Combating Terrorism

Combating Terrorism


Dr. Ali S. Awadh Asseri

(Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon)

Terrorism in Practice


Terrorism is an activity that has some immediate purposes and some long-term goals. Almost all the leading works on terrorism discuss the purposes and goals of terrorism. Weinberg has attempted to summarize them. According to him, as for purposes of terrorism, the first one is simply to terrify: the perpetrators of terrorist acts often hope to create a generalized sense of anxiety and fear among the public. If people become terrified, they may become immobilized and incapable of mounting a coherent response to the dangers they confront. Thus, people who become direct victims of terrorist violence are only acting as a means to intimidate a wider public audience. It is this multiplier psychological effect of terrorism that makes it a more serious act of politically motivated violence as compared to other forms of such violence, including civil war, guerrilla warfare or even war. Terrorists choose targets and actions to maximize the psychological impact on a society or a government. Their goal is to create a situation in which a government will change its policies to avoid further bloodshed or disruption. For these reasons, terrorists often choose methods of mass destruction such as bombing. They are also prone to targeting transportation or other such crowded places to increase anxiety and fear among people. Terrorist act by spreading fear among a mass audience and giving attention to the terrorist cause.[1] 

     According to Weingberg, a second purpose motivating those who carry out terrorist attacks is attention or publicity for whatever cause they claim to embody. Previously obscure causes, or previously unknown groups, achieve instant celebrity through the mass media when a terrorist attack is shown to a live television audience.

     A third purpose is to provoke an over-reaction by the authorities so that the terrorist entity can win more recruits from among an aggrieved population sympathetic to their cause, but unwilling to adopt terrorist means to achieve it.

     Finally, terrorist groups commit especially dramatic or lethal attacks in order to polarize the situation and make a compromise settlement between two (or more) contending sides harder to achieve. Atrocities may be used to prevent moderate forces from reaching an agreement. Or, if an agreement appears to be in the immediate offing, terrorists may act as 'spoilers' by sabotaging peace negotiations and re-inflaming a troubled situation.[2]

(To Be Continued)

[1] Weingberg, op. cit., pp. 4-5

[2] Ibid