PS 360: International Terrorism
Terrorists are often times assumed to be "insane" or "psychopaths" individuals whose activities are irrational, and their terror attacks are both unpredictable and indiscriminate. This initial conception, however, has taken a different turn as many studies have been conducted to demonstrate the rationality of terrorist groups. Several of these studies have shown that terrorist groups hold various purposeful motivations and goal- oriented objectives. Their decision- making is carefully thought out, and their actions are well- calculated to achieve successful results. Whether these groups are secular or religious terrorist groups, they are guided by their own ideologies allowing them to take on violent actions, which they eventually attempt to justify in their own terms.
To begin with, it is important to identify the motives and ideologies that drive individuals to joining terrorist groups in the first place and why they eventually resort to violence. It is worth noting that it’s often the young, educated, middle-class and normal individuals who choose terrorism in order to search for opportunities that they believe have been taken from them by a society (Ferracuti, 53). Many of those individuals feel the need to rebel against those who pressure them and join terrorist groups, which allow them to promote and practice the values they believe in. For instance, the New Left terrorist groups attracted a lot of these individuals, offering them a sense of purpose against a government that they did not trust and did not adhere to their particular needs. Thus, this can be seen as their key reason for why they join terrorist groups, blaming the society. At the same time, the ideology of politically motivated groups frequently allows them to justify their violence and blame their opponents for forcing them to choose the path of violence. The New Left wanted a revolution, a total transformation of all existing conditions, a Utopian world, and they believed that the use of violence was the only method it could achieve that (Kellen, 51). Likewise, for the West German terrorists, their political protests towards the Vietnam War were not responded to and thus they turned to violence (Kellen, 47). This belief that other methods don’t work became a common theme amongst many terrorist groups as well.
However, this shift toward violence for many of these groups was a gradual process. As Sprinzak demonstrates, the process of delegitimation through which ideological terrorism is formed involves three stages: crisis of confidence, conflict of legitimacy and crisis of legitimacy. In the first stage, the crisis of confidence, the groups lose confidence in the political leadership of the State. They begin to refuse by playing according to the established political rules and instead try to establish their own ways (Spinzak, 80). Following up, conflict of legitimacy is where the groups discover that the government can mislead and manipulate them, thus they channel their frustrations into a form of protest. Not only do they develop an ideology of delegitimation, they also respond with intense political action, to the application of small-scale violence (Sprinzak, 81). Lastly, the crisis of legitimacy is the stage where a dehumanization of everyone involved with the political system occurs. At this point, all the earlier clusters of the process of radicalization are brought together and a complete transformation takes place as the groups fully turn to strategic terrorism (Spinzak, 83). This process, yet again, can be seen as another “rational” reason for why these groups were not just some lunatics who became terrorists because they were “isolated and their psyche was split or suffered from low esteem; rather it involved a group of true believers who challenged authority long before they become terrorists, recruited followers, clashed with the public agencies of law enforcement from a