Events of 9/11 and an Era of New Terrorism

Introduction

The appropriate definition for the term “terrorism” has proven to be a daunting task for sociology scholars. Primarily, the ideas and motives of terrorists complicate the ideals that believers of this concept hold. Although the individual or political freedom of a group is often the reason for the heinous acts, the consequences of the acts bring to question the immorality of terrorism. Consequently, the increased frequencies of terrorist attacks and advancement in the terrorist intentions have prompted sociology scholars and researchers to use the term “new terrorism” in reference to the recurrences.

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However, with the technological advancement and globalization, new terrorism is referred to as the novel form of violent expression widely committed to achieving certain political targets (Hoffman 2006, p. 432). Acts including but not limited to hijackings, assassinations, bombings, skyjacking, and random killing are attributed to acts of terrorism, often used with a political or religious intent rather than for military reasons. As per the historical trends, the last thirty years have witnessed the transformation from an individual to transnational, through international terror attacks and eventually to global terrorism. Because globalization has been with us since time immemorial, terrorism has in turn transformed from its traditional form into the global ‘new’ form (Hamilton 2006, p. 239).

Personally, terrorism is the evilest manner through which a resolution can be sought. Not only does it just inflict terror on the targeted population, but it also leaves negative memories in the minds of the survivors or public in general. Terrorists are criminals that perform evil crimes; irrespective of whether their beliefs or ideologies are justifiable. Although these heinous acts can be prevented, our civil liberties have to be compromised in the process.

Primarily, airports should embrace stricter measures in their operations. For instance, security checks both for luggage and individual histories or personal information would ease the option of infringing on people’s privacies. Similarly, the aviation authorities should allow latitude on racial profiling. For instance, eyebrows should have been raised when Middle Eastern men inquired for instruction on the flight simulator on how to manoeuvre a passenger airline. The borders should also be more strictly regulated in an effort to control migration and therefore curtail on terrorism (Cook & Allison 2007, p. 202).

Internationally, terrorism is not a new concept, but it has been viewed as a strategy and a tactic; a religious holy calling and a crime; a justifiable counteraction to minority oppression; and an unforgivable abhorrence. According to Nassar, the U.S. Department of Defense, terrorism is considered as the carefully thought out plan of using unlawful threat or act of violence to instil fear; although not all acts of terrorism are entirely associated with the violent activities (Nassar 2005). In 2002, a World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto identified five areas that the world had learned from the September 11 tragic events. Lessons from such occurrences are important for they will allow for the better building of the future by hoping for positive actions and altering their way of thinking.

Firstly, the first responders that included police rescue units, emergency personnel and firefighters lacked standardized equipment, better access to intelligence, adequate training and suffered from long-term stress debriefing, Secondly, the occurrence of a breakdown in communication was due to mismatching frequencies and incompatible equipment used. The committee suggested the adoption of a redundant communication system for damaged infrastructure (Hoffman 2006, p. 442). Additionally, for the public emergency response procedures, there was the need to use command systems, public safety communication systems and new technologies.

Thirdly, the mental health strain that severely afflicted the mental health of providers, as well as the general population, necessitated the restoration of a “sense of community” especially for the children who needed reassurance. Fourthly, the committee reported that despite having been designed to withstand an impact of a Boeing 707, the building codes of the World Trade Center buildings had not anticipated the impact from the load of the planes’ fuel loads. Lastly, the business community learned the need for the urgency of security, especially with the increasing challenges of safety and risk management. Fundamentally, there was a need to avoid underestimating a crisis, but at all times be prepared for its growth, ensuring that the public are fully informed (Brookes 2005, p. 257).

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The Events of 9/11 and New Terrorism

The morning of September 11, 2001 will forever remain in the minds of the American citizens and the world at large as the day that saw, according to Bush “the most heinous act of terrorism on American soil, which will not go unpunished”. With the hijacked first plane maneuvered and crushed into the first Tower, the video footage that exposed the unthinkable acts of terror was the crushing of the second plane on the Northern tower. The media all over the world flushed their screens with images of the crush followed by the tumbling of the towers, one after the other. Graphical images that followed resulted in the demise of more than 3000 innocent people from 90 countries (Harmon 2007, p. 213).

In reference to the most recent occurrence of terrorist attacks (the September 11, World Trade Center bombings), the inception of “new terrorism” is popularly gaining ground, and especially with the technological advancement and globalization, as the conventional terrorism is quickly losing its original form. Because of the increasing cases reported of terrorism casualties, researchers consider the growing scale of terrorism resulting from sophisticated terrorist violent attacks; a signpost indicating the upcoming new terrorism (Gunaratna 2004, p. 173). The new terrorism is inescapably linked with a form of apocalyptic orientation; commonly professed by the Al-Qaeda as the premonition of the end of the world.

The new form of terrorism is a result of media development though in part, due to the media’s saturating of viewers’ minds with images of terrorist atrocity. In retaliation, the attackers heighten the impact of their attacks in order to attract the attention of media headlines (Bliss 2004, p. 16). The civilian population have become the primary target of new terrorism because they appear more vulnerable to terrorism acts and are least expected to openly oppose the attackers. Finally, this new terrorism has undergone a strategic shift and instilled itself in places where the conventional terrorism was used to achieve political targets. The new form of terrorism therefore represents a crowd of hard-line fanatics, making it impossible for professionals to deduce the purposes of the recent attacks.

Still, the advent of new terrorism cannot be fully acknowledged as something NEW. The fact that all forms of terrorism are instruments of political control, means there is relatively minimal difference between the old and the new terrorism. According to Anthony and Khalid, terrorism entails the aspect of reasonable choice and a considerably careful choice of victims. Due to the structural characteristic of bureaucratic chains of command and the centralization of decision-making, the old terrorism is similar to the new terrorism, especially through the power common with the Italian separatist group ETA and the Al-Qaeda. Therefore, whether or not the prevailing terrorism is termed as “new terrorism” remains to be ascertained; but considering the present state of social and political upheavals, terrorism is likely to be on the rise, affecting the public as a result of thousands of innocent deaths (Cordesman & Rodhan 2006, p. 366).

Evolution of terrorism can be traced to the attacks that were reported over thirty years ago; signifying the transformation from personal attacks, to transnational, to international and eventually to global terrorism. The increased pace of development can be associated with the economic and social changes during the era of terrorism. The society having been open for changes, the effects of globalization, being an old time phenomena, terrorism has been to a larger extent been contributed by the impacts of terrorism. Therefore, global terrorism can be logically associated as an equivalent of prolonged evolution. In attempting to understand how terrorism has evolved, Kaldor (1999) believes that the 80s and 90s witnessed the development of a warfare involving disagreements of political groups, violations of human rights, privately organized groups, and states (Kaldor 1999). The warfare experienced changes due to the globalization hastened by improved money transfer, transportation and communication technological advancement.

Therefore, the evolution of terrorism has graced ages with the help of technological advancement and globalization, the world over. Through hijackings of airlines common during the era of transnational terrorism, the activities have been widely adopted by most terrorists usually because governments have always yielded to their demands. Because two countries are usually involved during transnational terrorism, this successful propagation of the vice has been widely supported by the media and news channel due to universal political and ideological beliefs, usually of the minority group (Kiras 2005, p. 495).

Additionally, the prosperity of the vice across national boarders has been due to absence of security measures and development of air travel that paved way for traveling across regions and neighboring countries (Eriksson & Giampiero 2007, p. 230). On the contrary, the cases of airline hijackings have been on the decrease primarily because a hijacked plane would not be in the air long enough for the demands of the hijackers to be met. The governments whose planes are hijacked have refrained from allowing touchdown by hijacked planes, thereby thwarting the plans of the hijackers; and thereby reducing the instances of airline hijackings. The 9/11 attackers, however, capitalized on the poor security measures of airline travels within the United States (Amos & Stolfi 1982, p. 73).

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From recent attacks such as the 9/11 bombing by use of planes was symbolic and representing the existence of the interconnected world. The result motivated the Madrid 2004 train bombing terrorists, causing pain and suffering by metropolitan cities that are densely populated (Dunnigan 2002, p. 303). These instances of attacks, point to the potential target by all terrorists; public places. Because the attacks are usually propagated by the desire to push for certain demands of ideological origin, there is often the need to hugely impact the targeted group to quicken the process.

Public places that are common with passengers, gatherings, festivities, railway stations, stadiums and institutions are highly targeted places for terrorist attacks. From the 9/11 attacks, it was clear that terrorists intent to harm and not destroy, as some people still believe. On the contrary, the 9/11 case brought out the new notion that terrorists campaign was more of suicide and mass deaths on a large scale; countering the old time belief that there was a limit beyond which terrorists would not exceed. Evidently, the results of the attack on that September of 2001 clearly indicated that a certain group would not stop at nothing to force their way into getting their demands met (Deutch 1997, p. 12).

Primarily, the goal of managing to end many lives during a single attack has become a success due to advancement of technology, thereby increasing the potential targets. Although the likely targets may prove difficult to monitor, an improvement in monitoring through manipulation of traffic control systems and radio or TV broadcasts has been achieved through cyberterror (Kaldor 2003, p.160). In the future, though, threats that are biochemical or nuclear in nature are expected to take center stage considering the exit of nuclear components upon the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is a potential threat compared to the bombings recorded in the recent past, as they are easy to construct. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, most terrorist groups lost their hopes of meeting the ideologies; in addition to the measures taken by the Western European states to curb the leftist terrorists. Nevertheless, as if prompted by the curtailing of the leftist terror attacks, religious terrorism was sparked (Amos & Stolfi 1982, p. 83).

In the recent past, the increased impact of terrorist attacks can only be traced to the religious affiliations and beliefs that the attackers profess. Despite their continuous presence, the frequency of the attacks by religious groups does not mean that we are facing a new form of terrorism. Fundamentally, the ‘Militant Islam’ has for a considerable period of time been viewed as a regional phenomenon sponsored by the state, which after the effect of globalization, the people were free to either accept the changes or refute the effects by staying loyal to Islam and fight for it. Despite such uninformed allegiance, there existed a deviation between those individuals motivated by religious reasons and the aim for which the violence was used. Because the religious violence was not always an end in itself, the fundamental reason for terrorist organization transitioned to politics (Kiras 2005, p. 489).

The unexpected reverberance making the 9/11 exceptional and a unique evidence of global terrorism, was supported by the widespread presence of Al-Qaeda organization the world over. Unlike the instances that are reported following an attack, the 9/11 incident managed to portray the actual crash of the second plane on the Northern tower. The results of contemporary technological advancement enabled live broadcast of that incident to the world (Guelke, 1995).

Similarly, in the international context, political violence results from increasing interdependence among nations. Despite not being able to understand the level of interconnectedness of the nations of the world, the feeling of living in a fully globalised world is not mutual for all individual citizens. The attacks of 9/11 having been instrumental in transporting local grievances and hate right into the center of global economy, promoting the position as a symbol of Western Imperialism, the downfall of globalization was exposed and had the whole world was allowed to feel the breadth.

Consequently, the attack posed a host of security challenges and threats primary among the list being security issues in the airline industry. Traveling via airlines both locally and across boarders was immediately laced with stern security measures in an attempt to prevent recurrence of similar attacks. The attacks also heightened the importance given to threats from terrorist groups. Consequently, risk management planning was made compulsory for any establishment irrespective of whether it was based within or outside the country boarders. Its planning and execution also received utmost priority, especially in areas that were considered potential terror zones (Frost, 2005, p. 88).

The adoption of global governance while in a globalised world, existence of a global civil society within a global economy accords terrorism a global perspective, despite having recently affected nations. Unluckily, the immediate retaliation by the United States was one-sided and targeted on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, thus considered inappropriate. Despite having undergone numerous transformations in the weaponry, motivation and strategic approaches, terrorism in its quest to achieve clear political intent grants it a rather old stature. Therefore, the September 11 World Trade center and Pentagon attacks presented the new face that terrorism had acquired, upon benefiting from the opportunities that globalization presented and taking over technological advancement (Guelke, 1995).

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Conclusion

According to Hamilton (2006, p. 239) Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the civil society participate to a greater level in prevention of conflicts. Their input is also important in prevention of terrorism, especially with the proposals by various international documents of their inclusive and multi-directional responsiveness to threat of terror attacks. In 2006, the UN General Assembly while resolving to adopt the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy reminded that the UN member states that they should continually encourage the engagement of NGOs and the civil society in the efforts for the implementation of the strategy.

In a report by the former UN Secretary Koffi Annan outlined the important role of the civil society in propagating the truly global strategy in retaliation to terrorism. According to the 2005, SHDM meeting in Vienna it was clarified that NGOs and the civil society can significantly contribute in the combating and prevention of terrorism activities especially if special consideration is given to the prevailing political and social realities in the participating states.

Although the civil society was commended for the participation through partnership with the government, the cooperation was not viable in countries whose civil society structures were either non-existent or weak. However, effective participation and successful intervention could only be achieved if the NGOs and the civil society ought to be given a sense of ownership of the processes and related problems (Hoffman 1999, p. 66). Terrorism can also be minimized using nation-building as a tool against terrorism. For instance, failed states such as Somalia, and others that required the intervention of an otherwise stable state such as South Africa, the intervention to aid in the rebuilding of the nation will eventually reduce the possibility of terrorist activities.

Because the terrorist attacks aim at disrupting economic systems by curtailing the supply and demand of certain commodities, companies should often be prepared. Businesses have to endure the resulting reduction in revenues or increased costs, and a prolonged rebuilding period, as seen in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Multinational corporations (MNCs), on the other end should be aware of the prevailing political and social climate in order to adequately prepare for potential terrorist risks, either directly or indirectly by attacks that are taking place in another place (Deutch 1997, p. 22).

Unlike a direct effect on a business, the indirect effect of resulting from attack an attack on the company’s transportation system or supply chain, will adversely affect the operation of the business. Instead of businesses brazing themselves for survival, it is a high time that they are prepared for worse than survival. The fundamental step for such businesses would include preparation for exposure to terrorism by minimizing risk and maximizing flexibility of response. The risk management initiatives should include a risk assessment that analyzes the severity of possible outcomes resulting from an attack in order to deduce the possibility of direct impact to their operations (Gambetta 2005, p. 378).

Terrorism is considered a weapon of the weakest, because the systematic use of terror to coerce or inflict fear was a common practice used in the 18th century by the French against their enemies. Through imposition of terror accompanied by mass murders and executions in a guillotine was used by the French politician and fierce leader resulting into the French revolution. Apart from killing, terrorism inflicts fear on the survivors, thereby making it easy for the extremists, military or political leaders to control the masses. Spanning from the terrorism acts on the Catholic Church during the medieval times, through the Hitler’s use of terror against the Jews and anyone who opted to help them, to the first terrorist attack of the US Embassy in Iran, to 1998 attacks of Kenya and Tanzania embassies, plainly indicates that terrorism is not a new concept; with the climax being the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers (Barker 2003, p. 144).

The future of terrorism lies in the words of president Ahmedinejad from Iran who claimed that Christians had their time to force conversion, but now is their time to cleanse the world from the infidels: “convert or die”. After 9/11, the French and Britons have been promised of their own 9/11, soon.

References

Amos, JW II & Stolfi, RHS 1982, ‘Controlling International Terrorism: Alternatives Palatable and Unpalatable’, Annals of the American Academy of political and social sciences, Vol. 463, International Terrorism, pp. 69-83.

Barker, J 2003, The no-nonsense guide to terrorism, Verso, London, pp. 144.

Bliss, JA 2004, Al-Qaeda’s center of gravity: Carlisle Barracks, PA, Army War College, p. 16.

Brookes, P 2005, A devil’s triangle: terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and rogue states, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 257.

Cook, D & Allison, O 2007, Understanding and addressing suicide attacks: the faith and politics of martyrdom operations, Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, pp. 202.

Cordesman, AH & Al-Rodhan, K 2006, Iran’s weapons of mass destruction: the real and potential threat, Washington DC: The CSIS Press, pp. 366.

Deutch, J 1997, ‘Terrorism’, Foreign Policy, No. 108, pp. 10-22.

Dunnigan, JF 2002, The next war zone: confronting the global threat of cyberterrorism. Citadel Press, New York, pp. 303.

Eriksson, J & Giacomello, G (eds.) 2007, International relations and security in the digital age, Routledge, London, pp. 230.

Frost, RM 2005, Nuclear terrorism after 9/11, London: Routledge, pp. 88.

Gambetta, D (ed.) 2005, Making sense of suicide missions, Oxford University Press Oxford, pp. 378.

Guelke, A 1995, The Age of Terrorism and the International Political System, London.

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Hamilton, DS (ed.) 2006, Terrorism and international relations, Washington DC: The Center for Transatlantic Relations, pp. 239.

Harmon, CC 2007, Terrorism today, London: Routledge, pp. 213.

Hoffman, B 2006, Inside terrorism, Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 432.

Hoffman, B 1999, Terrorism and weapons of mass destruction: an analysis of trends and motivations, Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, pp. 66.

Kaldor, M 2003, ‘September 11: The Return of the ‘Outside’?’, Global Civil Society. An Answer to War, Polity Press, Cambridge, 142-160.

Kaldor, M 1999, New and Old Wars, Cambridge, Polity Press, London.

Kiras, JD 2005, ‘Terrorism and globalization’, The Globalization of World Politics, John Baylis & Steve Smith (ed.), 3rd edition, Oxford, Chapter 21, pp. 479-497.

Nassar, JR 2005, Globalization and Terrorism: The Migration of Dreams and Nightmares, Oxford.

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