance justice, it is an attempt to counter bigger violence.”
a) 1 only correct
b) 2 only correct
c) Both 1&2 correcct
d) Both1&2 incorrect

Show Answer

Ans: c) Both 1&2 correct

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