Write an essay on Terrorism, Revolution and Political Science?
Episodes of political violence have many subjective meanings hidden in them and quite a lot of time it is this ambiguity that makes it suggestive. According to the relative deprivation theory instead of an absolute deprivation, the cumulative gap between the welfare expected and the welfare achieved is what drives men to violence (Gurr, 1970). For instance, when a group is continually faced with sustained repression or a lowly status they may react using political violence (Khan, 2006). While the expectations may not seem rational to the observer, it is strongly rational in the group’s viewpoint. Political violence while contextualized in ideological and political terms helps in understanding the histories of revolution. The sublimation of political violence in terms of modern society is almost a rule of law and a founding moment in law giving. The concept of symbolism in political violence is ambiguous and amorphous. A symbol can be defined as something that indexes the not-so-inherent meaning of a context. Several episode of political history likewise acquire symbolic meaning. Symbolization ensures that the event is interpreted as exemplar of an injustice and for this events and the symbols must undergo Universalization.
There have been numerous debates surrounding the rationality of political violence and a popular choice for research is the rational choice theory (Lindauer, 2012). As a theory of human behavior, the rational choice theory focuses of individuals as narrow or broad forms of actors. Rational choice asserts that the individuals is the best judge of what is them and asserts that they have the freedom and responsibility to shape their lives as they want. While the entire framework is valid by context and has application in the situations, the theory is based on assumptions and faces a number of challenges during implementation. And rational choice theory comes across as an appropriate research method in short-run scenarios of developing a counter-terror strategy.
The problems with applying the theory to political violence are that the determination of absence of presence of rationality basically stems from a single holistic approach. Beyond the cognitive patterns that are objectively existent, the presence of other variables is duly neglected. Also, rational behavior is applied in absolute terms and the individuals or groups are assumed to always make the same choices of actions that end up with high utility values disregarding the conflict of value systems. That is, what may seem rational to some may seem irrational to others in the same circumstance. The core of rational choice is purely subjective. For instance, a foot soldier is willing to commit a deed because of set preferences where he believes that he fights for the good of others in his community. The theory is confined by human imperfections overall.
On a strategic level, rational theory postulates the use of actors to pursue long term goals. Here there is an importance of differentiating between the masterminds behind an attack and the perpetrators. The terrorist masterminds sending some of their recruits (foot soldiers) as suicide attackers to serve a goal but again from an individualistic viewpoint the action may be considered irrational (Atron, 2003). For instance, the death of a suicide bomber in an attack be it accident or planned is not the only variable that defines the rationality of the act (Nalbandov, 2013). The leaders who motivate them need to be accounted too. Political motivations and radicalizations are two different forms of terrors. For a terror act to be considered political it is required for certain groups to approve the act.
Max Abrahms ‘Natural Systems Theory’ is a critique of the rational choice theory and all the points that the theory takes for granted (Abrahms, 2008). As anomalies for the rational choice model, Abrahm in an article presents with certain puzzles. The first argument is that terrorism cannot be rational because it’s ineffective. But the argument has serious flaws in that he selects only those groups that are yet to achieve their objectives and also fails to explore alternatives upon which the terrorists may rely or their perceptions. Also, he undermines the rational model by suggesting that terrorists do not resort to terrorism because they have no other go and do not choose to abandon the struggle to become non-violent. But according to the rational theory there is no suggestion that terrorists have to adopt a variety of options before resorting to violence. The statement about abandoning struggle also seems weak without empirical support (Chenoweth et al, 2009).
Failing to compromise does not prove irrationality. There may be extreme aims that the violators have that preclude compromise and this has nothing to with undermining the applicability of rational choice theory. Also, according to Abrahms the unstable goals and objectives of the terrorists that tend to change with time refutes the concept of rational theory. This can happen due to the reason that over a period of time survival becomes the basic goal and during such times they may take up political objectives as their core. Lastly the persistence of terrorism even though their objectives have become obsolete is the biggest challenge to the rational theory.
According to the natural systems theory, terrorist organizations are encouraged by the quest for solidarity and not for achieving precise political goals. The truth is that there are organizations that are strategic, that is, complying with the rational choice theory or those that comply with natural systems for solidarity or those that follow both. Their behavior need not be consistent over the course of their operation. Some of the groups have managed to subordinate their activities to their political goals and some others have subordinated their goals to their activities. Abrahm’s assumption that the political violence is irrational and thus refutes the strategic model is a serious issue. It may irrational but it cannot be considered strategic in that there are two basic goals of any terrorist movement that is to either wing concessions from the government and to achieve hegemony in the rebel group.
For instance, movement like Fatah strives for more than just independence by aiming to constitute the government of the future. The recent struggle between Hamas and Fatah for control over Palestinian authority suggests that political violence can be motivated by strategic thinking. Abrahm’s claim that to terrorists, terrorism can never be the last resort is refuted by the African National Congress which resorted to terrorism only towards the end of their struggle against the South African white government. Also, the strategic motivations of al-Qaeda have been demonstrated by its exclusively targeting only the states that have a military presence in Iraq. Absence of rationality makes terrorism as something carried out for the sole purpose of sustenance (Chenoweth et al, 2009).
Fanon and Cabral are commonly defined as “Terrorist Leaders”. Yet what drove them to violence was different, as were the tactics and strategy they had adopted. Comment and elaborate.
Fanon found himself involved in the Algerian revolution when he was practicing his psychiatry in Algeria. He was a Martinique by native was African by his ancestry who studied medicine in France. All this thoughts on revolution was basically formed on his experiences in Algeria. He emphasized the historic specificity of the colonial situations and the implications for political struggle. Cabral on the other hand organized and led the revolution in the country of his birth, Guinea-Bissau. A student in Lisbon, an agronomist working for the Portuguese government he surveyed the agricultural resources of his country and his theories were based on his experiences when he turned a revolutionist. Cabral’s early influences on revolution were by his father who was a politically conscious man and was of the opinion that the government was not doing good by the population which reflected strongly on Cabral (Bernard, 1971).
Many of the themes and concerns in the theory of Fanon were also central to the theories of Cabral. They were both initially men of peace. Both first tried to obtain benefits via tranquil waters at first and when it didn’t work they had to revert to political violence. Fanon did not advocate violence for the sake of it but to facilitate authentic complete decolonization. According to Fanon, violence and revolution are the extreme form of political struggle (Museveni, 1971). To him, the colonial situation in Algeria was perpetuated by colonial violence and hence it was mandatory that revolutionary violence be used to end it. While working in a hospital in Algeria, Fanon tried his best to facilitate through legitimate channels but was compelled to join the rebels. At the same time, Cabral formed PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde which had employed peaceful methods for three years before turning to violence. Also, Fanon and Cabral had sharp contrasts in their analysis of classes (Alumona, 2006). And unlike Fanon, Cabral was not preoccupied with violence. Cabral did not devote too much emphasis on violence even though he realized it was important. But he believed violence needs to be used only as a response to violence. Fanon’s generalizations often did not include support from evidence and were sometimes contradictory.
Both of them were in agreement when it came to certain aspects of the African revolution but differed in detail and emphasis (Ayers, 2008). Cabral was comparatively more explicit even though it was their opinion the revolution meant more than just a struggle for independence. Fanon’s psychiatric profession made him consider independence as something that must be taken for a complete liberation. But Cabral’s vision included all the broad aspects of revolution and emphasized and appreciated the everyday work of struggle as crucial which was lacking in Fanon’s revolution. His struggle included fighting for more than just ideologies but for benefits in the form materials, better conditions and a greater future for the next generation. It was more than liberty and independence but also concerned the pressing issues and grievance locally. Cabral’s revolution was thorough as it linked daily struggles of people to the revolution for a true victory political action, armed action and reconstruction of nation was important. But Fanon paid no attention to the details and was more interested in encouraging the revolution than on organizing. His revolution was based on two things, physical struggle to obtain independence and after independence to build a socialist nation (Blackey, 1974).
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