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Rock Street, San Francisco
Rock Street, San Francisco

Terrorism is an issue that everyone in the modern day has heard of or knows about. So much so, that terrorism has become one of the greatest concerns of our time. Terrorism, without a doubt features in thousands of newspapers around the world weekly and has contributed it to being perhaps the most widely talked about issue of the modern day. The reason it is so significant in politics today is because terrorism has affected people in almost every country world-wide. It is all too easy to associate terrorism with one particular country, cause or region but in fact terrorism has been used by all types of people.

I am going to be talking about why in today’s society terrorism is more prominent in the public domain. Why it is now a topic of such lively debate when previously, although ever-present, has sometimes taken a backseat in national and international politics. I shall also be analysing at how the events in New York City known as 9/11 has changed the way we look and think about terrorism and the way that terrorism has evolved to become such a global concern. Even though most people can recognise terrorism when they see it, the leading experts still have difficulties agreeing on one definition.

As a result numerous different definitions have come about from varying different governmental and non-governmental organisations. Which one is right? Well they all are, so choosing which one to opt for is impossible. However for the least unbiased definition we should look at the dictionary definition; ‘The unlawful use of threatened use or force or violence by a person or organised group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

‘ Different officials feel that this is not a strictly true definition as there are certain exceptions to the rule. Terrorism is a word that has been used so much and so loosely that it has lost a clear meaning. The main problem that arises is that terrorism is used to define force, based on whether the author agrees with the goals of the violence. This is where the famous ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter comes from. ‘ comes from.

For me terrorism can be defined as being the use of force or violence against a civilian or civilian inhabited target for the purpose of gaining attention for a political or religious aim. When defining terrorism it is best to break the act down and assess the expected result. For example, for a military organisation attacking another military target, although civilian lives may be lost it is hard to put weight behind an argument that suggests it was an act of terrorism, because the civilians were not expected to be the victims.

In defining terrorism, like with all definitions, a little common sense must be applied to the situation. Terrorism although only a recent global issue has previously dated from as early as the first century when Zealots, Jewish settles fought against the occupying Romans in the area now known as Israel. Furthermore in the twelfth century there are records of Shiite Muslims conducting terrorist attacks against religious and political leaders. However, the term Terrorism came from the French ‘Regime de la terreur’ which was coined during a period of the French revolution 1793-94.

After France had reached the post Louis rein, the new leaders of the country used terror or terrorism as a means to bring France out of the anarchical state it was in. In this case terrorism was actually used to positive effect. Nonetheless although not designed to create a catastrophe, lives were still lost through the means of terrorism. In the twentieth century acts of terrorism multiplied considerably, due to advances in technology. New developments in transportation, communications and weaponry including explosives and electronics made carrying out acts of terrorism easier to orchestrate.

Following World War II in 1945 conflict between Israel and Arab nations caused Terrorism to spread into Western Europe and other parts of the world. It was hardly a new crisis but it spread rapidly over the 19760’s and 70’s and reached new devastating levels in the 1980’s when terrorists became more frequent and more destructive. In 1983 U. S. marine compounds and the U. S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon were targeted by truck bombs; 287 US soldiers and sailors were killed along with officials from both the US and Lebanon. In 1985 a TWA aeroplane was hijacked and an onboard US navy diver was murdered.

Later that same year a cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists whose killed Jewish-Americans onboard. In December 1985, airports in Italy and Austria were attacked by suicide bombers; young children were gunned down during the incident. In 1988 a Pan Am flight was targeted as the carrier for terrorist bombs which were exploded at 31,000 ft. over Lockerbie, Scotland. Everyone onboard died as did 11 residents in the town below. The Libyan government harboured the responsible terrorists for over 10 years before handing them over.

National governments opposed to the western world often helped to fund and harbour terrorists. Much of the problems for catching terrorists were that they were being protected by nation states. The end of the 1980’s and the start of the 1990’s also brought about the end of the cold war, which saw a drastic change in terrorism. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the super power rivalry eliminated the sanctuaries of the Eastern European countries and the safe travel routes that ran through them. A new age in terrorism started.

Terrorism in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s was all about gaining publicity for either the group sponsoring the attacks or the ideological aims of the them. Not always were large amounts of innocent civilians killed, often maybe one or two would the figure recorded. The aim was purely to get across their ideology or their geo-political message. Terrorists would usually claim immediate responsibility and even sometimes give warning to reduce the loss of lives. However, during the ninety’s up until the present day, all that has changed, in a devastating way.

Large non-state terrorists have sprung up; new communications have joined different groups so that they can work together. They no longer seem concerned about public opinion but instead of causing the most destruction possible and taking as many lives as they can. Further more, they no longer care about surviving to see the results of their attacks, and are quite happy to die for their cause. More so these days they fail to calm responsibility or even engage in misdirection about the culprits. Terrorism therefore clearly has risen to yet another level.

Most alarming is the fact that today terrorist do give their lives in search of new terrorist attacks and this opens up new possibilities that were previously not available i. e. the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, more commonly know as ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. Acts of international terrorism in 1995 spread across over 50 countries worldwide. Terrorists continued to threaten society and in some cases prevent peace i. e. Palestine and Israel. Numbers of reported cases for terrorism had actually dropped by 1995 but the attacks that did happened tended to be more lethal taking the lives of more people.

Where terrorism had begun to fail in achieving its political aims it made up for in psychological, economical and physical damage. An attack on a Japanese subway paved the way for the use of chemical terrorism as it was targeted for a gas attack resulting in over 550 people dieing. Also in the same year a federal building in Oklahoma City, USA was a target for a car bomb. Over 150 people lost their lives and a further 600 were seriously injured. In 1998 various US embassies namely in Africa were bombed; 263 dead and over 5000 injured.

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