Roots of Terrorism Term Paper

Total Length: 945 words ( 3 double-spaced pages)

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In the book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, Robert Pape argues that that the main motivator for suicide terrorism in particular is nationalism. Politically disenfranchised groups use suicide terrorism to target large democratic state entities in order to secure territory and gain international recognition. However, to boil down terrorism to a singular cause like nationalism would be grossly and dangerously oversimplifying the phenomenon. After all, eco-terrorism is one example of a type of terrorism that is clearly not linked to a nationalistic cause. Terrorism is a strategy and quasi-military tactic used by individuals and groups to draw attention to a specific message or set of messages. In many -- if not most -- cases, nationalism is a major terrorist message. As with eco-terrorism, nationalism itself is not the issue. The issue is power and control over resources. Terrorist groups of all types use violent tactics in order to rebel against perceived political, economic, and social authorities much in the way a child will act out against parents. Therefore, the motivator that has the greatest impact on terrorism throughout history is primarily political.

Evidence suggests that terrorism is historically motivated by political reasons. Crenshaw (1981) found that terrorism historically occurs "both in the context of violent resistence to the state as well as in the service of state interests," because terrorism "communicates a political message," (p. 379). The political message is far more relevant than economic or religious ideology, either of which would be subsumed by political factors.
Pape (2006) cites details from separatist movements ranging from Palestinians to the Tamil Tigers to show that political motives trump other issues like religion and culture when determining the cause of terrorist activity. Likewise, Richardson (2013) notes that subjugated groups are prone to using terrorism as a sort of last resort in the struggle for rights, recognition, or freedom. When a struggle for independence or territory is long and drawn-out, then terrorism because ever more likely, because the disenfranchised group perceives no other option but to use violence (Richardson, 2013). When religion is used to justify terrorism, as in the case of jihad movements, religion is not the primary motivating factor; politics are. The goal is to achieve change in a political ideology within a nation, or to separate from a nation according to the perceived right to self-determination.

Given that politics is the primary cause of terrorism historically and currently, the solution to terrorism should be political as well. The adage that strong politicians do not negotiate with terrorists needs to be thoroughly re-evaluated in some cases, for it may be necessary to examine political policies that could be causing perceived social injustice. In other cases, as with Taliban terrorists, negotiation may not be an effective strategy, in which case continued military action and concerted military strategy might be….....

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