Dissertation Wikileaks Osama

Terrorism, one may argue, has existed for as long as man himself. Regardless of its aims, terrorism has throughout time continually changed in form due to ever changing factors such as; the perpetrators, means, motivation and the victims. Subsequently so have the methods with which to counter terrorism. Since the beginning of the twenty-first century there has been a stark shift in the global perception of terrorism and its cause. As a consequence of such a shift it is fair to say that there has been a direct change in the measures taken in order to halt terrorism.

This dissertation seeks to discuss the origins and rise of radical Islam as the new so called ‘terror’ and the subsequent development and transition of counter-terrorism in the post September 11th 2001 period.

Specifically, this essay seeks to discuss the development of counter-terrorism in relation to the pivotal concept of radical Islam. Rightly or wrongly radical Islam is perceived as the modern day global ‘terror’ and it will be used in this dissertation in order to assess the evolution of counter-terrorism in the twenty first century. Employing a realist perspective this paper will address the development of counter-terrorism by also considering specific case studies, such as the counter-terrorist measures and resulting policies in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Studying how different countries differ in their counter-terrorist approach will serve to gauge exactly how counter-terrorism has evolved.  It is equally important that this essay take into consideration the vulnerability of such terms as ‘terrorism’ and ‘counter-terrorism’ as they are susceptible to political manipulation and a varied interpretation. A focus upon the actual definition and meaning of these terms is necessary before a full analysis can be made.

One of the methods used to study the on-going war on terror will be that of the realist perspective, examining how states themselves act in cooperating and sharing counter-terrorism information. Using the realist perspective is particularly useful as counter-terrorism tends to be driven by states and governments. A quasi-scientific comparative method will be employed, with a comparison of two states; the United States and the United Kingdom, in order to gauge how counter-terrorism has fundamentally changed and to what extent states may differ in their respective approaches. However the realist approach does not account for non-state actors such as terrorists. Therefore a discussion of the role of culture found in the social constructivist approach, as well the role of individual interpretation under the liberal perspective will be discussed in reference to the formulation of counter-terrorism policy

A particular focus on the balance between hard and soft power will also be made. This idea of soft power was first discussed by Joseph Nye, he states rather than the use of force, with hard power, soft power relies more on discussion and debate, employing ideological persuasion (Nye 1991, pages 259-60). I hypothesise that with the recent surge of radical Islamist groups, counter-terrorism has shifted to a more hard power approach and that the use of soft power has been disregarded, thus limiting the effectiveness of counter-terrorism.

In short by employing a wide range of sources this essay aims to study the development of counter-terrorism in response to globalised radical Islam and conclude upon its actual effectiveness.

The Origins of Radical Islam 

Before the founding of the first Islamic system of government, founded by the holy prophet Muhammad in the 7th century and known as the ‘Caliphate’, religion and politics were two domains in Arab society and not one. The establishment of the Caliphate, in essence a constitutional republic, founded a governmental system based on religious belief. This remained in place until the demise of the Ottoman Empire in the early part of the 20th Century (Hoffman 2006, page 96). This system facilitated the embedding of Islam in politics and the evolution of Islam into a political system. In the present day, the mixing of political and religious ideology is heavily criticised especially between the progressive secularisation of western politics as opposed to the traditionally Islamic states of the east. Studying Western governments there is a visible move towards liberalism and a strong break from religious ideology which sharply contrasts with the governments and the electors of the eastern Islamic states, many of whom are concerned with implementing Islam as the rule of law. This difference in preference of government is the first point which influences perceptions over what is now called ‘radical Islam’. Between the 7th and 20th century religious government in the east was not necessarily seen as ‘radical’, however, given the growing distance ideologically between Western and Eastern politics, Islamic states and groups of people are being labelled as ‘radical’. This is not to say that certain states and groups do not warrant such a title.

During the decline of the Ottoman period Islamic ideologists such as Jamal ad-din al-Afghani (1837–97), Muhammad Abduh (1849–1905) and Rashid Rida (1865–1935), proposed methods compatible with Islam to resolve the political and economic problems of the empire (Hourani 2005, page 307-8). Following the end of the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire between the periods of 1918-1923, the Caliphate was dismantled and this created a new dynamic within the established Islamic nations. For the first time Islam itself and the role of religion in governance came under influence from ideas of democracy and secularism (Hoffman 2006, page 96). The demise of the Caliphate also affected the unification of Muslim lands and people. Previously having a strong unity, the ‘Community of Believers’ or ‘Ummah’ in Arabic, was also under threat with the founding of new states created by the occupying western powers (Ali 1992, page 3-44).  In the aftermath of the Ottoman Empire and under the formation of new Western imposed states, Muslims in general took a quietist approach to the new systems of governance which they were now forced to adhere by. The quietist approach declares a move away from human agency in political matters and combines patience and the belief that there will be a time in which whatever is decreed by ones philosophy will inevitably come to fruition, in the case of Islam by the will of Allah (Cudsi & Hilal 1981, page 21-2).

Throughout the Middle East and the wider Muslim world the majority of Muslims in the period directly after the Ottoman demise adopted this approach, until the creation of the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ in Egypt. In 1928 Hassan Al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Banna did not create the Muslim Brotherhood with any explicit political purpose and its primary focus in the beginning was to restore Islam into the personal lives of individuals. Nevertheless, it’s growing influence and support amongst Egyptians led to the group having a much greater political role than foreseen. Al-Banna’s philosophy was, however, rooted in anti-Western rhetoric and he opposed various Western values and systems, be it economic, political or social (Roy & Sfeir 2007, page 80). The Muslim Brotherhood were known to have held strong criticism regarding the Egyptian monarchy and in 1948, with the background of the on-going Arab-Israeli War, it was suspected that the group may attempt a coup d’état. Promptly Egyptian Prime Minister Nuqrashi Pasha was assassinated by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and immediately Al-Banna issued a statement denouncing the use of terrorism and claiming it to be contradictory to Islam, however he, himself, was a victim of a retaliatory assassination (Roy & Sfeir 2007, page 71). This shows an inconsistency between terrorist and religious ideology at the time.

In the post-Al-Banna period the Muslim Brotherhood as a party became increasingly extreme, notably in the period of Egyptian ruler General Gamal Abdel Nasser. The Muslim Brotherhood was very discontent with the secular nationalism encouraged by Nasser’s government. The main protagonist against Nasser was Sayid Qutb who was a leading figure within the Brotherhood (Hourani 2005, page 446).  Qutb was highly critical towards western ideas and attitudes in various domains. After studying in America and travelling extensively, Qutb published an article named “The America that I Have Seen“. He criticised many facets of what he saw as an American lifestyle: he argued that American society was individualistic, materialistic, had an unhealthy obsession in sports, an indecent attitude to the mixing of the sexes and lacked meaningful conversation and depth in friendship (Von Drehle, Smithsonian 2006). Qutb also argued the economic system was based on exploitation (Hourani 2005, page 445). In Egypt, Nasser had by now developed a strong pro-secularist ideology that was visibly inconsistent with the Islamist ideology of the Brotherhood. This demonstrates the struggle between groups within Islamic countries to agree upon a complete and proper system of government. This push and pull, struggle for power was not and is not exclusively between the east and west.

It was during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 that Palestinian born Abdullah Yusuf Azzam preached the need for a defensive jihad and encouraged Muslims to either donate to the Afghan mujahideen or to travel to Afghanistan and take up arms in defence of their Muslim brothers and sisters (Calvert 2010, page 6). It is at this time that Islamism began to take on a transnational, globalised dimension, crossing borders and vast areas. After receiving his doctorate in Egypt, Azzam travelled to Saudi Arabia and became a lecturer at the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah (Volkan 2004, page 152). Saudi Arabia, steeped in its Wahhabi religious movement, provided fertile ground for the development and spread of Islamism. It is believed that during the period in which Azzam lectured in Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden, then a student, made contact with Azzam and decided to join the fight against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (Volkan 2004, page 152). Osama bin Laden was a fervent reader of Qutb and his ideas of religious jihad, this also enforced his anti-western views (Riedel 2010, page 41).

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Bin Laden funded and helped Azzam set up the group Maktab al-Khidamat (Roy & Sfeir 2007, page 80). This group provided housing in Pakistan and paramilitary training camps in Afghanistan on which international recruits who wanted to help the Afghan mujahideen could be trained and learn how to fight in the war against the Soviet Union (Jacquard 2002, page 59). Apart from gaining the funding of rich Arab individuals such as Osama Bin Laden, Maktab al-Khidamat also managed to gain funding from the CIA, with America viewing the Soviet invasion as a proxy war between their capitalist ideology and the Communist ideology of the Soviet Union (Dreyfuss 2005, page 279-80). This would indicate that at the time of the Soviet War in Afghanistan, the United States of America did not consider the mujahideen or Maktab al-Khidamat as a terrorist threat. In fact the United Kingdom was also a strong supporter of the Afghan mujahideen (Partridge, The Guardian 2011).

Consequently it is fair to assume that these groups had not initially been basing their actions on a hatred for the West, however, over time the focus has changed and some argue that it is as a result of damaging foreign policy. In the formation of Maktab al-Khidamat and the gathering of what are now prominent terrorist figures we can see the seeds of the 9/11 attack being sown. A dangerous and extreme ideology based upon individual interpretation of holy text was now set in motion. Although Azzam propagated defensive jihad it would seem that such an ideology would later be further developed by supporters into a more extreme theory and later be used to reason the attack on the U.S.A.

After the mujahideen defeated the Soviet troops into withdrawing and the death of Azzam in Peshawar in 1989 (Roy & Sfeir 2007, page 80), Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri, the ex-leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, began to lay the foundations for a new group, Al-Qaeda (Riedel 2010, page 45).

The difference with the inception of Al-Qaeda compared to its predecessors is that it strongly believed in a new sense of religious jihad. This was obviously different from the defensive jihad which Azzam had previously preached. Azzam had taken the approach that jihad should be fought in response to those who invade the lands of Muslims and should therefore be an act of self-defence (Mayer 2009, page 7). Al-Zawahiri, a keen Islamic theologian, developed a new interpretation of jihad whilst leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. His new interpretation of jihad derived from his understanding of the concept of ‘takfir’ (Samar edited by Hating 2009, page 285). Takfir is the notion that one can declare an individual as a non-Muslim through their denouncing of certain articles of faith (Marty & Appleby 1996, page 157). Al-Zawahiri took this concept further and argued that takfir can be applied to the state and those that support a state not compatible with the Sharia (Mayer 2009, page 7). Extremists tend to support this interpretation of takfir, which also views the death penalty as punishment for such an offence (Falk & Morgenstern 2009, page 43). It is through this interpretation that Al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden justify attacks against states and their supporters. In their eyes a state becomes an enemy of Islam by acting against the will of Sharia law, in turn they argue that those people who support the government are apostates and that therefore the killing of such people is religiously acceptable (Doran edited by Hoge Jr & Rose 2001, page 35). Radical Islam here is the result of a certain group’s interpretation of religion and this is where it originates in this particular form.

Unfortunately the ability to separate radical Islam from moderate Islam is sometimes lost within society. It is for this reason that Muslim communities globally feel persecuted and as a result are vulnerable to anti-Western rhetoric. Governments and states also have a difficult task in targeting potential radical Muslims but avoiding the persecution of the majority moderate Muslim community.

With the Soviet forces withdrawing from Afghanistan, it was at this point Bin Laden turned his attention to the west. After the founding of the new theory of religious jihad, Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda sought to identify states that satisfied their version of takfir. Bin Laden identified the relationship between the USA and Israel as a key factor in Israel’s continued political and economic success over many Arab nations (Miller 2009, page 6-9). Along with the US military presence in several Muslim lands including Bin Laden’s own country Saudi Arabia, Bin laden regarded the way to defeat Israel was to firstly defeat the US (Miller 2009, page 6-9). Bin Laden himself mentions the US support for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon as a defining moment,

when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way [and] to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women” (Bin Laden speech, Al Jazeera cited by Isaacs 2006, page 82).

With this in mind Bin Laden and Al Qaeda decided to declare war on the US and its allies.

The Aftermath of Terrorism and the Response of Counter-Terrorism

On September 11th 2001 one the most horrific and tragic events in American history took place. Four commercial airliners were hijacked by Al Qaeda members, two crashed into the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon and finally another which did not crash into its intended target but instead in rural Pennsylvania (Freedman 2002, page 1). It is estimated that 3,000 people died in the attacks (Freedman 2002, page 1). Prior to the attacks, combating terrorism did not feature highly in government policy. It is only after the September 11th attacks in 2001 that the threat of terrorism became apparent. This chapter hopes to give an insight into particular case studies; that of the September 11th attacks in 2001 and the London July 7th attacks in 2005. A clear knowledge and understanding of the direct link between these attacks and the subsequent U.S. and U.K. counter-terrorism response is necessary, as well as an insight into the rationale behind changes in counter-terrorism after the two attacks.

The attacks on September 11th 2001 changed the way in which terrorism and counter-terrorism were perceived. For many the attacks marked a clear shift in the perception of global religious and social interaction. After Osama Bin Laden claimed responsibility for the attacks it became clear to the U.S. government that if they persisted to neglect the political situation in countries such as Afghanistan that the terrorist threat to themselves may increase. Such countries were at risk of becoming magnets for extremism and a safe haven in which terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda could develop. Thus creating a base from which to plot attacks against the U.S. and its allies.

After the attacks on September 11th 2001 the immediate response of the US involved the launching of the War on Terror (English 2009, pages 99-100). The Taliban was handed an ultimatum to either give up Osama Bin Laden or to undergo war (CNN, 2001). This was motivated by the idea that in capturing Bin Laden and removing the Taliban the U.S. would limit the threat of terrorism and prevent Afghanistan becoming a breeding ground for extremist groups. With America’s allies, including the U.K, the war in Afghanistan was launched. Had it not been for the events of 9/11 the war in Afghanistan would not have commenced, however, the United States of America saw this war as a necessary step in countering terrorism.

The Iraq War was launched two years later and at the time those who supported the Iraq War often cited the need to combat terrorism in its justification (Feldman 2003, page 49). Further actions taken during the wars included the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo bay, as well as the creation of a democratic political system in Afghanistan and Iraq (Clarke, Imre & Mooney 2008, pages 44, 110 & 215). These were all big steps in international relations history and all part of the effort to counter terrorism.

Observers of the War on Terror should note that it has not just been confined to one particular country; the U.S. has furthered its operations in other countries and regions, which had not previously been considered a potential base for terrorist groups. The U.S has also carried out military operations in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen (Mirza, 2010, page 296). While at the same time, it has stepped up the pressure on other states which it sees as confrontational and working against the aims of the War on Terror. Countries which have been scrutinised heavily include Iran, Libya, Syria, North Korea and Cuba (Carus 2002, page 29). Although U.S. relations with Libya changed over time, the U.S. believed that the role and activities of the aforementioned nations within the international system should be discussed at a greater length. The U.S. encouraged its allies and the wider international community to take a much tougher stance towards these nations, viewing these nations suspiciously either because of their purported links to terrorist groups or their alleged willingness to pursue a nuclear weapons program, or potentially both (Crelinsten 2009, page 27). This more aggressive stance towards suspected threatening countries is of course necessary in order to find and destroy the terrorist threat. However, with the majority of Muslim populations being moderate it is difficult to win the fight against terrorism with aggression. Ultimatums, embargoes and sanctions are the expected governmental strategy when trying to crack down on terrorism, however, this creates a new enemy in the vast civil populations and works into the hands of terrorists and against counter-terrorism.

Prior to the Iraq War, in 2002 President George Bush Junior famously referred to an “axis of evil” consisting of many countries but naming three specifically; Iraq, Iran and North Korea (Crelinsten 2009, page 27). The U.S. and the U.K. also began to use more critical rhetoric and take a different strategy towards one of their major allies in the war on terror, Pakistan. Former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a public statement saying that 75% of terrorist attack plots originate from Pakistan (Coates, The Times, 2008). Similarly the current Prime Minister David Cameron has been more critical of Pakistan, upon his visit to India, Prime Minister Cameron stated that the Pakistani government while fighting extremism is also “promoting the export of terror” (Groves 2010, The Daily Mail). Although stating that Pakistan had made considerable progress against terrorism he went on to say that the Pakistani government was not doing enough and in some instances had been seen trying to “look both ways” on issues of terrorism (Groves 2010, The Daily Mail). The specific Pakistani state organisation which is believed to have adopted this contradictory stance is the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI (Groves 2010, The Daily Mail). As a result of the ISI’s links to terrorist organisations there has been considerable tension between the West and Pakistan, with much greater pressure on Pakistan to cease any activity which supports terror (Groves 2010, The Daily Mail). This shows the US and UK are also willing to criticise their allies in order to combat terrorism.

Both the U.S. and U.K. responded to the threat of terrorism by passing new laws to deal with terrorism and terrorist suspects. In the U.S. the Patriot Act was passed and in the U.K. the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was passed (Gearty edited by Miller 2009, page 89-90). These laws helped to increase the powers of the police and counter-terrorism agencies in the surveillance of suspects, it also gave police the ability to detain suspects without charge (Gearty edited by Miller 2009, page 89-90). Another area in which counter-terrorism is thought to have been strengthened legally is with the Extradition Act 2003. This was an agreement set out between the U.S. and U.K., which gave the U.S. the ability to try and convict U.K. citizens for crimes against the U.S. (Elagab & Elagab 2007, pages 649-51). In this respect it can be said that states have worked together more closely and intensely in order to prevent terrorist plots. Countering terrorism has truly become an international effort since the pivotal attack of 9/11.

Prior to the War on Terror, Canada and the United States of America shared one of the largest open borders in the world. However, after 9/11 there has been a lot of concern by both governments over the safety of such a border and the need for a security presence. They have since engaged in common border security (Warner 2010, page 331).  Again another illustration of greater state to state cooperation, in countering terrorism. Within the United Nations various forums have been opened up to discuss state cooperation against terrorism as well as the links between international crime and terrorism (Weinberg 2005, page 142).

The U.S. in response to the 9/11 attacks also decided that it needed a more comprehensive policy towards terrorism and security threats. With this in mind America created the Department of Homeland Security in 2002. The idea behind the creation of this department was to give the White House more control over security policy and converge members from different departments and organisations of counter-terrorism (9/11 Commission 2004, page 385). As part of a review on counter-terrorism an official 9/11 commission report was established (9/11 Commission 2004, preface, page xv). The commission was bipartisan in nature comprised of 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats. The Commission made many recommendations. These recommendations included the creation of the National Counterterrorism Centre and the Joint Intelligence Community Council (9/11 Commission 2004, pages 403-19). The idea behind creating such organisations was to further the progress of a unified counter-terrorist strategy. The Commission also suggested that there need be a greater focus on the tracking of finances given to terrorist groups as well as changes to airport security (9/11 Commission 2004, pages 382, 391-3). In terms of changes to airport security the commission recommended an enhanced no-fly list and an automatic selectee list (9/11 Commission 2004, page 391-3). The no-fly lists mean that those individuals who are viewed with suspicion are prohibited from boarding flights in and out of America. The automatic selectee list is an extension of this list, relating to passengers, who may have acted in a suspicious way in respect to purchasing their tickets or boarding the actual flight. All the changes recommended to airport security were overseen by the Transportation Security Administration, the creation of which was proposed a month after the 9/11 attacks took place (9/11 Commission 2004, page 391-3).

Here we have a policy based response by the United States of America and also an effort to avoid the mistakes of 9/11 by moulding a more unified counter-terrorism structure. Rather than working at the grass root level to prevent the spread radical Islam the American counter-terrorist departments are more concerned at an international level.

Alternatively, whilst it has been cited that the U.K. has increased police and state powers, it has also responded by funding community projects and even legitimate Islamic organisations. One example being the funding given to the Quilliam Foundation, which received over a million pounds in funding from the then Labour government (Kerbaj, The Times 2009). The belief is that through funding legitimate non-terrorist organisations and community projects the government is able to counter the spread and influence, of Islamist propaganda. By working at the grass root level, it is the potential terrorists of tomorrow who can be taken away from radical notions.

The introduction of the new terror laws in the U.K have made it easier for police forces to arrest those either disseminating extremist views or sympathising with extremists (BBC 2010). One area in which governments have adapted to the threat of radical Islam is also in the use of the internet. Counter-terrorism is constantly changing but even more so since the War on Terror commenced. The War on Terror transformed the way in which counter-terrorism personnel and agencies viewed their operations. Following the struggles in Afghanistan and Iraq and since September 11th 2001 the need to tackle and limit terrorist propaganda became more pressing for the American government.

The discovery of terrorist recruiting and training camps and the varied nationalities of known and suspected terrorists highlighted the growing global influence of such groups as Al-Qaeda. This group and others have been seen to propagate their cause by means of the worldwide Internet. Governments tackling terrorism have had to adapt counter-terrorism efforts and infiltrate the wide dissemination of terrorist material on the worldwide web.

Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups have for years been producing terrorist propaganda and in this respect have been one step ahead of state actors, they have been able to use the Internet without any measures being taken against them. Prior to the rise of video sharing websites such as YouTube, the Taliban and Al Qaeda used to spread their message by distributing videos in VHS or DVD format, containing anti-west speeches and the citation of incidents which they marketed as a victory or injustice in order to win support (Azami, BBC 2009). They have been known to continually send such propaganda to media channels such as Al-Jazeera. Since the rise of video sharing websites it has become much easier for such groups to propagate their cause (Arbadzadah, The Guardian 2009). These groups have also used websites to appeal for funding (The Telegraph 2007). More alarming these non-state actors are able to communicate without being tracked by using specific software called ‘Skype’ (Owen, The Daily Mail 2008).

As a counter measure the British government’s Communications Headquarters has put pressure on Skype to record all activities of its users (Owen, The Daily Mail 2008). The U.S. government has itself taken the initiative of creating its own Facebook page, YouTube site, as well as broadcasting messages regularly on Twitter (Fox News 2009). It is hoped that by taking these measures U.S. forces are able to dispel any propaganda created by terrorist groups and redress the balance in the fight for support. These are clear examples of the adaptation of counter-terrorist measures in the modern day.

In terms of actual physical attacks since 9/11 there have been many attacks thwarted by the United States’ and United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism forces. However, in the post 9/11 period the United Kingdom did suffer the July 7th attacks in 2005.  It is fair to say that there have been both successes and failures in the counter-terrorism process.

An Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Counter-Terrorism

On the day of September 11th 2001 an accumulation of errors by American counter-terrorist agencies led to a devastating loss of life. Have the counter-terrorist insufficiencies from that period been fully understood? And have the adequate responses been integrated and successfully implemented since?

Primary to assessing the effectiveness of counter-terrorism is questioning whether radical Islam has been fully understood by counter-terrorist organisations. The war on terror wishes to tackle terrorism that is propagated in the name of Islam and consequently it has the delicate task of confronting this type of terrorism without alienating the wider Muslim community. The fight between terrorist and counter-terrorist organisations is ultimately dependant on support and winning the hearts and minds of people. Counter-terrorism treads a very thin line whereby it attempts to destroy a problem but is also at risk of simultaneously increasing the problem. Specifically, the War on Terror is at risk of being perceived to be a war against Islam and thus creating enmity between the traditionally Christian west and the Islamic east.

Contextual literature on the subject of counter-terrorism gives a greater understanding as to how counter-terrorism operatives and organisations have developed their understanding of radical Islam. Although one does encounter a problem with writers on counter-terrorism, as they focus on a subjective field and therefore tend to fall into either one of two categories. The first being Orientalism or Occidentalism and the second being reductionism. Firstly the Orientalist and Occidentalist view is the approach adopted by certain writers which makes a clear distinction between east and west. These writers tend to view the ‘Muslim’ east as an inherent enemy towards the ‘Christian’ west either unable or unwilling to change. The accomplished theorist Edward Said famously criticised writers such as Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington who proposed the ‘Clash of Civilisations’ theory, arguing they fall into a western biased ethnocentric view of Arabs and Muslims (Chapter 18, Said, edited by Ó Tuathail, et al , 2006, pages 147-8). On the other hand, one may consider Edward Said and Nazih Ayubi to be reductionist. Reductionist in the sense that they disregard the potential for Islam to be viewed with political interpretations and seen as a holistic system for Muslims.

Furthermore, one may criticise these types of writers for not accounting for any cultural differences (Roy, 2007, pages 8, 23 & 48). Olivier Roy discusses this in his book ‘Secularism Confronts Islam’ (2007). Adversely this tendency to fall into one category or another means that writers either exaggerate or simplify when discussing issues relating to counter-terrorism. Also one must take into consideration that the secretive and confidential nature of counter-terrorism often means vital information may not be accessible to the general public or writers of this topic. As a consequence research findings and conclusions may be inaccurate and incomplete. This limits the scope and understanding of contextual literature. Thereby hindering the degree to which an informed assessment of counter-terrorism can be made.

The liberal perspective interprets the War on Terror as a situation arising through state action and inaction in using international institutions (Dunne edited by Baylis, Owens & Smith 2008, pages 110-16). The approach taken by Social-Constructivism asserts the important role of culture and religion, similar to the point of view held by those of an Occidentalist and/or Orientalist perspective (Barnett edited by Baylis, Owens & Smith 2008, pages 162-71). The realist approach does not view the War on Terror to be unusual, as it states the international system is anarchical and that effectively aggression and war are inevitable consequences (Dunne & Schmidt edited by Baylis, Owens & Smith 2008, pages 92-105).

Another issue critics raise is the role that American exceptionalism plays in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. The idea that the US is in a unique position to police the world may come across arrogant and lead to the further radicalisation of Muslims and thus terrorism (Adas, 2001, page 1696). Although the realist perspective may help us understand the role and actions taken by states, the theoretical framework provided essentially serves as a handicap in respect to understanding the role and importance of non-state actors, as is the case with terrorist groups (Dunne & Schmidt edited by Baylis, Owens & Smith 2008, page 94).

It is useful to assess the flaws in security that failed to prevent the attacks on September 11th 2001 as well as a critique of post 9/11 strategies. According to National Geographic former members of the highly classified military intelligence team Able Danger claimed that Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers were identified as having links to terrorist cells as early as in the year 2000. However they claim military lawyers did not allow them to pass this information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. To date, Department of Defence officials have said they have been unable to verify these claims (National Geographic 2005). Also the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) was criticised by the 9/11 commission for its slowness to react to the hijacking of flight 93. FAA officials in Virginia were recorded in their communication with the Washington headquarters, inquiring as to whether or not to send fighter jets to find and intercept the plane. When officials in Virginia asked FAA headquarters, “ Do we want to think about scrambling the aircraft?” the FAA headquarters responded by saying “Oh, God, I don’t know . . . Uh, you know everybody just left the room” (National Geographic 2005). These incidents show a breakdown in communication pre-9/11. The U.S.A have since founded a number of new bodies and converged counter-terrorism organisations in order to have a more effective approach to the terrorist threat.

Following the commencement of the war in Afghanistan, Kabul the capital of Afghanistan fell within a month on November 13th 2001 (National Geographic 2005). The Taliban was swiftly removed from power but it is believed that at this time Bin Laden managed to flee to Pakistan. Gary Schroen a Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Pakistan between 1996-99 believes that Bin Laden is hiding somewhere in Pakistan, most probably within the border region hosted by sympathetic Afghan and Pakistani tribes (National Geographic 2005). Hence there has been a continuous state of struggle in the Afghanistan and Pakistan border region following 2001. Other areas have also been scrutinised for terrorist activity, most notably Iraq. In these regions authorities have managed to arrest hundreds of suspected Al-Qaeda operatives.

For example, in September 2002, following a gunfight in Karachi, Pakistani officials arrested Ramzi bin al-Shibh a Hamburg cell member who became Bin Laden’s correspondent between hijackers (National Geographic 2005). Six months later the CIA and Pakistani agents captured Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, the engineer of the 9/11 plot, while he was sleeping. They transferred him from Islamabad to a US military base in Afghanistan. In custody he provided details of the 9/11 plot and admitted he was the mastermind (National Geographic 2005). On May 4th 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui the self-proclaimed twentieth hijacker who was arrested just before 9/11 is the only person in the U.S charged in relation to the attacks, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (National Geographic 2005). On June 8th 2006 Abu Musab Al Zarqawi the terrorist that Bin Laden named as the prince of Al-Qaeda-In-Iraq, was confirmed dead, killed when airforce F16s bombed a safe house north of Baghdad (National Geographic 2005). This list of individuals who have been successfully caught or eliminated serves as a victory against terrorism. No doubt the threat posed to America has been limited as a result of these incidents. Nevertheless the direct or indirect resulting deaths and conditions of their capture can only serve as propaganda material for existing terrorists.

Both the anti-terrorist organisations and the terrorist organisations are effectively trying to win the moral upper hand and the support of the Muslim mass moderate population. In this process Muslims are at risk of being exposed to terrorist propaganda that encourages them to view terrorists as martyrs due to the actions and measures inflicted upon them by anti-terrorist organisations.

In conversation with a Pakistani journalist Bin Laden once commented, “We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the big difference between us” (National Geographic 2005). The War on Terror has produced an arena in which radical Muslims can celebrate death and the belief in martyrdom.

According to editor Abdel Bari Atwan U.S. strategy to launch the war on terror played into bin Laden’s hands as he could create an image and in his view a legacy as the man who dared to rebel against America and American foreign policy (National Geographic 2005). International terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna asserts,

even if Bin Laden is killed or captured there is sufficient momentum for the jihad campaign against the west to continue, because he has galvanised a movement that will certainly outlast him” (National Geographic 2005).

Steve Emerson claims that after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, FBI agents understood that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda would not stop until the U.S. delivered a foreign policy response (National Geographic 2005). The inability to recognise that foreign policy has an impact on the spread of radical Islamism hinders the effectiveness of counter-terrorism. The persistent focus on capturing individuals has possibly contributed to the spread of radical Islam and sympathy among certain Muslim populations towards terrorist ideology. On July 3rd 2006 it became public knowledge that the CIA had disbanded the Bin Laden unit, sources have since pointed out that Al Qaeda has become more splintered, less in the control of one man but nevertheless nurturing the spread of radical Islam (National Geographic 2005).

The objective to eliminate terrorism and its ideology, with the attempt to spread liberal values to countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan continues to be undermined with incidents such as the detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo bay, the abuse of terror suspects, the mishandling of Islamic holy scripture by Guantanamo bay interrogators, as well as the use of extraordinary rendition (BBC 2005 & 2006). These incidents are highly damaging for the U.S, U.K and other occupying powers trying to win the battle on the ground. Again this kind of negative press works against the effectiveness of counter-terrorism.

Corruption in post-Taliban Afghanistan, looting and lawlessness in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal (BBC 2003 & 2006) have also served as anti-west propaganda for terrorist groups. Terrorists use this to take advantage of the insecurities of even the moderate Muslims who sympathise with the terrorist cause and perceive America and the west to be the enemy. Thus compounding the problem of terrorism.

The director of the CIA, General Michael Hayden concedes the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was a ‘propaganda bonanza’ for terrorist groups, however he defends the torture tactics, including waterboarding, used in the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohamed on the basis that intelligence uncovered plots and obtained the details of suspected terrorists (BBC 2011).

There has been the successful downfall of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban have been removed from power and in Afghanistan Al-Qaeda training camps have been disrupted and closed. Furthermore even though it may not be a Jeffersonian style democracy, there is a democracy in the Arab world and both states Iraq and Afghanistan are building  infrastructures respectively in order to develop economically (Tarnoff edited by Cardosa 2007, page 82). Given all these positive moves and victories for the counter-terrorist forces the repercussions of these landmark moments are far reaching and have a reverse effect in multiplying the terrorist threat. For example, the death toll of Iraqis, in excess of 150,000 people, is something that throws a negative light upon the western intervention. Muslims of all communities could potentially perceive this as an unnecessary loss of life and thus be susceptible to propaganda which calls them to act in defence of such destruction (Haynes, The Times 2008).

On July 7th 2005 four suicide-bombers killed 56 people and injured approximately 700 (BBC 2010). The U.K faced the aftermath of an unprecedented terrorist attack. In the fall out of the 7/7 bombings it has become apparent that MI5 had actually gathered intelligence regarding some of the bombers and had knowledge that they had attended training camps in Pakistan. However, MI5 did not perceive it necessary to carry out surveillance on these individuals and they effectively slipped through the net (Gardham, The Telegraph 2011). The consequence of such a failure was the killing of innocent civilians.

Prior to the War in Iraq the Joint Intelligence Committee had privately warned the then Prime Minister Tony Blair that the War in Iraq would result in an increased risk to radicalisation (BBC 2011). Chillingly Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of the 7/7 suicide bombers, recorded a video in which he suggests that his forthcoming actions were to be in retaliation against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He stated that he saw

democratically elected governments” [which he said] “continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world” (Goodwin edited by Foran, Lane & Zivkovic 2008, page 219).

The prevention of terrorist attacks has been successful on other occasions; Pioneer Courthouse Square (Portland), Glasgow airport, the U.S army base Fort Dix, various synagogues, international passenger planes, Time Square and a cargo plane bound for the U.S. have all been targeted (BBC 2007, 2010). In most cases U.S and U.K intelligence provided helped officials, although in some instances there have been failures in airport security and intelligence which meant that were it not for civilian intervention these plots would not have been thwarted. One example is the 2001 shoe bomb plot. Richard Reid an Islamist from the U.K. attempted to use explosives in his shoes to bomb a passenger plane travelling from Miami to Paris. During his attempt to light the explosives, passengers and flight attendants restrained Reid (Crelinsten 2009, page 161-2). Only in the aftermath of the incident were airport screening procedures changed by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, meaning passengers must now remove their shoes prior to going through security checks (Crelinsten 2009, page 161-2).

Another case, which points to failures in security and intelligence, is that of the ‘Christmas day bomber’. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab planted explosives in his underwear with the aim of blowing up a passenger flight en route from the Netherlands to the USA. A passenger, Jasper Schuringa intervened and prevented Abdulmutallab from carrying out his attempted bombing (CBS 2009). It came to light after his failed attempt, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been on the watch list of MI5. The U.K intelligence services failed to relay this information to U.S intelligence services (Gardham & Harnden, The Telegraph 2010). This illustrates a great lack of cross border communication between anti-terrorist bodies.

One example, where international counter-terrorism cooperation has had a positive outcome was in the foiled plot of an extensive terrorist network. This particular network included Aabid Khan and Younes Tsouli based in the United Kingdom, Zakaria Amara and Saad Khalid in Canada, Haris Ahmed in the United States and Mirsad Bektasevic in Bosnia (BBC 2010). All members of this network were implicated in the plot to detonate truck bombs in Toronto, Canada (BBC 2010). Police and intelligence services managed to establish links between all these individuals through their use of Internet and phone records (BBC 2010). Mark Giuliano, FBI section chief of domestic terrorism, recalls a high level meeting stating,

it really was an unprecedented meeting where we brought together 5 or 6 intelligence services from different countries to talk about everybody’s equities in the case, so each individual country had some portion in that investigation. The idea was to share that information, so that we could collectively decide how we were going to disrupt this network” (BBC 2010).

One other important aspect of this case is the use of informants. The Canadian Security Intelligence Services used the help of Mubin Shaikh, while a member of the Muslim community tipped off U.S. intelligence services about Haris Ahmed’s involvement in the activities of the terrorist network (BBC 2010). The role of informants and need for community links has become greater since 9/11. Furthermore the use of informants has also been used by the US and UK to bribe members of the Taliban to cease fighting and to supply them with information (Chapman & Drury, The Daily Mail, 2010), (Winett, The Telegraph, 2010). The greater use of informants is a new approach used to counter terrorist groups.

After the 7/7 bombings the UK government launched a new strategy called Prevent (BBC 2010). Its aim is to hinder terrorists and stop attacks from taking place. The breakthrough strategy of Prevent makes it unique in that its aims are to impede the radicalisation of vulnerable young Muslims. Prevent is based on the use of police workshops and community police actively forming positive relations with communities and community leaders (BBC 2010). Many of the debates surrounding this government strategy have been linked to multi-culturalism. Questions have arisen over whether individuals should be able to use religion, culture or ethnic origin as determinants for their individual identity or whether the state should instil a sense of common national identity. The Prevent strategy has been successful in helping counter-terrorism services gain information from members of the Muslim community.

Andrew Ibrahim from Bristol had been planning to carry out a terrorist attack, but members of the Bristol Muslim community alerted the police and they arrested Ibrahim before he could carry out an attack (BBC 2010). While in the U.S., the FBI employed informants to infiltrate the plot to attack Fort Dix and equally to infiltrate the plot to bomb two synagogues (Ripley, Time 2007 & Rashbaum & Fahim, New York Times 2009). Unlike the U.K government, the U.S government has not adopted a particular strategy towards the Muslim community, although it does continue to fund projects overseas such as cultural exchange programs (MSNBC 2010). Supporters of the development of community links and strategies such as Prevent would defend such policies as an extension of soft power approaches in tackling the ideology of extremism. Nonetheless critics such as human rights activist Ratna Lachman disagrees with the approach taken by the U.K. government. She is of the opinion that Muslims are like other communities and many Muslims would give information to the police regardless of a Prevent strategy. She says

Prevent agenda targets the Muslim community . . . demonises the community as a suspect community . . . tars the entire community as non-cooperative, and cannot achieve what it sets out to do which is win hearts and minds” (BBC 2010).

In addition, Muslims may view the approach taken by police as heavy-handed and insensitive when they confront individuals who, although under suspicion, may turn out to be innocent. The controversial ‘shoot on sight’ policy responsible for the death of innocent Jean Charles De Menezes further alienated the Muslim community (BBC 2005) and notably made the wider public wary of anti-terrorist measures.

The role of police workshops with the community is seen as important in giving the community an understanding as to the difficulties faced by the police and counter-terrorism organisations. Critics reassert that, in essence, the Muslim community is put into an alien position in which they need to spy on their co-religionists. This pressure from the government and wider society may lead the Muslim community to become more introspective and insulated.

Other programs have gained more praise such as the Black Country Imams project. This project funded by the Prevent strategy aims to teach imams in the midlands to speak English. It is believed that imams who speak English will be able to engage more with the Muslim youth and potential radicals (BBC 2010). However there has been one project funded by the Prevent strategy that has garnered criticism from both the Muslim and non-Muslim community. That is the Islam and Citizenship Education (ICE) project. Through the ICE project a curriculum has been produced for madrassas and religious schools (BBC 2010). The government sees this as an important step in influencing young children towards becoming good British citizens and less exposed to extremism. This can be seen as an extension of the funding towards Muslim organisations and community projects. The example of the Quilliam Foundation is notable, nevertheless critics have argued that organisations like the Quilliam Foundation are not representative nor are they supported by mainstream Muslims. Funding received is also said to not be properly implemented and there is concern over a lack of visible success.

Current Prime Minister David Cameron has threatened to withdraw funding to such groups if they do not do more to tackle radicalisation (Brogan, The Daily Mail 2007). Furthermore the ICE project and funding of groups such as the Quilliam Foundation has been seen by some Muslims as an attempt by the government to preach their own version of Islam. Critics are of the opinion that this undermines the free practice of religion and disregards the many different sects and schools of Islamic thought and practice.

The government’s approach towards the Muslim community has also been criticised for not regarding the significance and vulnerability of converts to radicals. Examples include Nicky Reilly, Andrew Ibrahim and Germaine Lindsay, all radicals who converted to Islam. Reilly and Ibrahim are most notably Caucasian converts, a group within the Muslim community often overlooked as suspected terrorists (BBC 2010).

One should note that terror laws and the way they are perceived have heavily impacted on the relationship of counter-terrorism agencies and the Muslim community. While a lot is being done to better relations between counter-terrorism organisations and the wider Muslim community, much of the strategy implemented is also alienating the Muslim community.

After the 2006 Terrorism Act, terror suspects could be detained under the new offence of glorifying terrorism. There is a debate whether or not it is right to arrest those who sympathise with terrorists and hold extremist views, but do not take any action (BBC 2010). In 2007 two men, Bilal Mohammed and Rizwan Ditta from Halifax, West Yorkshire, were detained for glorifying terrorism. The two men were arrested for possessing several videos, some which glorified extremist views and some with violent and shocking images (The Daily Mail 2008).

One group that has courted controversy is Hizb ut-Tahrir. The group supports the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate however they do not support violence. Tony Blair and David Cameron have both supported the banning of the group, however due to legal difficulties this group has not been banned (Elliot, The Times 2009). Such controversy surrounding Hizb ut-Tahrir has created a debate of how far the government can go and whether by banning groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir those with a political interpretation of Islam may be pushed further towards violence (Gilligan, The Telegraph 2010). This has made many view the War on Terror as a war of ideology. Extremists have been able to use this to argue that the War on Terror is in fact a war on Islamic belief and practice, thus serving as a recruiting sergeant for terrorist groups.

Similarly some Muslims believe there has been an attack on academic freedoms in the research of Islam and extremist views. On 14th May 2008 a student at the University of Nottingham, Rizwan Sabir was arrested. He was arrested after downloading an Al Qaeda training manual from the U.S. state department website. However, Rizwan Sabir was using the manual as part of his research into his dissertation about counter-terrorism (Glendinning, The Guardian 2008). In the aim of countering terrorism it is clear that some universal liberties can be breached and this further alienates the Muslim community which in turn acts against all the community building projects of the counter-terrorist agencies.

The argument against tackling those who are extreme in thought but not in action is that by confronting such individuals, one only reinforces their view that the government is persecuting the Muslim community and Islamic beliefs.

Alyas Karmani, a Muslim youth worker argues that placing radicals together in a place like Belmarsh Prison may create an environment in which they are further radicalised (BBC 2010). The climate of fear is also a factor that takes over Muslim communities and as a consequence Muslims are scared to discuss their moderate views on concepts such as sharia and jihad. Such concepts can have a legitimate and non-terrorist associated rapport but with this fear present in the Muslim community extremists become the only voices willing to discuss these concepts. They consequently gain the support of young Muslims who are slowly and increasingly distanced from the mainstream Muslim community.

Alyas Karmani supports this view, arguing that with such government strategies in place Muslims fear government action against them and therefore moderates do not give their interpretation of jihad and as a consequence the only interpretation of jihad available is that given by extremists, he also suggests that the Prevent strategy takes too much of a top-down approach rather than bottom up (BBC 2010). There is a recent case, which highlights the lack of communication between the government and the Muslim community. The Home Office banned the entry of the preacher Dr Zakir Naik. While Dr Naik does support a politicised version of Islam, he also denounces the use of terror tactics. Dr Naik, however, remains very popular amongst mainstream Muslims in the UK and paradoxically Charles Farr, the director of the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism actually supported Dr Naik’s entry into the UK on the basis that he could help win over radicals to a more moderate form of Islam (Hope, The Telegraph 2010).

This shows there are varied opinions and not a clear linear process within counter-terrorism services on how to stop the spread of radicalisation. Counter-terrorism towards the ‘domestic’ Muslim community remains controversial and there are no facts and figures to suggest whether the current strategy is working or not. The government and counter-terrorism agencies reiterate that counter-terrorism laws are vital in capturing and detaining potential terrorists, they cite what they see as great successes which in turn justify the means used and possible repercussions.  These great successes include the arrest of Hammad Munshi from Dewsbury, who was convicted in 2008 for distributing information on how to make napalm (The Independent 2008).

However there continues to be tension in the Muslim community and between the Muslim community and wider society and such a situation can only help advance the hatred which extremism thrives upon. Domestic policy towards the Muslim community remains hotly contested but what about foreign policy and the global Muslim community?

As previously stated since the War on Terror the U.S. has expanded the scope of its military operations. On the one hand the U.S. claims to be targeting militants and extremist preachers such as Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen (Riedel, Brookings Institution 2009). However its critics assert that the U.S is just reinforcing the sense that the war on terror is in fact a war on Islam by carrying out operations in Muslim countries. One can argue that such an escalation in operations across the Islamic world from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and to Yemen has driven the on-going rise of radical Islam rather than destroy it (Mirza 2010, page 296).

The US is often seen as encroaching on Muslim lands and governments that allow the U.S. to operate on their soil, such as the Pakistani and Yemeni governments are often viewed as puppets of Washington (International Students Association 2007, volume 9, page 71). However, the recent criticisms by the U.S and U.K of Pakistan’s double sided approach in handling terrorism can be seen as alienating a key ally in the War on Terror.

Pakistani politicians including Imran Khan have remarked on the growing discontent towards the U.S and U.K due to insensitivity and the inability for the west to understand that Pakistan has suffered the most during the War on Terror in terms of death and infrastructural damage (Waugh, London Evening Standard 2010).

The U.S and U.K claimed the war in Iraq was necessary to halt the threat of weapons of mass destruction (Short 2005, page 145). They wish to spread democracy however the west’s support of eastern dictatorships contradicts such an agenda, and with the destruction caused in Iraq and the reported money made by the U.S government as a result of the war Muslims in the east are sceptical of western motives.

Until very recently the U.S and U.K support for dictators across the Middle East region such as Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorial regime, Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, only give terrorist groups ammunition to mount an ideological critique of U.S foreign policy and reinforce the ‘crusader’ perception of western forces (Burke 2007, page 148). There double standards of promoting democracy but supporting dictatorships in Muslim lands is something that many Muslims find themselves discontent with. This then becomes the subject of terrorist rhetoric.

Counter-terrorism’s development in technological communication has been important in trying to win the battle on the ground. In recent times coalition forces have started to pay more attention to how the Internet can be used to combat terrorism. The criticism often levelled at coalition forces is the lack of communicating to civilians their reasons for military action and thus often being misunderstood across cultural and religious differences. In comparison the Taliban and other groups are embedded within local communities in Afghanistan and use the latest forms of social media, making their message relevant in connecting with the civilian population. This supports Mary Kaldor’s theory of terrorist groups contributing to a “new war” (Bobbitt 2008, page 132). While a spokesman for NATO, James Appathurai, also discussed the Taliban’s media campaign saying, “they deploy with videographers, we don’t. They have DVDs out in an hour, we don’t” (Newton, CNN 2007).

The Taliban through this media campaign have managed to highlight civilian casualties and abuses of local customs, for example house searches are seen culturally as an insult and an intrusion by the ethnic majority Pashtun community (Gregg 2009, page 7). In response to these tactics used by the Taliban the US’ ‘hearts and minds’ campaign has evolved to now include messages on twitter, videos on YouTube and a Facebook page (Fox News 2009). The use of such a variety of social media is seen as vital in counter-terrorism and military personnel getting their message across to a wider audience and breaking down the myths the Taliban spread about the conflict.

Using such media the U.S. can verify the amounts of civilian and military casualties as well as gain the support of Muslims and the civilian population. It is hoped through using different types of media that the U.S. is able to deter the spread of radical Islam. One feature highlighted by the use of technology is the importance to engage with civil society. Early on in the War on Terror the approach of the U.S and U.K was more state-centric, primarily focusing on the building up in capacity of Muslim states to counter against terrorism (Crelinsten 2009, page 34). It is only recently that the U.S has started to shift policy towards engaging with mass populations. However, the on-going military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as its aforementioned support for perceived dictators and corrupt governments, all tend to balance out the credibility of the US’ campaign to win the hearts and minds of the moderate indigenous Muslim communities.

Whether the hearts and minds campaign is helping to decrease the spread of terrorism and terrorist attacks is one issue. More importantly the U.S has still not addressed the role of foreign policy in contributing to the spread of terrorist ideologies and the rise in the amount of attacks taking place. U.S economic domination of Islamic countries and a history of military intervention are hard to counter within a short period of time, simply by using social media.

Whether it is the U.S and western domination of institutes such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund or American companies being offered contracts in the rebuilding of Iraq, this perceived economic opportunism of the U.S. makes mass populations more sceptical towards their stated goals (Peet 2009, page 28-9). One famous example is that of the oil company Halliburton, at the time that it was decided the U.S would go to war Halliburton was the only company which was allowed to bid for a $7Billion contract in Iraq. It later became public knowledge that Dick Cheney, the then US Vice President, had previously been employed by the company (Eckholm 2005). Hence the perception that U.S. policymakers have a conflict of interests only strengthens the arguments radical Muslims use to instil hatred for the U.S.

The U.S support for the state of Israel and its close ties to Israel have been the greatest historical handicap for the U.S in reaching out to the global Muslim community. Through its military support of Israel in the Six-Day War as well as its continued military aid and its vetoing of U.N. resolutions against Israel, the U.S.A is the constant focus of dislike for many Muslims (Harms 2010, page 97). Terrorist groups have used grievances particularly that of the Palestinian people, in recruiting terrorists (Mohammad edited by Bjorgo 2005, page 106). Furthermore due to the close relations the U.S shares with Israel, there is often a perception amongst the Muslim masses that the U.S is acting on the behalf of Israel (Burke 2007, page 148).

Also the continued presence of U.S. military personnel and support for dictators within various traditionally Islamic countries continues to further this belief that the U.S. is undermining the development of civil society within these countries (Burke 2007, page 148). These factors have been well documented in contributing to the radicalisation of Osama Bin Laden himself (Burke 2007, page 148). Furthermore the war on terror is a truly global war not just physically fought but also through technology and media. The danger remains that while the U.S. fails to address contradictions and perceived injustices within its foreign policy, foreign policy itself may lead to the creation of a new generation of terrorists.

Final Thoughts

The war on terror has also led people to examine variations and different interpretations of Islam. The concept of radical Islam has been discussed in this essay and the findings would conclude that it is a minority ideology and one that is not necessarily inherent in Islamic governments.

In the question of reaction to terrorism it would seem that the case studies of the United States of America and the United Kingdom have implemented similar security policies and state safety measures. In terms of public policy and community efforts it is evident that the two countries diverged significantly. The U.S.A has made much less progress to limit home grown radicalism through community building projects, whereas the U.K has pursued community based initiatives to aid counter-terrorism. Although some projects have been criticised it is a form of counter-terrorism which has been evidenced to have had success.

In this text, the foreign policies of both states have been criticised as working against counter-terrorism efforts. The wider global Muslim community view foreign policies that work against Islamic countries, that seem to have other agendas and these policies are ultimately used as propaganda for terrorists to gain sympathy for their cause.

The War on Terror has not just intensified the joint security efforts between different states but it has also created a new dimension in the way that states interact with non-state actors. This particular fight against terror has created a forum for discussion over what is the best way to integrate people of different races, nationalities and faiths into one society, the idea of multiculturalism in particular has been questioned (Blick, Choudhary & Weir 2007, pages 32-3). Not only has there been this debate amongst wider society but now the Muslim community itself is starting to contemplate its position in society.

Furthermore states have had to adapt to extremist forms of Islam and also learn how to respond to the propagation of extremist views through various mediums. The use of the Internet is an area in which states have had to evolve and relates back to the deterritorialised nature of the terrorist groups within the context of the war on terror.

This in turn has affected the way that the War on Terror is conducted and how the western states view the Muslim community. The war on terror has also highlighted discrepancies between the stated aims of U.S and U.K foreign policy and how foreign policy is actually acted upon in reality.

The War on Terror has turned into an educational journey as to how people of different faiths understand one another, in particular there has been the need for the ‘Christian’ west and ‘Islamic’ east to gain a greater understanding of one another and build bridges towards peace.

Many lessons have been learnt along the way and continue to be learnt and incorporated into counter-terrorism responses. It is hard to gauge how long the war on terror will persist, however the shift from uniquely military action towards ideological persuasion has become accepted by those in power, for example the campaign to win hearts and minds. It is true that hard power is essential in carrying out the objectives of the war on terror, but just as much as hard power is essential so is the need to prevent further terror and further war. In order to avoid a second War on Terror it is essential that western forces use soft power approaches where possible. Soft power is essential to resolving any underlying grievances and regional issues which are often disregarded. If the international community used the proper and just measures available to them to resolve disputes involving Islamic countries then it is plausible to suggest that the level of the terrorist threat posed by radical Muslims would substantially decrease.

Until the west and the east learn to respect one another and build long lasting relations based upon mutual respect, it is inconceivable that counter-terrorism operatives and organisations will change their approach towards Muslims as a whole. Similarly, it is hard to tell when the war on terror will end. Until the war in Afghanistan and the deteriorating situations in countries like Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan are dealt with; it is difficult to view the War on Terror as a success (Foreign Policy 2010).

Terrorist groups, in particular Al-Qaeda, have grown in their size and scope since the U.S invaded Iraq, effectively giving Al-Qaeda a foothold in the Middle East from which it was able to grow and spread its message across the region (Burke 2007, page 271). Furthermore, there needs to be a greater importance placed on the role of foreign policy. Recent events throughout the Arab world have shown that previous U.S administrations have supported dictators in countries such as Libya and Egypt, who have suppressed the development of democracy (Humphrys, YouGov 2011). Without showing a true commitment towards democracy in the Middle East, and the Muslim world unable to air its grievances freely and peacefully, extremist ideologies and violence will continue to flourish amongst the discontent.

In conclusion there are many failures and successes of counter-terrorism in tackling radical Islam in this global age. The difficulty to understand radical Islam is in itself a hindrance. One must understand what one targets. Radical Islam is not a concept which all Muslims are in accord with, paradoxically it is an ideology that a minority of the world’s Muslim population affiliate themselves with. The ever growing problems and the struggle to fight terrorism comes from many factors; the lack of understanding radical Islam as opposed to moderate Islam, the alienation of the vast Muslim populations, continued unpopular foreign policies and the War on Terror with its death and destruction imposed in many Islamic states. These factors limit the progress which counter-terrorist organisations can make and perhaps most damagingly they fuel terrorist propaganda.

The successes can be seen in terms of technological advancement, foiled terrorist plots, the downfall of prominent dictators and terrorist groups and the founding of democracy in the east. There have even been significant and admirable steps to bring communities together. However, by far the pro-terrorist movement is in theory in advance in this fight due to the self-destructive tactics of the western counter-terrorist organisations. These organisations fail to understand the type of government that Muslim populations want and Muslim sentiment, they fail to understand how to actually win the hearts and the minds of the moderate Muslims and thus topple their terrorist foes. Until this is understood counter-terrorism will keep developing and try to adapt in the small ways it can but its effectiveness will be greatly limited.


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Perché è così difficile definire il terrorismo?

{Dipartimento di Studi Strategici (War Studies), King’s College London}



[dropcap]T[/dropcap]rovare una definizione per la parola ‘terrorismo’ è di certo uno dei rompicapi più impegnativi dell’epoca moderna. Tale fenomeno si manifesta all’interno di un complesso mosaico di problematiche che influiscono sul breve tempo che si ha a disposizione per poterlo valutare. Sebbene sia diventato elemento cruciale della maggior parte delle agende politiche già all’indomani dell’11 Settembre, ancora non vi è un consenso unanime circa la sua definizione. Per citare un esempio, nel secondo dibattito presidenziale Mitt Romney ha criticato aspramente il presidente Obama per non aver definito l’attacco all’Ambasciata degli Stati Uniti a Bengasi un attentato terroristico, cosa che il Presidente in carica ha fatto solo due settimane dopo lo stesso.  In maniera simile, il leader libico ad interim ha definito la vicenda come un atto di violenza criminale. I politici prima, e i media poi, si sono dimostrati riluttanti, imprecisi e vaghi nel voler far rientrare questi avvenimenti sotto l’etichetta di atti di natura terrorista. Il presente saggio presenterà dunque una parte di quello che è il dibattito intorno al problema della definizione, sebbene alcune questioni saranno omesse. Tuttavia poiché il terrorismo è strettamente collegato a motivazioni di carattere politico e a ragioni retoriche, che vanno di pari passo con l’evoluzione della comunicazione moderna, è comprensibile la difficoltà nel trovare una definizione univoca al concetto.

Alcune definizioni

Il primo passo da compiere è capire perché è così importante fornire una definizione del termine. A partire dall’11 Settembre, la parola ‘terrorismo’ è entrata a far parte sempre di più del lessico della società moderna, tanto da rievocare nell’immaginario collettivo immagini alquanto violente, di sacrificio e catastrofe. Sappiamo tuttavia comprendere ciò che è davvero il terrorismo? Molti accademici e professionisti si cimentano costantemente nella ricerca di una definizione e, allo stesso tempo, rifiutano quelle già esistenti. Walter Laqueur, che è forse il più illustre della categoria, sostiene che una definizione “non esiste e non la si troverà in un prossimo futuro.” Allo stesso modo, Jeremy Waldon e George Fletcher, in opere separate, riconoscono che ci sono troppe domande ma non risposte sufficienti. Entrambi sembrano lontani da una reale definizione e credono piuttosto che il miglior modo per capire cosa sia il terrorismo sia quello di assistere a una delle sue manifestazioni.

Anche l’Ambasciatore britannico alle Nazioni Unite pare essere sulla stessa linea d’onda. In un discorso successivo all’11 Settembre ha evitato di darne una definizione affermando, “ci dobbiamo concentrare su questo concetto: il terrorismo è il terrorismo … ciò che appare, puzza e uccide come il terrorismo è solo terrorismo.” Tuttavia, se il terrorismo viene considerato come una questione transnazionale, e non all’interno di un paradigma Stato-centrico, sostenere che ogni attacco terroristico presenti determinate caratteristiche che sono sempre evidenti, non solo è banale, ma va a discapito di ogni tentativo di progettare una strategia antiterrorista vincente.  Se, dunque, il terrorismo è una questione globale che interessa diversi Paesi, la sua definizione è di vitale importanza per capirlo e, infine, combatterlo.

È opportuno pensare che la lotta al terrorismo necessiti di una definizione, per quanto sia un’impresa molto ardua. Alex Schmid, il cui pensiero è diventato una pietra miliare all’interno del dibattito definitorio, ha posto l’accento sui “metodi derivati dall’ansia” che sono inflitti alle vittime “generalmente scelte… (bersagli di opportunità).” Un particolare interessante è che egli annovera gli attori statali all’interno della sua definizione e quindi aumenta la necessità di una classificazione in quanto non separa chi o che cosa commette gli atti di natura terrorista. In una risposta diretta a Schmid, Weinberg non include elementi di carattere psicologico all’interno della sua definizione ma pone bensì la politica come ragione principale dietro la strategia terroristica. Allo stesso modo Bruce Hoffman sostiene l’importanza delle motivazioni di carattere politico e le considera lo strumento principale per comprendere il modus operandi dei terroristi. Tuttavia, motivare che un gruppo terrorista agisca esclusivamente per ragioni politiche chiarisce solo un aspetto della questione, così come se si ignorano le motivazioni religiose o ideologiche l’ambito di analisi ne risulterà limitato. John Horgan si allontana dall’idea di Weinberg, mettendo l’accento sull’uso psicologico del ‘terrore’ che, nelle sue parole, “rivela una parte del mistero” nella comprensione del terrorismo.

 L’uso del terrore è di vitale importanza per valutare un attacco perché, come sostiene John Mueller, rompe il codice morale penale rispettato da quasi tutte le popolazioni. Pertanto, la comprensione delle potenziali tattiche e dei target individuati non solo aiuta a polarizzare attori statali e non-statali, ma permette anche una migliore comprensione dei potenziali obiettivi di un gruppo. Non vi può essere una definizione univoca ed esclusiva, ed è appropriato sostenere che il dibattito accademico aggiunge maggiore incertezza alla definizione di terrorismo. In ogni caso, se proprio si volesse utilizzare un singolo concetto esplicativo di terrorismo, questo includerebbe inevitabilmente una serie di parametri che siano in grado di valutare l’attività terroristica.

L’uso improprio del termine ‘terrorismo’

L’ambiguità del mondo accademico su come interpretare le manifestazioni del terrorismo, contribuisce a lasciare irrisolto il problema concettuale. Generalmente, il modo in cui gli attori politici e personalità influenti utilizzano tale termine, ha una valenza molto più ampia, che distoglie dal vero significato e dall’uso del sostantivo ‘terrorismo’. All’interno della sua opera provocatoria, ‘Intrappolati in una Guerra al Terrore’, Ian Lustick affronta l’argomento  ponendo l’accento su come il terrorismo è diventato il fondamento cruciale della politica di Bush. I discorsi pregni di sentimenti patriottici che rimandavano a nostalgiche emozioni di guerra, hanno aiutato a legittimare le decisioni politiche dell’ex Presidente, e a fuorviare la percezione della gente da ciò che effettivamente è il terrorismo. Si trova riscontro di quanto detto negli svariati errori commessi dall’amministrazione Bush nel tentativo di combattere una ‘guerra al terrore’.

Altrettanta confusione è riscontrata nel momento in cui il terrorismo è analizzato, o quando un attacco pare enucleare tutte ‘le caratteristiche e le sensazioni (suscitate da un atto) di terrorismo’: è in questo momento che si ricorre al termine per eludere la mancanza di consenso unanime sulla natura di un atto così violento. Le semplificazioni imposte a livello governativo sono inesorabilmente e ulteriormente aggravate dall’uso sistematico di un “allarmismo apocalittico”, in cui viene impiegata una soffocante varietà di  tattiche intimidatorie – in particolar modo negli Stati Uniti. Ad esempio, la politica concernente la Homeland Security (attività di sicurezza interna contro il terrorismo, NdT) non solo descrive solo la minaccia di terroristi in possesso di armi CBRN, ma anche la loro capacità di utilizzare queste stesse armi “da casa all’estero”. Dichiarazioni imprecise e approssimative sembrano celare altre motivazioni. Fred Kaplan ha sostenuto sulle pagine del The Guardian che “le politiche messe in atto riscuotono il massimo sostegno se sono legate alla guerra al terrorismo”. Di conseguenza, se si adopera il terrorismo in correlazione ad altri argomenti di natura politica, al fine di acquisire il sostegno dell’opinione pubblica, un problema di ordine metodologico sorge inevitabilmente: è possibile separare la realtà dalla finzione ed essere finalmente in grado di fornire una definizione precisa dell’oggetto in questione?

Il ruolo esclusivo della comunicazione

La manipolazione interpretativa dei governi sulla natura del terrorismo è aggravata dallo sviluppo di fenomeni legati alla globalizzazione e al conseguente sviluppo tecnologico che, parafrasando Manuel Castells, ha creato un “nuovo spazio di comunicazione” nei centri di potere. La diffusione di alcune idee politiche presso popolazioni e territori precedentemente estranei e geograficamente distanti, e le accresciute possibilità di comunicazione tra le comunità emigrate con la propria madrepatria, ha creato una complessa dicotomia bollata da Sir Richards come “rete globale di rivendicazioni.” La rapida crescita della tecnologia e l’esplosione dei social media hanno trasformato pareri e opinioni in uno spazio informativo virtuale. Questo permette alle persone di muoversi “rapidamente e senza fili” all’interno di un mondo virtuale. David Betz ha correttamente definito questo fenomeno come il Web 2.0, in cui tutti i vettori della società interagiscono simultaneamente e, di conseguenza, il pubblico non ricopre più il ruolo di spettatore passivo ma rappresenta invece la componente attiva del mondo dell’informazione.

Le tecnologie moderne hanno dunque fornito una potentissima piattaforma per attuare una comunicazione orizzontale attraverso un arcipelago di confini nazionali e internazionali. Se il messaggio è incorretto o fuorviante può scatenare conseguenze imprevedibili, dal momento che fornisce informazioni errate ad un’intera comunità. A tal proposito, i messaggi politici stanno diventando sempre più messaggi mediatici e hanno l’immediata capacità di influenzare tutti i campi della società. D’altro canto, la tecnologia moderna permette ai cittadini la possibilità non solo di eludere i controlli statali tradizionali, ma anche di trasmettere informazioni false. Questo è ben noto all’interno della relazione sulla tecnologia del Generale David Richards nella quale sostiene che la comunicazione moderna “si situa ben oltre la capacità dello Stato di esercitare il proprio controllo senza minacciare tutte le altre funzioni di quello stesso Stato.” Ciò nonostante, tale affermazione è vera in entrambi i sensi e pertanto i governi sono in grado di esercitare un certo grado di autonomia nell’uso dei processi mediatici moderni. Pertanto, come sostiene David Kilcullen, i fini e i mezzi che conducono allo sviluppo di fonti d’informazione si caratterizzano per una scarsa trasparenza che rende molto difficile distinguere l’origine o l’affidabilità delle fonti stesse.

Difatti, un messaggio del governo diventa immediatamente l’input per l’elaborazione dei messaggi da parte dei media, e il relativo output ricopre un ruolo cruciale nel plasmarne la definizione. Se anche il terrorismo è sottoposto a questi filtri di comunicazione, va da sé che il risultato sarà un caleidoscopico insieme di definizioni. Tali definizioni, a loro volta, vengono poi servite all’opinione pubblica, ai leader e ai soliti stereotipi sulla politica estera. A tale proposito John Horgan sostiene che per analizzare il terrorismo nel suo insieme di definizioni è necessario discostarsi dai media. Tuttavia, ottenere un tale distacco appare molto difficile poiché i governi sono i primi attori che sempre più spesso ricorrono ad un utilizzo del termine in un contesto erroneo, con i media pronti ad associarlo a questioni di carattere politico.


Questo questo saggio ha preso in considerazione una varietà di fonti ma non ha proposto in alcun modo una conclusione esaustiva sul dibattito concernente il problema della definizione. Si è voluto porre l’accento sul ruolo del governo statunitense per via del suo compito esclusivo nella lotta al terrorismo, in quanto le indagini portate avanti in altri Paesi avrebbero potuto generare conclusioni molto diverse. Ad ogni modo, la cattiva informazione imposta dai governi potrebbe riferirsi ad ambiti diversi della vita di tutti i giorni, e le conseguenze della stessa sono ulteriormente aggravate dalle modalità della comunicazione moderna. In ultima analisi, questo rende ancor più arduo il tentativo di fornire una definizione precisa di terrorismo.


Saggio tradotto da: Valentina Mecca

Articolo originale: Terrorism is Terrorism? How Communication Exacerbates the Definitional Problem

Photo Credit: bixentro

al-QaedaBBCGeorge W. BushGuerra al TerroreMedio OrienteONUOsama Bin Ladenpost-9/11terrorismoUKUSA

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