Friday, July 29, 2005

The Origins of Terrorism: Part II Second Generation Radicals

I'm now on part two of the book, Origins of Terrorism written by many excellent authorities on Politics, Terrorism, Psychology, and History, edited by Walter Reich. This book was written in 1990 and republished in 1998. So far, I can give it an excellent review and it is still quite applicable.

In Part I, Martha Crenshaw wrote about the decision to enjoin terrorism by an organization as being logical and strategic in its planning and operations. Using her concepts, I explored how her ideas applied to current terrorsist operations.

Part II of the book explores different terrorist groups in western countries, like the Bader-Meinhoff group in West Germany, The Red Army of Italy, The Weathermen of the United States, etc, their motivations, their transformation and profile characteristics of the members. It also explores sympathetic communities and why these groups eventually became obsolete.

Based on the analysis of this book, groups do not start out forming from nothing with the express intent on committing terrorist acts. Rather, these groups were second or third manifestations of previous organizations or movements that may have previously attempted to use non-violent, political means to achieve their goals and members of the organization felt that either the methods or the message or both were the cause and needed to be changed, taken to the next step.

One group that they focused on was the development of the Weathermen organization. This group sprang out of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) that had previously come from the civil rights movements of the 50's and early 60's. The SDS had expressly forbidden violent activity in their charter as antithetical to their ideology. Particularly, they were anti-war and protested against the Vietnam War. Part of their over all plan was to develop "democratic institutions" outside of the "establishment" on the basis of the directive in the Declaration of Independence that citizens had the right to abolish and re-establish government when it was unresponsive to the citizens. The book indicates that the original charter of the SDS also prohibited membership of Communists since Communist regimes had proven to be expressly anti-democratic and this was anti-thetical to their cause.

However, as time went on and their stance against the Vietnam War had not gained the popularity and strength it had desired and decided to create a quasi pact with the Communist parties, allowing Communist members to join the SDS in order to boost membership and seal this pact with similar "anti-war" organizations. The SDS eventually was infiltrated and turned into a Communist front group. By 1967, anti-war groups were becoming increasingly in violent contact with police as some elements participated in petty vandalization of property and the police became more impatient and more concerned with the size of the protests. By 1969, this group had split into three factions with different strategies and ideologies.

One such group was the Weathermen who had decided that peaceful methods would not achieve the social and political change they wanted as quickly as they desired. They had also increasingly identified themselves with the pro-violence, black power groups.

The members of this group were white, middle or upper class, college educated or graduated.

The group was forced underground after committing several terrorist acts, inlcuding bombing the Pentagon. Once they were forced underground, the group felt they had committed to a course of action where there was no return and determined to continue to carry out these acts. The group self selected, were extremely paranoid about being captured or infiltrated and, when recruiting members, would insist that the new recruit participate fully in the terrorist activities to insure they were fully committed.

Eventually, the Weathermen broke apart as their techniques did not galvanize the public as they wished, they became more and more concerned with security, and members of the group began to believe that their aims were unachievable.

Looking at our current terrorists, their manifestations and writings, we can clearly see that the Islamist movement did not grow out of a religious ideology on its own, but can be looked at as the second generation of the Pan Arabist movement. This was largely under the banner of socialism in the guise of the Nasserites and Ba'athists and generated such organizations as the Arab League. This movement still exists, but is largely ineffective for multiple reasons, not the least of which is the ethnic, tribal, religious and political diversity of the states involved. Other problems ensued as these socialist governments tried to suppress religion, westernize their economic, social and political structures and homogenize their populations.

The other issues included power sharing, which most of these governments were unwilling to do and affiliation, as most of the socialist governments were clients of the Soviets and others were aligned with Western governments. The issue of Israel and the different approaches to dealing with them was also a separater.

In short, the movement failed. At the same time, Muslim fundamentalism was growing, largely dissatisfied with the anti-religious stance of the socialist governments and the repression of their fellows, as well as continued economic struggles of these countries which the re-enforced the failure of the governments to support their populations. The Islamists, of course, interpreted this as a failure to adhere to their Islamic roots and the failed and decadent western ideas that had infiltrated their culture. This movement was able to assassinate Saddat in 1979 and directly after that, reprisals and repressions took place in Egypt, Syria and Iraq in particular.

Once the Afghan-Russian war began, the Islamists had a place to channel their first battle against western, non-Islamist government.

Zawahiri, in Knights Under the Prophet's Banner, clearly despises the socialist Pan Arabist movements and the secular socialist Palestinian Liberation movements as weak and leading the Muslim brothers away from their true power. He even castigates the Muslim Brotherhood for what he feels is their failure to continue the struggle and their attempts to enter into the political process.

Of course, there are also the issues of co-concurrent movements that cooperate on operations, support, etc. This evening I was watching a movie from 1976 regarding the Entebbe hostage rescue and was reminded that the above mentioned Bader-Meinhoff group, ostensibly an anti-capitalist movement, had participated in the hostage taking with the PFLP. We see the same cooperation with Ba'athist/Islamists in Iraq, the support of the Al Qaida networks by Iranian and Syrian government organizations, the concommittment of Hammas, Fatah, Hizbollah and the PLO. While these are often vague and limited attachments, they still exist.

We may even be seeing the third generation of radicalized groups who even eschew the original constraints of the original Bin Ladenist terrorist actions which had originally attempted to limit actions to "Zionists, Christians and Atheists" with concern for innocent Muslim civillians and now has taken to labeling even Muslims as targets when they don't conform exactly to the terrorists' idea of Islam.

While the book talks about the potential of governments to create more radicals by severe repressive actions, it also talks about why terrorist movements losing the support base they need and eventually fading away because the terrorist organizations attacks alienate and disgust their main support base. We're starting to see that now:

Terror Shifts Muslim Views
US Muslims Issue Fatwa Against Terrorism
Memri: Arab/Muslim Reformists on Terror
Al Jazeera Open Forum: Muslims Discuss Terrorism
Amnesty International Issues Demands on Terrorists and Al Rashad from Arab News denounces the "theologians of terror"
Asharq Alaswat Editorial (largest printed Arabic newspaper in the world): The source of terrorism
Saudi Citizens inform on Top Terrorist
Muslim Mind is On Fire

Most interesting of all...

IRA Orders Members to Lay Down Arms

Now, you may wonder what this has to do with Islamic terrorism. First, it's a recognition by the IRA that terrorism in general is losing it's support because of the nature of the new terrorists. Secondly, if you read winds of change, the IRA has been accused of assisting in training the Islamists and other terrorist organizations around the world. In the past, the IRA would announce its bombing and allow civillians to be evacuated from the area. The new breed is not so well mannered.

There is still a long way to go, but it is likely that Islamists may reach the peak of their support within the decade as information about attacks and attacks themselves within their original support group continue to alienate a once sympathetic community.

1 comment:

Mixed Humor said...

Al Qaeda's campaign in Iraq has been a disaster from a P.R. standpoint. One could make the case that it was the wrong war, at the wrong time, in the wrong place for the Islamic jihadist movement. Instead of rallying Muslims in Iraq and abroad, they have succeeded in turning off moderate Muslims, many of whom now see this bloody jihad for what it is. Personally I believe the marginalization of al Qaeda in the Muslim world is a bigger success than killing or capturing an important al Qaeda leader.

We may not necessarily be making alot of friends in that region at the moment, but al Qaeda isn't either and eventually what we leave behind in Iraq and Afghanistan will debunk the lies about imperialistic invasions for oil, or conquest. There are two competing visions for the world and even if they don't like it, most Muslims realize what side of the ball they need to be lining up on.

Good piece Kat, enjoy reading your insight.