Terrorism Final Examination Questions 1 3 &  Essay

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  • Subject: Terrorism
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Terrorism Final Examination

Questions #1, #3, & #5

Bjorgo discusses levels of causation in the introduction of his book. These include structural causes, facilitator (or accelerator) causes, triggering causes, and motivational causes. At a macro level, how does each of these contribute to terrorism? In other words, concentrate on each of these types of causal factors at a general level (e.g. all kinds of structural causes), instead of focusing on individual causes (e.g. globalization, which is a type of structural cause). In your opinion, which of these contributes most significantly? It is in answering this question that you can introduce more on the individual causes.

Structural causes of terrorism are typically more plentiful and easy to measure. Ross states "structural theories posit that the causes of terrorism can be found in environment and the political, cultural, social, and economic structure of societies." (Ross, 1993,-Page 317) Structural causes of terrorism can be religious or sexual oppression. A structural cause can be a political or economic system such as socialism or capitalism. Structural causes can be abject poverty, malnutrition, excessive crime rates, and other detrimental factors that act as stressors within a society or culture. There has not been a great deal of research regarding structural causes of terrorism; Ross furthermore contends that the lack of research of the structural causes of terrorism is due to confusion between structural causes and psychological causes of terrorism. (1993) In his 1993 study on the structural roots of terrorism, Ross determined three primary structural causes that contribute to terrorism as well as several other supporting and/or relevant factors that affect the degree of influence such causes have. They are as follows:

…the three permissive causes are hypothesized to be from least to most important: Geographical Location, Type of Political System, and Level of Modernization. And the seven precipitants are hypothesized to be from least to most important: Social, Cultural, and Historical Facilitation, Organizational Split and Development, Presence of Other Forms of Unrest, Support, Counterterrorist Organization Failure, Availability of Weapons and Explosives, and Grievances. (Ross, 1993,-Page 320)

Where the potential or actual terrorists are located may be an obvious structural cause, but it is significant nonetheless. Though humans have the abilities to adapt to a great array of environments and conditions, there are some geographical locations within which they are supremely more difficult to survive. The struggle for everyday survival can be an overwhelming stressor for the average person and the terrorist. The line of thinking here is that a terrorist is more likely to live in a place where there is arduous and constant struggle as a result of the physical environment. The level of modernization of the environment of the terrorist can also mean if the terrorist lives in a first, second, or third world country. Modernization manifests itself in ways such as access to and abundant supply of current and/or futuristic technology, irrigation and sewer systems, electricity, Internet, and general level of industrialization across many areas. There are terrorists that come from the third world and there are terrorists that come from the first world, such as the United States of America. On a related note, the type of political system of the environment of the terrorist plays a critical role as well, as most terrorists and terrorist groups have political agenda and motivations behind the actions they take.

Accelerator or facilitator causes of terrorism can include but are not limited to such things as the evolution of mass media, systems of transportation, weapons technology, and a weak or non-existent government at the local, state, and/or federal levels. Accelerator causes do just that -- they accelerate the process by which the terrorist activities are conducted or carried out. Accelerator causes may also speed up the urges or tendencies for terrorism, such as the Internet. Before the Internet, it took a great deal longer to access and assimilate all the information available about terrorism domestic and abroad. People who may be terrorists know have instantaneous access to an abundance of information previously unavailable or imaginable thirty or forty years ago. This is a way that media acts as an accelerator cause for terrorism (potentially).

Motivational causes occur on the personal level. They relate to personal experience had by the individual terrorist that motivates him or her into action. Motivational causes are perceived & actual inequalities and injustices. Terrorists are typically motivated by political imbalances and cultural inequalities. Terrorists have suffered personal losses which also adds to their motivation to act. Triggering causes can also be motivational cause. Triggering causes could be the results of structural causes. A triggering causes is a personal trauma, one that is so severe and/or heinous that revenge or some other similar action is desired and required in the minds of the terrorists. Sometimes, from the perspective of the terrorists, they are not terrorists, they are freedom fighters and it is from the perspective of those the terrorists oppose who qualify them as terrorists:

Context is especially significant as a direct cause of terrorism when it affects an elite, not the mass population. Terrorism is essentially the result of elite disaffection; it represents the strategy of a minority, who may act on behalf of a wider popular constituency who have not been consulted about, and do not necessarily approve of, the terrorists' aims or methods…Many terrorists today are young, well-educated, and middle class in background. Such students or young professionals, with prior political experience, are disillusioned with the prospects of changing society and see little chance of access to the system despite their privileged status. (Crenshaw, 1981,-Page 384)

Terrorists are not always dirty, angry, poor, illiterate hooligans, committing acts of vandalism and terrorism without aim or intention. Many terrorists come from background where they are well to do enough and educated enough to have a greater awareness of the injustices of their countries.

As for the personal opinion of the author regarding which causes most greatly contribute to terrorism, it is my opinion that all the causes contribute to the existence of terrorism. Structural causes often have effects that act as motivational causes. Terrorism is a very personal endeavor. There are not members of highly successful, effective, and elusive terrorist groups who are lazy and who do not have a serious vested commitment in the group and the group's goals. Terrorism must be personal. Personal motivation drives people to seek what they believe to be justice. Justice is a very personal matter. Recollect any experience you may have had where the outcome was unjust. How intense was the feeling for retribution or justice? Leaders of terrorist groups often connect with members on a personal level so as to sustain their motivation and sometimes manipulate members into committing such acts as suicide bombings. Terrorist groups are very tight-knit and the members know a great deal about the other members. A lot of personal knowledge about the group members may save their lives while out in the field and amassing personal details about each member of a terrorist group makes the group closer. The group feels like friends, siblings, comrades -- group loyalty and overall group dynamics are just as important in a terrorist organization as in a lawful organization.

I argue that terrorism stems from a combination of effects because the universe does not behave such that there is one single cause that produces one isolated affect. There is always a set of conditions or circumstances in which many forces and factors are at play simultaneously that have a range of results. The combination of the conditions and factors, such as the different types of causes, collide with a person's individual past and experience to create a situation that makes for a terrorist activity. The process is the same with serial killers or other types of criminals. There was a status quo, a series of unfortunate events occurred, combined with that person's unstable predisposition, and voila: serial killer. It is the same with a terrorist. It is not as if one day the terrorist gets wrongfully thrown in jail and then becomes a terrorist. In a situation like that, there were probably structural causes at play that interacted with accelerator causes and motivational causes, creating a situation where a person may believe that the only correct course of action is terrorist action. Recessions in a capitalist economy cause a person to lose his or her job. The loss of income acts as a stress on that person's romantic relationship. The person feels additional pressure and self loathing as he or she uses the Internet and a mobile device to search for jobs and fail. When a person younger, less experienced, and less qualified gets hired for the same or a better position than that person, depending on that person's disposition, he or she may snap and become a terrorist. That is a simple example, but the point is that factors combine and interact with each other at various points in time and the result is terrorism. There is no one-to-one direct…

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