The Origins of Modern Terrorism

By The Editor of English\ Kalahan Deng

Written by Kalahan Deng

Some people may have concluded that the so called terrorism has started with the former Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, but the history might tell us something else or contradict our understanding in regard to our perception of the word terrorism in general . Therefore, let’s trace the origins of modern terrorism.

The ideological and practical roots of terrorism first came to be associated with the radical democrats of the early 1800’s. Many criminologist analysts agree that modern terrorism emerged with the originations of the people’s will along the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917.

Modern terrorism came to Ireland with the Irish Republican Army. In fact, the meaning of terrorism is in constant changes, it is a concept, and means different things at different times.

According to Jenkins, terrorism is the use of threat or force designed to bring about a political change. On the other definition by Laqueur, who defines terrorism as what constitutes the illegitimate use of force to achieve a political objective by targeting innocent people. But Crenshaw stepped up and said, “Terrorism cannot be defined unless the act, target, and possibility of success are analyzed.”

And finally, Barnett’s definition to terrorism stands odd with other definitions where he defines terrorists that they do not have a vested interest in maintaining economic and political structure because they do not benefit from them. Therefore, terrorists fight outside of the rules.

I do not understand where the analyst Barnett got the idea that terrorism do not benefit and maintain economic and political structures. For that reason I would like us to look into how terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and others finance their terrorist activities.

Let’s consider these points and see whether terrorist groups do not benefit and maintain economic and political structures as Barnett claimed:

  • Terrorist groups fashioned a small army out of a mix of foreign and local fighters, established oil refining and trafficking operations, and even collect taxes.
  • Mostly brought it’s own local funding
  • There may be some foreign money flowing into ISIS. Even stopping the transitional flows will not prevent the group.
  • Raises most of their money from the territories they prey on, making the problem of beating back the group difficult
  • Raises much of the money just as well as a well-organized criminal gang would (smuggling, extorts, fences, kidnaps and shakes down)
  • Most important revenue source right now is the smuggling of oil from the oil fields they control in Syria and Iraq
  • Been reported to control a dozen oil fields along with several refineries
  • Estimates of revenue vary from a range of $1 million to more than $2 million a day.

And now back to the concept of modern terrorism that started in the west. The radical democrats believed political power should be held common, wealth belonged to everybody, and all institutions should be democratic, i.e., socialism. Whereby, the upper and middle classes frequently believed terrorism and socialism was the same thing. By the 1850’s, the radical democrats divided into two streams: militant socialists and more peaceful socialists. Later, both groups began to refer to their movements as anarchism, which means eliminations of all forms of governments. For example, Marx Saw centralized government as a necessary evil and the government had to exist to protect the individual rights of citizens. Bakunin and Nechaev formed the campaign of the people’s will which was launched in the late 1870’s seeking to terrorize the government, the Orthodox Church, the police, and the military into submission. These groups succeed to kill Tsar Alexander II, the Russian ruler in May 1881. On the European side, modern terrorism came to Ireland in 1919 when Michael Collins, after the American civil war, Irish soldiers who fought for the North set their attention to Ireland. They were unable to fight the English directly; they allied themselves with other Irish people in an underground campaign to create a Republic of Ireland free from British control.

Collin’s group used bombs, murder, ambushes, and other terrorist tactics to fight the loyalist Protestant Police Force and the British Army. From 1970-1990, IRA adopted bombing as the primary tactic, kidnapping and killing adversaries at established roadblocks. They also carried out series of assassinations of government officials, enemy terrorists, Catholics who worked for compromise, and police officers and soldiers.

Today, terrorism is dominated by religion and ideologies that seem to serve as surrogate religions, radical and ethnic divisions. Therein, it is significant to consider the issues that helped to shape modern terrorism that emerged in the nineteenth-century revolutions and current terrorism networks in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, Russia, North America, Asia, and elsewhere in the world.

Today terrorist groups are in constant reinforcement of antisocial behaviour in terrorist groups produces conforming behaviour inside the organization. Terrorist leaders must be able to inspire members to action and constantly search for more demonized enemies. If the group rewards antisocial behaviours, the individual is further motivated to attack the norm. For example, groups like ISIS and other terrorists are living in a culture that value guns, violent confrontations, and victory. Religious terrorists believe that violence keeps their ideas alive, violence also serves to undermine moderates who seek peaceful solutions.

Most interestingly, ISIS groups and Al-Qaeda do view terrorism as a full time activity in order to achieve their personal gains under their religious banner.