International Terrorism

Terrorist Tactics

There is a popular, but inaccurate, belief that terrorism is crazed and impulsive. The reality is that extremism and radical attacks, in particular, are premeditated meticulously planned with an aim of sending a specific statement. In communicating this message, the execution of the attacks is a reflection of a conceived plan that replicates a particular terrorist organization’s aims as well as their inspiration. The siege must fit into the group’s resources in addition to giving considerable importance to the audience of the intended message. In deciding the tactics to be used for the attacks, therefore, the group intentionally applies those that best represent their ideologies, organizational structures, as well as the dominant personalities of the key members of the crew among other internal and external factors (Hoffman, 2006 229).

Terrorism has continuously evolved over the years with advancement in technologies playing a big role in the unending sophistication of the tactics that extremists use in achieving their goals. Indeed, a notorious terrorist, Carlos claimed the beginning of The Third World War to his hostages in 1975. Studying a similar declaration by a French soldier who survived a suicide bombing which killed 58 of his colleague soldiers in Beirut. This war, international terrorism, did not start with an identifiable event and neither can it be traced to when it actually began. However, the reality is that we the American people, and indeed the entire humanity are facing a serious threat to peace and freedom that we enjoy because of these hostilities. As Jenkins notes, this war is unlike the previous combats by virtue that scrambles, fighter aircraft, and other trends that could mark an ordinary confrontation do not characterize it. Instead, it is hundreds of battles started by indefinable and merciless enemies. The foes operate under different standards like the Red Army Faction, the Popular Front, the Holy War, and Al Qaeda among others (Jenkins, 1986, 773).

If the events of September 11 are anything to go by, then the assertion by Jenkins that the United States is not adequately prepared may hold some water. He supports the claims by suggesting that there has been the destruction of American embassies, with her citizens being kidnapped and some even killed in addition to American jet fighters being blown. The failed attempt to rescue American citizens that were held hostage in Iraq with some eight rescuers being killed in their plane further showed how America was not prepared to tackle the emerging war. Of great concern for the ill preparedness was the killing of some 242 U.S Marines that were caught off guard when an explosives-laden truck was driven by a suicide bomber into their barracks (Jenkins, 1986, 773).

It has been ascertained that almost all terrorist factions choose targets that they consider rewarding and the tactics they employ are, therefore, those that resonate with their political objectives. The left-wing terrorists like the Italian Red Brigades and German’s Red Army Faction, for example, kidnap and assassinate selectively, individuals that they consider responsible for economic and political exploitation with the sole aim of attracting and promoting a Marxist-Leninist type revolution. On the other hand, radicals who are inspired by religious imperatives, engage in a more indiscriminate violence targeting a wider group that includes both sworn enemies and any other individual or groups that do not share their faith (Hoffman, 2006, 229).

According to Hoffman, in between these two extreme models, there is another faction that is commonly referred to as the separatist or the ethno-nationalist groups. While the violent campaigns by groups such as the PLO, ETA, and IRA have led to far more destruction and casualties compared to the left- wing factions, on the one hand, the said violence has been directed towards a specific target that is clearly defined, on the other hand. This distinct victim is either a competitor or a prevailing ethno-nationalist grouping. Other crews that have had little consequences in terms of both frequencies of occurrence and effect on citizen and federal positions include the extreme right-wing springs like the “political punk rockers.” In as much as the violence perpetrated by these spring groups seem uncoordinated and sporadic, they are not completely random. Whichever differences that exist among the various radical groups, it is evident that their tactics and choice of targets is determined by their respective ideologies in addition to the type of relationship they have with the targeted audience of the violence (Hoffman, 2006, 230).

As we have already mentioned, the left-wingers’ violence is historically very discriminate, limited, and selective. They target individuals that epitomize their ideological hostility like was the case for leading parliamentarian Aldo Moro who was kidnapped and later murdered by the Red Brigades. Another victim of the left-wing activities is industrialist Martin Schleyer who was also abducted and slain in 1977 by the RAF. It would therefore occur that this faction, preferred to use this tactic of kidnapping and murdering. However, on some occasions, when the left-wingers utilize less selective methods like bombing, their intention is to dramatize a political cause rather than to damage property. The faction therefore uses armed propaganda as a means to educate the populace of their revolutionary vanguard roles that they have assigned themselves (Hoffman, 2006, 238).

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The approach is similar, in many aspects, as that of the separatist’s groups. These radical factions regard themselves as the revolutionary vanguard that applies violence to educate the people belonging to their national or ethnic group. They see ferocity as a means of exposing the injustice that is imposed on them by the government in power and therefore, communal resistance and rebellion are key ingredients of expressing their displeasure. One such group, the ETA, employs acts of hostility symbolically with the aim of generating publicity and gain support and thereby forcing the government to accede to its irredentist demands. Sometimes the attacks go beyond the mere killing of the declared enemy; even the traitors and informants are targeted albeit the terrorists taking extra measures so as not to sabotage the communal support and risk the communities collaborating with the security forces. Sometimes, when the conditions are right, high placed government officials and security personnel are attacked.

In fighting back, the administrations that have been threatened by terrorist attacks have increased physical security in areas that are prone to violence. Smuggling of weapons and firearms aboard airlines has significantly reduced in addition to the lessened number of hijackings and kidnappings from their highs in the 1970s. It is no longer possible to seize embassies, a tactic that was popular in the 1970s. With improved collection and analysis of evidence, the numbers of attacks that are thwarted have significantly increased (Hoffman, 2006 234).

In spite of the achievements, the volume of international terrorism is in the upward trend. Beginning in the 1980s, the trend has been a large-scale no-selective violence. Car bombings, airport bombings stores, restaurant, and other public areas are a common feature that defines modern day international terrorism. Indeed, despite the myriad of measures that the U.S government has taken since the worst terrorist attack in her history, the September 11 attack that claimed the lives of close to three thousand people, a majority of whom were Americans, recent attacks in clubs and other public places indicate that the war is not yet won.

According to Jenkins, the tactics employed by these extremist groups have not significantly changed over time, and they only need to innovate to overcome a certain countermeasure. He argues that the reason why there is little pressure to innovate tactics is that they have unlimited targets. Besides, the radicals will either shift their attention to other susceptible targets or alter their approach to averting any measures that security mechanisms use against them. Jenkins (1986, 778), further argues that the terrorists have a slight advantage over the security mechanisms since they can attack anywhere and everywhere at any time while the governments cannot guard all places all the time.

Of equal disturbance is the emergence of state sponsoring of terrorism. Some nations have resolved to use radical tactics and or employing the groups to initiate surrogate warfare. This is because terrorism offers a cheap alternative to armed conflict between states particularly for the countries that lack the technical ability to mount a conventional military warfare. This type of terrorism ploy is among the most difficult to defend against. Regrettably, this approach puts more resources like more money, complex munitions, intelligence, as well as a methodological capability to the hands of extremists. Another important factor that contributes to the difficulty for the nations to defend against state-sponsored radicalism is the fact that it reduces constraints that they face. This enables these groups to plan operations on a large scale without the worry of sidelining their constituents and provoking a backlash from the public (Jenkins, 1986, 7781). There have been suggestions that Palestine has in the recent past sponsored terrorism to disturb peace in Israel over the land issues. It is thought that Palestine, because of inferior military power, regards terrorism as an equalizer.

Since self-financing is no longer needed in addition to the need to perform operations with the sole reason of maintaining the group, there is little activity from the state-sponsored terrorists compared to factions that receive no support from the state. However, once they carry out their operations, they are more devastating with a far greater reach.

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One area where governments have made huge progress is in the fight against domestic terrorist gangs. Nonetheless, there is a conflict in dealing with terrorists that have powerful sponsors, especially from the Middle East because of diplomatic considerations. While the U.S has made great achievements in fighting domestic terrorism, her citizens and facilities in foreign countries are still targeted by these groups. The U.S, in this regard, has little that it can do since it has to depend on cooperation from the international community to combat the gangs. However, it has a duty to rescue the hostages and take action against a state that sponsors terrorism.

International Legal Measures that Mitigate Terrorism Threats

There is a variety of legal measures whose aim is to mitigate any potential threats posed by terrorist organizations. The Geneva Conventions is one such tool that gives guidelines on how prisoners of war should be treated. The conventions were originally established in 1864 but were expanded in 1949. (De Nevers, 2006, 99). De Nevers argues that the threat created by terrorists was not visualized by the conventions and therefore there is need to review them to suit the different war that has emerged. It is without a doubt that September 11 has seen many improvements in the mechanisms employed to fight radicalism. Resolution 1373 of 2001 adopted on the 28 September 2001 is one of such document that gives nations ultimatums on how to deal with threats of terrorism in addition to what to do and not to do. Among the decisions arrived at in that meeting include criminalizing of financing of terrorist activities by any state or any corporation or individuals. In addition, those funds and assets or any resources that either commit or attempt to commit acts of terrorism should be frozen without any delay. The states should also prohibit her citizens from making funds available to persons that commit or attempt to commit terrorist activities.

These resolutions are meant to suppress the financing of terrorism, which as we have discussed earlier, is a major factor that contributes to the success or failure of the gangs’ operations. A situation, therefore, where states allow individuals or corporations to continue either directly or indirectly make resources available to these gangs, is a factor that threatens the efforts made to fight the vice. It has been argued that the United States of America considers some states like Iraq and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism. If indeed that is true, then the fight against extremism will not be won soon.

International legal measures to combat terrorism can also be undermined if states fail to provide early warnings to other governments through an expeditious exchange of information. Of equal importance, the states should also ensure that they suppress recruitment of persons to the terror groups as well as guarantee that the groups have no access to a supply of weapons. If the states fail to prevent persons that facilitate terror acts from using their territories for the said purposes against other nations, then the legal measures put in place may not help fight the threats. The federations are also required to provide an environment that enables mapping out terrorism activities easier for other states. They can achieve this by preventing movement of radical gangs across the border by effectively controlling the boundaries and proper issuance of identification documents and strengthening measures to curb forgery and fraudulent use of the said official papers. The international community and member states have the responsibility of offering each other assistance when carrying out criminal investigations. The interrogation could be relating to supporting or financing terrorist activities (Rostow, 2001, 475).

The Security Council further calls upon all states to look for innovative ways to hasten exchange of operational information. Such data could be in the form of how terrorists are moving across the borders, the explosive materials, and arms trafficking as well as the use of communication technology that the fanatics employ. This information is used to thwart the threat of attacks. However, if a state fails to honor her obligation to share such material, then it becomes extremely difficult to have the relevant intelligence to help mitigate attacks.

When states give and receive information in accordance with the established international and domestic legislation, and cooperate through multilateral and bilateral treaties and arrangements, there is a better chance of mapping out terrorist activities, which will further suppress their intended attacks. However, when individual nations fail to become parties to international conventions that deal with terrorism like the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Extremism that was ratified on 9 December 1999, it is almost impossible for the international legal measures to affect such a state in case it decides to support terrorism. Another condition that I believe undermines the efforts being made in mitigating radicalism is the non-conformity of states to international law regarding refugees. Some perpetrators of terrorism have abused the asylum status in commissioning terror attacks in other nations (Rostow, 2001, 476).

The stability of a country is an important factor in determining the levels of terrorism in the region and indeed the entire world. Failed states have recorded higher levels of criminal gangs rising up to take advantage of weak governments. A failed state, therefore, is an unwanted condition that makes the fight against terrorism even harder. Some of the factors that have been attributed to failed states and therefore, by extension high radicalization, include lack of property rights as is the case in North Korea. It is almost impossible to own any property as the government owns all land and capital. The people in North Korea do not work for themselves; rather, they work for the ruling party. Lack of law and order experienced in Somalia is a great contributor to the international terrorism. Although Somalia and South Sudan have recognized governments, their influence is only limited to certain regions. Other areas in Somalia are controlled by the Al-Qaeda cell in the country otherwise commonly known as Al Shabaab. The terror acts of the group have cascaded to the neighboring countries with Kenya being the most affected (Policy, 2012, 90).

When men in power control an economy, they get greedy, create monopolies, and block other players from entering and participating in the economy. Under Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, for over three decades, the government owned more than 40% of the economy. Even with the liberalization of the market, large sections of the economy were privatized into the families and friends of the president. Big businesspersons received both protection and government contracts in addition to large bank loans without proper collaterals. This segmentation of an economy where some individuals can comfortably stake a claim of the national cake while others languish in poverty is a recipe for chaos affected (Policy, 2012, 90).

Failed states, therefore, help create conditions that are favorable for terrorism to flourish. They do so by allowing new groups to rise and by providing critical opportunities to the gangs that are already in existence. Since failed republics are unable to provide basic human needs as well as the lack of functional institutions, they cannot manage and resolve conflicts in the communities as well as provide their citizens with basic amenities like security, education among others. The consequence of this failure is the propulsion of individuals into extralegal mechanisms to solve conflicts and provide for themselves. Besides, the failed states do not have internal power projection, which creates a vacuum for non-state actors like fanatical groups to fill. It also generates a conducive environment where agents of the state can provide both financial and organizational expertise to terrorists. Another key component that links the high levels of extremism to failed states is the lack of adequate law enforcement capabilities, which allows the terror groups to engage in extralegal arrangements like smuggling and trafficking. Finally, political elites operating in a failed state take advantage of large-scale terrorism within the borders to benefit themselves materially, political support or use of the terror activities during times of political mayhem (Piazza 2007, 525),

Piazza (2007, 522), claims that proponents of democracy and civil liberties in the Middle East do play a role in mitigating extremist tendencies. He argues that the regimes in this region like Iraq and Syria use repression, humiliation, and violence to control public outcry. This, however, achieves exactly the opposite: fosters public rage while elevating the appeal for fanaticism. Without freedom of public expression, coupled with a strangled press, the proponents of democracy argue that the discourse is politically skewed to reflect the allies of the United States as villains. The confederate of the U.S, in this case, is Israel. He further argues that since grievances from the public are not addressed, the existing environment provides the fanatical group’s materials that they use for propaganda purposes, which enhance their recruitment and legitimizing their terrorist actions. Further, the public virtues of political moderation and ability to compromise which are key recipes for political expression are retarded by these non-democracies.



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