Why do people resort to such violent acts as bombing, assassinations, and hi-jacking? How do individuals and organizations justify these acts of terror? These acts can be described as terrorist actions. Terrorism is a growing international problem and an excellent example of the strain theory. People feel strain when they are exposed to cultural goals that they are unable to obtain because they do not have access to culturally approved means of achieving those goals (Kendall, 1998) and so turn to acts of terrorism. During the last twenty years, new terrorist groups have sprung up al lover the world. Governments have had little success in their attempts to resolve issues in which terrorism is used.
A major problem in discussing terrorism is establishing a generally accepted definition. Terrorism can be described as the unlawful use of fear or force to achieve certain political, economical, or social aims. Because it is so hard to define, organizations like the United Nations have had great difficulty drawing up policies against terrorism.
A single individual, a certain group, or even governments may commit terrorist actions. Most terrorists, unlike criminals, claim to be dedicated to higher causes, and do not believe in personal gain. The methods used in terrorism include threats, bombings, and the destruction of property, kidnapping, the taking of hostages, executions, and assassinations.
There are many reasons why political groups attempt to bring about radical change through
terrorism. People are often frustrated with their position in society. They may in some way feel persecuted or oppressed because or their race, religion, or they feel exploited by a government. Any group that uses terrorist actions have very complex and powerful reasons to engage in those activities.
The use of terror to achieve goals is not a new idea in history. One early terrorist group, the assassins, flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. The assassins used murder to dispose of their enemies, and their name has come to be used for one who kills for political or religious reasons. Government terrorism dates at least from immediately after the French Revolution, in 1789. During this period, known as the “Reign of Terror,” the French Revolutionary executed thousands of its citizens who were considered enemies of its rule.
Individuals or groups who seek national independence have committed acts of terrorism. One such act was the assassination of the archduke of France in 1914 (Comptons Encyclopedia, 1998). The assassination had sought to win Bosnia form Austrian rule, but failed and led to the outbreak of World War I.
Kings and government officials are often the targets of terrorism. Members of a terrorist group that wanted to overthrow the government assassinated Czar Alexander of Russia in 1881. Other famous people who were assassinated because of their beliefs were Martin Luther King Jr., and Pope John Paul II, who was shot, but survived.
While many groups have engaged in terrorism throughout history, the Anarchist political groups in the 19th century are most remembered. These groups were especially strong in Italy, France, Spain, and the United Sates, but their roots lie within the Russian peoples will movement. Anarchists believe that by nature people are good, and that in the right circumstances people can leave in peace. They oppose all centralized state and think it is an oppressive force that prevents people from cooperating with one another.
Modern Terrorism retains some elements of terrorism in the past. At the same time it differs because it has a wider extent in many of its methods. Today, terrorism poses a threat to innocent people, and is a serious threat to democratic forms of government.
One of the characteristics of modern terrorists is their practice of taking hostages in order to force their demands upon a particular government. If demands are not met, the hostages face the threat of death. Hi-jacking commercial airlines and holding their passengers and crews hostage has become a favored method among terrorist today.
Many people believe that terrorism became global in its extent in the late 1960s. In 1970 over 300 acts of terrorism were recorded worldwide. By 1979the number of terrorist incidents for one year increased to 3,700.
Politically unstable countries offer frequent opportunities for terrorism. Lebanon, which has been torn by years of Civil War, has been the sight of numerous terrorist attacks.
In addition to terrorist groups, governments today also engage in terrorism. Countries sometimes use terrorism as a substitute for traditional warfare by providing money, training, and weapons to terrorist groups whose activities serve their national aims. Governments may also plan and carry out terrorist actions themselves, although they usually deny responsibility for them.
It is unlikely that we will ever see and end to terrorism. Terrorists are not born, but created by issues of today develop into the conflicts of tomorrow.