Terrorism is an act of political violence aimed to incite terror and panic into the target population and further a specific political goal. Modern terrorism is often described through the prism of the “waves” theory proposed and developed by David C. Rapoport (Da Silva, 2019). Within the framework of the theory, “waves” are viewed as time spans characterized by specific “ideological and tactical similarities across various organizations” (Da Silva, 2019, p. 203). The theory distinguishes four waves of modern terrorism: the anarchist wave, the anti-colonial wave, the new left wave, and the religious wave (Da Silva, 2019). Thus, terrorist organizations operating within the same period resemble each other in ideology and approach to acts of terrorism.
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The anarchist wave is the first distinguished in modern terrorism. The wave was instigated in 1878 when the Russian socialist activist Vera Zasulich shot a police commander (Da Silva, 2019). The wave was spurred by the democratic and egalitarian notions popularized during the French Revolution (Auger, 2020). The next terrorist wave, the anti-colonial wave, began after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 (Da Silva, 2019). After the First World War, many nations embraced the idea of self-determination and fought to become independent. During the anarchist and anti-colonial waves, the assassination was the primary mode of operation (Da Silva, 2019). The new left wave was a direct reaction to the Vietnam War and was inspired by Marxist ideology (Da Silva, 2019). The leftist movement was notably less violent than the preceding two terrorist waves. Thus, organizations decided against using lethal force during this wave and opted for kidnapping (Da Silva, 2019). Meanwhile, the religious wave was spurred by the Iranian Revolution and the spread of the Jihad movement (Da Silva, 2019). Today, this wave is still applicable, with many terrorist groups operating primarily through suicide bombings.
Terrorism is often indistinguishable from freedom fighting, explicitly depending on the perspective from which a group is viewed. Freedom fighting can be defined as participation in a revolutionary struggle to secure the achievement of a specific political goal. Thus, both terrorists and freedom fighters strive for change in society. However, unlike terrorist groups, organizations fighting for freedom are unlikely to target innocent victims and persons not involved in the conflict. Nevertheless, many freedom-fighting groups are initially considered to be terrorist organizations. For example, one such group is Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), a nationalist organization in the Basque Country, Spain.
ETA was a separatist group that fought for the independence of the Basque Country from Spain. The group was formed in 1958 with the aim of protecting the Basque heritage (Lafaye & Brochard, 2021). The organization officially ceased fire in 2006 and was dissolved in 2018 (Lafaye & Brochard, 2021). Before the cease-fire, the group often engaged in violent acts that can be classed as terrorism. However, it can be argued that these acts were not instances of indiscriminate violence. In addition, the group responded to the dissatisfaction of the Basque society with the military conflict that ETA was a participant in, seeking support in the community by offering a cease-fire to the Spanish government (Lafaye & Brochard, 2021). Thus, ETA responded to the lack of support for the armed conflict and transformed itself into a political, nationalist organization that sought change through non-violent means. Thus, it can be argued that ETA was a patriot group rather than a terrorist organization.
Auger, V. A. (2020). Right-wing terror: A fifth global wave? Perspectives on Terrorism, 14(2), 87–97. Web.
Da Silva, J. R. (2019). The eco-terrorist wave. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 12(3), 203–216. Web.
Lafaye, C. G., & Brochard, P. (2021). Methodological approach to the evolution of a terrorist organization: ETA, 1959–2018. Quality & Quantity, 1–23. Web.
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