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  1. What are the motivations for ‘old’ and ‘new’ terrorism? Is new terrorism considered more difficult for governments to respond to?
  2. Why did some ethno-nationalist movements turn to the use of terrorism? Illustrate your answer with a case study of an ethno-nationalist terroristgroup?
  3. Using a case study of a religious terrorist group, explain the emergence of the new wave of religious terrorism evident from the 1980s onwards.
  4. To what extent do perceptions of terrorism shape foreign policy responses to terrorism?
  5. Does the threat of terrorism justify the policy responses that democratic governments have made to combat it? Illustrate your answer with a case study highlighting a counter-terrorism measure adopted. Be sure to outline the costs and benefits – and make an argument as to whether such a policy can be justified.

Defining Terrorism

This essay aims to discuss the evolution of terrorism based on time and perspectives of the modern world. The concept of terrorism I one of the most debated terms in the social sciences. From the statements of many scholars, politicians and analysts, it has been pointed out that the opponents in some violent conflicts use this term for describing other side to be practicing terrorism. Terrorism in the widest since is the intention of creating violence to create terror among the masses of people to achieve the political, religious, financial and ideological aims. However, it can be stated that the nature and aim of terrorism has changed after 1990s which involves different types of actions, tactics, motivations and actors. This has incorporated new facets in the older understanding of terrorism concept. Previously, terrorism was seen to have both positive as well as negative effect. There were scopes to defines the completely deferment perspectives and used to be attracted with revolution in the country and society (Walters, Wallin & Hartley, 2018).

The concept is also debatable as this is associated with the problem of implying a moral judgment at the time of classifying terrorism on the basis of guerilla warfare, serial killing, genocide and difference between terrorism and freedom fighting. The acceptance of the tern new terrorism means the existence of old terrorism which had perfect features based on which the government of the states took measures and protected their territory from these problems. Now the new terrorism will also have great influence on the direction and funding on the counter terrorism initiatives (Taylor, Fritsch & Liederbach, 2014). This justify the need of rushed restrictive governmental anti terrorism measures and engage the countries to accumulate more knowledge about the changing features of this curse of humanity. This essay will discuss the features of terrorism both old and new and then decides whether it is becoming problematic for the governments to handle this radical new terrorism.

Some of the scholars have pointed out that terrorism is the systematic internal violence as well as intimidation practice that changes the politics and diplomacy of the world which now can be associated with the vast array of fascist, socialist, nationalist and anarchist groups who have the potential to manipulate the strategies of the countries or capturing the power liker Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union (Juergensmeyer, 2016). The more recent scholars have pointed out that the radical transformation of terrorism has completely changed the character and this had started right after the incident of September the 11th.  Prior to this incident the concept of terrorism has a post modern and catastrophic nature but this new one represents a completely different and potentially more lethal threat to the humanity.

Evolution of Terrorism

The first use of the word terrorism was used in the French revolution in 1789 when the Jacobins ruled the revolutionary state and employed violence by the means of mass execution in the guillotine in 1795, this period of history was referred to the reign of terror to compel obedience to the intimidate regime enemies and state (Hoffman, 2015). According to the history of terrorism, this term used to be associated with the government and state violence only until 19th century (Sarma, 2017). After this period, terrorism became the means of achieving anarchy in the state by the non-governmental groups. This became linked with the rising nationalism, as well as anti-monarchism towards the end of the 19th century and gained strength to commit assassination of a US president and Russian Tsar. According to the scholars like Mash et al.  (2018) from the mid-nineteenth century to the First World War the global politics changed so also the features of terrorism. The terrorist groups have new opponents to criticize, new objectives to gain prominence and new technologies to attack the mass which would serve their aim to create the feeling of terror though violence (Jenkins, 2015). The terrorist groups who attack the actions and strategies of the government started to term them revolutionaries and thus gain public supports who sympathize with their cause.

The revolutionaries and anarchists used bombings as well as assassinations as the frequent weapons to struggle against their opponents. Towards the start of 20th century after the Second World War, terrorism gained pace and associated with the anti-colonial struggles (Larsson, 2017). However, there are arguments whether anti-colonial struggles should be associated with the term terrorism. This is due to the facts that some of the scholars see the whole incidents from the point of view of the colonizers to whom these are terrorist insurgence but from the perspectives of the nationalists, it is the struggle for gaining freedom from the dominance of foreign rule. To Perliger and Pedahzur (2016)  therefore, it is a clear instance in the modern history where the sub-state organizations were able to attain their long term, political and administrative goals by using terrorism as a major weapon. This idea gained more popularity among there masses as we’ll as the terrorist groups because terrorism ultimately led the colonial powers to be withdrawn and terrorist organizations to establish a form of government favored by the insurgents (Perliger & Pedahzur, 2016).

However, it is a debatable issue to exactly what extent this terrorism contributed to the decolonization but its effect is evident to the world. Many scholars have stated that the time period between 1960s and 1980s has witnessed the old or traditional terrorism at its fullest. This can be roughly differentiated into various types of terrorism such as the right and left wing terrorism and ethno national separist terrorism. Despite the fact that this traditional terrorism had different objectives as well as different targets but they all have the same characteristics. According to the view of Wright (2016), the traditional terrorism had predominantly secular motivations and rational political causes for the act of terrorism. For instance the left wind terrorist groups used violence for politicizing the labor class masses and help them to rise up against the capitalist system (Simons, 2016). On the other hand the ethno nationalists wanted freedom of their own ethnic group through either separation of territory from the country to merge with another state or create their own sovereign nation state. This is the reason why their demand for political power and different territory has negotiable scope which can be mitigated by the governments of the countries.

Old Terrorism

In addition to this, Malik et al. (2015) believe that old terrorism initiated to target by controlling the intensity of their practical political aims. This type of terrorism never tried to use unnecessary indiscriminate violence as the organizers knew that this will reduce the claim of legitimacy in one hand and take their causes away form theory supporters which would affect their funding and new recruitment. Therefore, these groups use to select their targets very cautiously so that the level of casualties is low and there is always a scope of negotiation and becoming a successor government (Simons, 2016). In this type of terrorism, the precision attacks were directed to the highly symbolic targets mainly the authorities they oppose which include presidents, government officials, politicians and members associated with military and banking or even the government buildings. These symbolic targets helped to raise support of the mass as these were the propaganda of deeds.

Old or traditional terrorism wanted maximum publicity of their actions, not by the means of killing people but by the playing for the people and spreading their ideological message. This is the reason why the contribution of media is also impotent to consider (Coccia, 2018). After every attack, the organizations take credit for their actually put their demands and explain the reason of their actions against their targets. This targeted violence was commonly perpetrated by the conventional tactics of using guns and bombs which were not the weapons of mass destruction (Hoffman, 2015). Moreover, these incidents did not cause innocent causalities that may harm their popularity. In some cases, the old terrorism used to get support from the other states. In most of the casers these secret involvement of the states remained secret as this could be the reason of open wear amount the nations. Hence this involvement with the terrorist groups was a cheap method of damaging the rival country (Larsson, 2017). For example in the context of cold war, the terrorist groups became the proxies of the super as well as middle powers to damage power of one another.

To the critic like Coccia (2018), the new terrorism on the contrary are morally low that are potential to harm the humanity more intensely. The organization do not have proper structure of the organizations or special aims like the old terrorist organizations who were more honest to their supporters and took responsibilities of their deeds. The new terrorism started exactly in the first 1990s with the attack of America’s World Trade Center in 1993 and sarin gas attack in Japan’s Tokyo underground by the Aum Shinrikyo cult in 1995. To most of the sociologists, this type of terrorist attack was far more different from the old or traditional terrorism and lost support of the people.

New Terrorism

As mentioned before, the old terrorism was much more secular but most of the new terrorists groups are having some religious motivations. According to the survey worldwide, there were two out of sixty four terrorist groups in 1980s had religious motivations which rose to more than thirty among fifty eights terrorist groups by 1995. To the critics, the new terrorism all other ways and promote an uncompromising perspective of the world and achieve their objectives to manipulate the people by the means of religion. This religious motivation is one of the most essential characteristics that differentiate ole terrorism to the new terrorism. This is the reason why the originations following new terrorism have radically dissimilar value system, concepts of morality, mechanisms and justification and legitimating and completely different view of the world.

To understand the motivations of the terrorism issue it is mandatory to understanding their style of actions. Unlike the older terrorism, these types of terrorism do not follow the method of limiting the target to the main power holder or the corrupt government official or the persons mainly responsible to exploit the whole mankind rather follow the method of excessive indiscriminate violence (Nacos, 2016). These terrorist groups do not mid to attack and kill a huge number of innocent people who do not have any connection with the objectives these groups are aiming to. The main problem with this type of terrorism is that these organizations do not have proper and appropriately defined political demands hence the government of the affected nations find it difficult to understand the criteria and solve such issues in anyway. New these originations do not have proper and appropriately defined political demands hence the government of the affected nations find it difficult to understand the criteria and solve such issues in anyway (Jongman, 2017). Is featured by the destruction of sociality and the complete elimination of a large section of the world’s population who do not have any idea why they are being affected.

To some of the instance of recent terrorism incents in the 21st century it has been completely understood that the most of the terrorist organizations have religious reasons behind them, which is changing the definition of recent terrorism. To such terrorist groups, violence is the divine duty executed in the direct responses to few theological demands and these actions are justified in the scriptures. The concept of terrorism is seen to the struggle of good against the evil hence it is essential to demolish the victims and more importantly considering the non-members of this group to be the infidels to face ultimate destruction (Jongman, 2017). The members of such terrorist groups are not ready to give any scope of negotiation so that the government can know what they are exactly demanding. They only see their actions to be the most important thing to perform to reach their god. They have their own understanding of the humanity as well as constituency for which they are not actually concerned about differentiating their supports from the non-supporters from their act of mass destruction but only believe in holding accountability to their god only (Malik et al., 2015). This is the reason why they do not feel the importance to claim their actions nor put any demand to any government.

Differences between Old and New Terrorism

To some critics like Chaliand and Blin (2016), the new terrorism concept have the motivation of using the extreme violence. The new terrorist groups indulge in risky and lethal acts in which they show their willingness to destroy themselves as well as the associated people around them. The old terrorist groups used to have an escape plan so that they can continue with their struggle but in this new terrorism the actors seem to be willing to give their own life while they are orchestrating the terrorism acts. Under this holy terror trend, the new terrorists are showing their actions to be the only way to reach their god. These terrorist groups do not believe in gaining public support through their deadly and complicated terrorist acts but aim to gain publicity in order to spread the terror in the minds of the people. Unlike the traditional terrorists group, the new terrorists try as well as use biological, radiological, chemical and nuclear weapons as required for mass destruction (Jongman, 2017). They take the assistance of technology at its fullest and manipulate the young minds through religious scriptures or terror. These agents are either the victims and social and financial situations or amateurs who utilize their talents to gain power.

In most of the cases, these terrorists groups do not get financial or political support from the other states like the old terrorists used to get. To the critics, these groups do not fear the backlash as they do not have any hierarchical organization to control and support nor these have state sponsors to support their cause of mass destruction. This is the reason why these people use more violence which often becomes limitless and extreme (Wright, 2016). These groups mainly get the financial support from all types of illegal sources such as human and drug trafficking, credit card fraud, video piracy, illegal business investments and smuggling. These groups often raise funds from the donations and charities of wealthy individuals showing religious causes and use those in the terrorist’s activities in other region other than themselves.

It is true that the governments of the countries are facing difficulties to face and mitigate the problem of new terrorism this type of are completely different from the traditional terrorism hence the past experiences of mitigating such problems are not helpful this time. The main problem of solving this global threat is the network structure of these terrorists groups. As they do not have any hieratical structure, these can easily operate in any part of the world and take the help of advanced telecommunication technology (Walters, Wallin & Hartley, 2018). Every one of the groups of this network is separated as well as autonomous but still linked with the network to serve their common purpose. This is the reason why the government of the countries only faces the effect of their deeds but cannot grab the actual centre of the organizations. These terrorists get trainings in one nation and work at another thus take to opportunity of red tapism and other regional regulatory activities. This creates opportunities for the terrorist agents to adapt and react more easily to the changing situations more quickly and flexibly.

Religious Motivations in New Terrorism

In addition to this, these terrorist organizations do not have proper and appropriately defined political demands hence the government of the affected nations find it do not understand the criteria of these terrorist groups. To the critics like Osoba and Kosko (2017) state that the members are fanatically religious therefore do not have any particular propaganda to solve. This is the reason why solving such issues in any way is nearly impossible for the governments. As mentioned before, there are more than 2300 groups of terrorists in the world that are extremists in their decisions as well as actions (, 2018). These do not allow giving any scope of negotiation which can bring peace in the world. In addition to this, the terrorist groups of the world now a day do not take responsibilities of their actions and follow the method of indiscriminate violence. This is the reason why finding out the actual group is nearly impossible. Due to this inexperience of handling these type of terrorism, the development of strategies are still in the process.

Moreover, the threat of terrorism has a sporadic, episodic and inconstant nature, therefore gathering information about this type of threat are quite difficult that prevents the government of the countries to form any type of policies to secure the territories (Sarma, 2017). The governments find it difficult to assign responsibilities to identify the places and persons associated with terrorism. This is due to the fact that in recent context, the terrorists employ agents as armatures. They have personal social lives but join the organizations when the time comes or the organizations need their assistance (Zulaika & Douglass, 2016). This is the reason why it is difficult to point out all these persons and prevents terrorism from its root. Despite the fact that these terrorist groups all have one motivation which is associated with religion but one group is north similar to the other hence the governments find it difficult to handle these problems.

Therefore, it can be concluded that the act of terrorism has different facts to be understood. There are huge number of differences present in the nature of old or traditional terrorism and new terrorism. These dffe4rewscers are dependant on their motivations, values, actions and targets. No act of terrorism can be supported but there are different perspectives which often support violence act a group for a good reason. However, improvement in increasing security has been done so also the research on ever changing characteristics of terrorism.


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Hoffman, B. (2015). A first draft of the history of America's ongoing wars on terrorism. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 38(1), 75-83.

Jenkins, B. M. (2015). International terrorism: A new mode of conflict. In International terrorism and world security (pp. 23-59). Routledge.

Jongman, A. J. (2017). Political terrorism: A new guide to actors, authors, concepts, data bases, theories, and literature. Routledge.

Juergensmeyer, M. (2016). Terror in the mind of God: The global rise of religious violence.

Kaplan, A. (2017). The counter-terrorism puzzle: A guide for decision makers. Routledge.

Larsson, J. P. (2017). Understanding religious violence: Thinking outside the box on terrorism. Routledge.

Malik, M. S. A., Sandholzer, M., Khan, M. Z., & Akbar, S. (2015). Identification of risk factors generating terrorism in Pakistan. Terrorism and Political Violence, 27(3), 537-556.

Mash, H. B. H., Fullerton, C. S., Benevides, K. N., & Ursano, R. J. (2018). Identification with terrorist attack victims: association with television viewing and prior life threat. Disaster medicine and public health preparedness, 12(3), 337-344.

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Perliger, A., & Pedahzur, A. (2016). Counter cultures, group dynamics and religious terrorism. Political Studies, 64(2), 297-314.

Sarma, K. M. (2017). Risk assessment and the prevention of radicalization from nonviolence into terrorism. American Psychologist, 72(3), 278.

Simons, G. (2016). Mass media and modern warfare: reporting on the Russian war on terrorism. Routledge.

Taylor, R. W., Fritsch, E. J., & Liederbach, J. (2014). Digital crime and digital terrorism. Prentice Hall Press.

Walters, G., Wallin, A., & Hartley, N. (2018). The Threat of Terrorism and Tourist Choice Behavior. Journal of Travel Research, 0047287518755503.

Wright, J. D. (2016). Why is Contemporary Religious Terrorism Predominantly Linked to Islam? Four Possible Psychosocial Factors. Perspectives on Terrorism, 10(1), 19-31.

Zulaika, J., & Douglass, W. (2016). Terror and taboo: The follies, fables, and faces of terrorism. Routledge.

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