Combating Terrorism

Adapted for website  – GP tuition / O-level tuition articles-  copyright Knowledge Skills LLP
Adapted from Steven Metz

Gp tuition - terrorism

Surprisingly, despite the tragic and international repercussions from 9/11, exam questions on terrorism are not too common. Some schools cover it briefly under “Conflict”. Others will discuss it under “Crime & Punishment” or “War”. Whatever the content category, it is undeniably a defining characteristic of the early 21st century. The recent atrocities of ISIS only foregrounds its extent and pertinence.

Regardless whether it will come out as an a GP or O-level English compre topic or essay question, some understanding of the matter would help.

With adaptation from Steven Metz, we can explore the basic and most approachable question at the A-level standards: Can terrorism be eradicated?

Years from now, historians will likely label the opening years of the twenty-first century the “Age of Terrorism.”  While most of the world recognizes the problem, there are very different views on its causes and cures.

Point #1.

Terrorism is fueled by anger and frustration.
Radicals use the inability to attain political objectives peacefully to inspire fanatical action and to justify forms of violence normally considered unacceptable. Beyond this basic point, however, there is less agreement on why frustration and anger lead to terrorism in some cases but not in others. Moreover, there are two broad schools of thought as to the appropriate response when they do fuel extremist violence.

Approach – brief outline (to be elaborated during tuition lessons)
One school believes that modern terrorism cannot be eradicated, or that the costs of doing so are unacceptably high. For this group, the only logical policy is to “ride out the storm” by ending policies which increase anger and frustration, and improving intelligence and defenses.

The second school of thought contends that terrorism can be eradicated by addressing its root causes.

For example, American policy  believes that terrorism is rooted in the absence of political and economic opportunity. The solution is therefore the creation of fair and open political and economic systems that can eliminate anger and frustration through peaceful means. Extremists might still exist, but they would be marginalized, finding few recruits or supporters. This might explain the US administration’s great enthusiasm to impose and set up democracy in these troubled areas.

For this point, you might need to address . . . [truncated – filed under non-website notes]

Point # 2

Terrorism is not so much about the lack of political opportunity but about poverty

It can be argued that poverty and terrorism is very closely intertwined. Of course care must be taken not to write repetitive points if you have already covered economic opportunities. One way to up your content marks is by elaboration. What do you mean by ‘economic opportunities”, what is “poverty’? What evidence is there to support that the confluence of such factors leads to terrorism? Addressing this means you are already beginning your evaluation. Furthermore, by discussing how such factors can or cannot be addressed, you are then starting to show relevance. Next you should . . . [truncated]

Further elaboration

Unfortunately, every approach has shortcomings. The belief that terrorism cannot be eradicated assumes that the ability to tolerate terrorist attacks – to “ride out the storm” – is greater than the willingness of terrorists to persist, or even escalate the attacks. By taking an essentially passive position, this approach might merely prolong the Age of Terrorism needlessly. Moreover, appeasement is based on the dangerous assumption that the extremists’ objectives are limited – that once they attain their stated goals by using violence, they will become responsible members of the world community.

Bin Laden’s position – that terrorism will end when the Islamic world expels outside influence – is ethically and analytically flawed. On the one hand, it would condemn hundreds of millions to live in repressive Iranian- or Taliban-style theocracies. On the other hand, the idea that poverty and repression in the Islamic world are engineered from outside simply does not stand up to scrutiny.

Finally, the belief that democracy and economic reform will undercut terrorism is based on a series of assumptions that may or may not prove accurate. For instance, it assumes that terrorists and their supporters do not understand their own anger. But extremists say explicitly that their anger is caused by the injustice of the global system and the repressive policies of powerful states. Closed political systems and stagnant economies in the Muslim world, they contend, are symptoms, not causes.

The American position also assumes that fundamental political and economic change is feasible and affordable – that open political and economic systems can be sustained with only modest effort – because the desire for freedom and prosperity is universal. While true, it is not clear that a willingness to tolerate the freedom of others, which democracy requires, is equally widespread. In some societies, democracy is simply a way for the majority to repress the minority. In others, stability or justice is more important than political freedom.

(if you are unsure about these points, please refer to the GP tuition notes on Politics: The Pros and Cons of Democracy)

Finally, this perspective assumes that democracies will be willing or able to control radicalism and crack down on extremists. But history suggests that new, fragile democracies are more likely to attempt to placate radicals than to eliminate them, and that terrorists can exploit democratic governments’ respect for civil rights and the rule of law.

The horrible truth is that failure to eradicate the root causes of terrorism is almost certain to extend the Age of Terrorism, it is not clear that they really can be eradicated. To appease the extremists might be easy but may not work. To allow them to win would be to accept the supremacy of evil. To promote democracy and open government might be the ultimate solution, but it stands on a shaky conceptual foundation of untested assumptions about the nature of the world and diverse cultures.

This is of course just an outline to help you understand the conceptual problems. For a GP-level essay or an O level english essay, a simpler but still well-grounded approach can be applied. Selected points will be covered in later notes.

End of excerpt – For GP tuition / O-level English content

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