Motivations for Terrorism, Essay Example

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Identifying actual motives for terrorist actions is as involved and complex as the forms terrorism may take.  In basic terms, terrorism is an act of violence made to create and effect or emphasize a cause.  It seeks to generate panic, disable necessary systems, create fear,  and often kill to draw attention to an idea, belief, or protest.  Consequently, whatever motivates human beings to go to such extremes presents an actual motivation.  Complicating the subject further is the fact that many terrorist agendas, both in group and individual form, reflect changing or multiple motives.  Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, for example, initially presented himself as acting due to his involvement with a religious base, the Christian Identity Movement.  In time, however, it was revealed that McVeigh was more determined to protest through the terrorism the federal raids at Waco and Ruby Ridge (Martin, 2004, p. 38).   What is important here is not that motive seems to have changed, but that multiple motives may easily be in place.  This is certainly evident in cases of Mideastern terrorism, when Irani and Iraqi individuals or state-sponsored forces engage in such attacks upon each other.  As the conflicts between the cultures are both actively political and fueled by long-standing religious clashes, so too are the terrorists strikes motivated by more than a single ambition.  This factor brings into play another element of the process, in that a single motive may not be sufficient to inspire such drastic acts.  The nature of terrorism is destructive on a large scale, so it seems likely that a variety of motives are more conducive to such extremes.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that, as terrorism relies on impact, it requires resources.  This being the case, one type of terrorism may serve to abet another, as when infiltration of computer networks is necessary to gain the information needed to plan a bombing, or handicap a security system.  This is, in effect, cyber crime as terrorism, and it too may take a wide variety of forms.  A terrorist group may infiltrate an airport’s systems and shut down traffic as a terrorist action of its own, because it accomplishes the purpose of creating widespread fear.  On another level, cyber crime may be covertly conducted only as a phase of an ultimate terrorist agenda, as in obtaining the information of a government official’s car route (Wade, Maljovic, 2009, p. 56).  Ultimately, of course, it remains motivation that causes terrorism, and what essentially separates terrorism from murder is that it always exists within some form of social context: “We can never separate terrorism from society because it is embedded in it” (Horgan, 2005,  p. 28).   This understood, then, whatever motivates a human being or group to react in opposition to an existing social, religious, or political construct may serve as terrorist motivation.  What defines it as such also, of course, is the extremity of the action.

References

Horgan, John. (2005).  The Psychology of Terrorism.  New York: Routledge.

Martin, Gus.  (2004).  The New Era of Terrorism: Selected Readings.  Thousand Oaks: Sage    Publications.

Wade, Marianne, & Maljevic, Almir.  (2009).  A War on Terror?: The European Stance on a New Threat, Changing Laws, and Human Rights Implications.  New York: Springer.

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