Is terrorism a legitimate political strategy

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To answer this question we need to examine the definitions of “Terrorism” and “Legitimate. ” Terrorism is defined in the English dictionary as. “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons”. (www. dictionary. com). Legitimate is defined as “Being in compliance with the law; lawful. ” (www. dictionary. com).

By examining the two definitions it is clear to see that the two words are so different there is no way they could fit together, one being lawful and one being unlawful, however it is not that simple often Terrorism is employed as a strategy by political parties as well as just terrorist organisations to achieve their goals. An example of where political parties have employed terrorism, as a tactic is Sinn Fein in Ireland. Yet these political parties mostly continue to operate unhindered with its key members rarely being imprisoned or bought to trial.

So the fact that so many Political Parties around the word employ terrorism as a political strategy must support the notion that terrorism is indeed a legitimate political strategy. What is the purpose of Terrorism? Nearly all acts of terrorism are carried out for political reasons, whether it is to bring about revolution, or to bring a state to its knees and collapse, or to humiliate the targeted country and its people or simply for publicity. In recently years it has been the latter two that have been the most common reasons for terrorist attacks.

With the advances in media news of an attack can spread round the world in seconds and offer those responsible massive media coverage, the 9/11 attacks offered media coverage on an unprecedented scale. Terrorists will argue that the use of violence is legitimate as they see their actions as a just cause, eradicating evil or corrupt regimes. Also Terrorist groups would argue that the state they are against uses violence and has an army and so they say they are at war with that state and in war anything is legitimate.

Morozov saw Terrorism as “cost effective” as it used very small numbers of people but inflicted maximum damage. So Terrorism is a very effective strategy for the terrorist groups as it involves small numbers of their own people and they get massive results whilst brining attention to their cause, to them this justifies and legitimises their actions. The Government of The United States of America does not follow this view.

It produced a document in 2003 called “The National strategy for combating Terrorism” This document states that terrorism is “Premeditated, Politically motivated violence against non-combatant targets” (The 9/11 commission report Authorized edition, 2003. p. 3) it also goes on to suggest that the terrorists who carry out these crimes are “misguided” in their belief that “Killing, kidnapping, extorting, robbing, and wreaking havoc to terrorize people are legitimate forms of political action. (The 9/11 commission report Authorized edition, 2003, p. 3). The document suggests the Idea, that the use of terror is “legitimate” is a “fundamental problem enabling terrorism to grow” (The 9/11 commission report Authorized edition, 2003,p. 6). Also The United States Government state that all terrorist groups are illegal whether they are supported/run by states or independent “we will not compromise on the essential principle that there are no “good” or “just” terrorists. “(The 9/11 commission report Authorized edition, 2003, P18).

The document goes on to say that it is determined to win the “War of Ideas” and make it clear “all acts of terrorism are illegitimate” (The 9/11 commission report Authorized edition, 2003p. 23). This Document makes it very clear that the Untied States Government believes that terrorism in no way, shape or form can be thought of as Legitimate so it cannot be called a legitimate political strategy. According to “Terrorism and Political Violence” a journal published in 1990 by Leonard Weinberg and William Eubank, it depends on which definition of “political party” you take as to which side of the argument you back.

He asserts that some definitions “restrict its meanings to organisations which accept the legitimacy of the prevailing political order or the ones that operate in national contexts where an atmosphere of pluralism exists. ” (Leonard Weinberg and William Eubank, 1990,p. 128). Weinberg and Eubank also go on to suggest that most terrorist organisations first set out with political goals and intend to follow the “legitimate” role but after time these tend to get ” displaced by ones intended to maintain their internal cohesion.

The original political aims get lost as the group’s leadership seek to retain the follower’s commitments” (Leonard Weinberg and William Eubank, 1990,p. 129). Weinberg and Eubank offer an explanation as to why these groups turn to terrorist activities. Failure at elections and the victorious party “proclaims its self the single legitimate expression of the peoples will and is able to modify the law accordingly” (Leonard Weinberg and William Eubank, 1990,p. 129). In effect outlawing all other political parties or just extremist parties.

This is when these groups tend to start to turn their attention to terrorist activities and go “underground” as they see it as the only way that they can survive and get support for their cause. Weinberg and Eubank go on to state that “despite the reputations they currently enjoy” not all political parties were legitimate, and it is often forgotten how these parties came to power, They give the former government of the USSR as an example and of how the Leninist model “specialized in techniques for the promotion of revolutionary violence” (Leonard Weinberg and William Eubank, 1990, p. 30) or in other words terrorism, but all this was forgotten and the USSR was seen by the whole world as a legitimate political party and no attempt was taken to bring them to justice over their revolutionary action in 1917. This fact supports the notion that although terrorism is not a legitimate political strategy it is often overlooked therefore allowing it to become legitimate.

Weinberg and Eubank use the Irish Republican Army as another example to back up this claim as they formed Sinn Fein during the First World War, a political party that still “continues to contest elections toady in both the Republic and Ulster, even as the IRA continues to commit acts of terrorist violence” (Leonard Weinberg and William Eubank, 1990,p. 130) In 1986 the South Asian Association met with the intention of forming a “common Strategy for dealing with terrorism (The Times, 16/06/1986).

Ahmed Fazl a reporter for The Times wrote an article on this meeting entitled “Asian seven fail to reach terror pact. ” In this article he reported on the difficulties that faced the leaders of the nations on deciding which organisations were seen as terrorist and which were seen as an legitimate party. Mr Abdul Hamid Chowdhury of Bangladesh (at the time) when commenting on difficulties facing the convention said “…. member states were not unanimous on where legitimate political struggle ended and terrorism began,” (The Times, 16/06/1986).

An article from the Guardian in April 2002 supports and outlines the difficulties in identifying Terrorism presented in the previous article. It states how Yasser Arafat’s “embrace of the Suicide bombers” has led to the bombers being “recognised as legitimate, even by Israel” It goes on to suggest that Ariel Sharon (leader of Israel) is happy with the bombers being seen as legitimate as it allows him to “treat the Palestinian Authority as an enemy in a war” (The Guardian, 09/04/2002) and in turn freeing Israel from Political obligations and legitimising its actions.

This article also discusses acts of terrorism from other countries, its says that “national liberation groups” want political recognition for their goals and when they do not get it they resort to “shocking, well-publicised acts of violence. ” The article goes on to suggest that to give in to such acts is “dangerous, for it legitimises terror as a political strategy. ” (The Guardian, 09/04/2002.

Both of these article put forward the idea that there is a very fine line between freedom fighters and terrorist’s and it depends on your political persuasion as to what you see these groups as. They also support the views presented by Weinberg and Eubank in the previous paragraph that certain political parties and governments are often over looked and other countries turn a blind eye to their terrorist’s policies. These regimes policies are then legitimised.

Most Terrorists do not regard themselves as Terrorists but as “freedom fighters”, “liberators”, “martyrs” or “legitimate fighters for a noble social cause. ” (The Library of Congress, The sociology and psychology of Terrorism: Who becomes a Terrorist and why? , 2002) This document goes on to suggest that most terrorist’s “loathe” to be seen as terrorist’s as they see themselves as “Freedom Fighters. ” The document also suggests that the few that do not care being called Terrorists are “so committed” and recognised that their actions are “Terroristic” to worry about this.

This information is useful in answering the question as it gives us an insight in to a terrorist’s mind, the majority of them truly believe that what they are doing is correct and therefore legitimate, so it is no wonder that so many people feel terrorism is a legitimate political strategy. In conclusion it is impossible to say that Terrorism is legitimate as the definition states is “unlawful” and there is no getting round this fact. As for saying Terrorism is a legitimate political strategy this is completely wrong as a political party must be “lawful. It is impossible to say Terrorism is a legitimate political strategy. The argument to support terrorism as being a legitimate political strategy is fundamentally flawed as they see it as being a just and noble cause and therefore the action is just and legitimate. The reason it is flawed is because if the argument was taken literally there would be no law and order in the world, as you could justify speeding to get to work on time as a just cause, and therefore the action you took was legitimate.

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