Globalization: The Raise of Terrorism

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Globalization and terrorism are two hot issues in international politics today. Those two terms have a strong relation than people usually thought. Somehow, the raise of terrorism can’t be detached from globalization. Many kinds of innovation, which had appeared along with the globalization itself, helped the terrorist to extensive their reach into a global reach.

But, before we continue, what exactly globalization and terrorism are?

Giddens (1990) defined globalization as an intensification of worldwide social relations. Castells argued that globalization is global information capitalism. Harvey (1999) on the other hand saw it as a time-space compression.
Almost same with Harvey, I see globalization as the reducing or even the disappear of national boundaries, where time and space became not really significant anymore, and the flow of information became faster and easier to share around the world.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “terrorism” as the use of terror and violence to intimidate and subjugate, especially as a political weapon or policy, and as the intimidation and subjugation so produced. But the terrorist attack in United States that occurred on September 11th 2001 created a new public image of the terrorist. The new terrorist image is an updated version of the bomb throwing anarchist of the nineteenth century imagination. Terrorism was redefined as carried out by “sub-national groups or clandestine agents”. The possibility of state terrorism made another description about “state-sponsored terrorism” by US State Department (Held 2004, 62; Sterba 2003, 11). Media in the United States excessively refrain from describing attacks by official military forces as terrorist, even if their targets are indiscriminate or civilian. The media also regularly describe attacks by irregular or guerrilla forces as terrorist, even if the attacks are aimed at military targets.

So, how globalization can affect the raise of terrorism, especially when the description of those two terms seem doesn’t have any similarities one another?

James Kiras argue that there are at least three factors led the raise of international terrorism. First, the expansion of air travel.

Second, a wider availability of televise news coverage.

Third, the similarities of political and ideological interests. (Kiras, 2005: 482) Those three factors emerge as globalization effects. Technologies especially, have improved the terrorist abilities to conduct extremely lethal attacks and grow and sustain a global network of associates and sympathizers. The technological advances associated with globalization have improved the capabilities of terrorist groups to plan and conduct operations with far more devastation and coordination than their predecessors could have imagined. In particular, technologies have improved the capability of terrorist group in the proselytizing, coordination, security, mobility, and lethality area. (Kiras, 2005)

In proselytizing matter, terrorist movements always need sympathy or support, financially or morally, not only from inhabitant within national boundaries but also from neighboring countries to sustain their effort. To spread their messages to the world, terrorist can use globalization products such as computers with modest capabilities, readily available software packages, and many kinds equipment such as printers and CD/ DVD burners. The members of terrorist groups and their sympathizers can create propaganda leaflets, posters, and multimedia presentations at very low cost but in large quantities. The materials also can be e-mailed to other member or groups to be modified to suit their specific message or mission with minimum possibilities from intercepted. Technology efficiencies also made the terrorist easier to make propaganda anywhere, anytime. A laptop and printer can be packed in a suitcase, increasing the mobility of the terrorist cell generating the material and making them more difficult to locate.

In coordinating matter, the technologies associated with globalization have allowed terrorist cell member and groups to operate independently at substantial distances from one another with a large degree of coordination. For example, the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) standard ensures that any compliant phone will work anywhere in the world where a GSM network has been established. E-mail and cell phone contact among group members allows them geographically separated to conduct their attacks in separate locations or converge on a specific target area. The 11 September 2001 hijackers, for example, used cheap and readily available pre-paid phone cards to communicate between cell leaders and senior leadership and coordinated final attack authorization prior to the jets taking off from different locations.

In security matter, terrorist organizations has traditionally been assured by allowing only limited communication and information exchanges between cells, to ensure that if one cell is compromised its members only know each other’s identities and not those of other cells. They also use specific codes known only by a few individuals. In this way, the damage done to the organization is minimized. During that time, terrorist groups adjust their location and operating methods in an attempt to stay ahead of security and counter-terrorist forces. Today, easy access to hardware such as cell phones, personal data assistants, and computers can be restricted via the use of passwords. The use of Internet protocol address generators, anonymity protection programs, and rerouted communications, as well as private chat rooms where password-protected or encrypted files can be shared, also provide a degree of security. Terrorists have also made ingenious use of common, remote-access e-mail accounts to leave messages for cell members without actually sending out anything that could be intercepted.

The globalization of commerce has influenced terrorist mobility as well. The volume of air travel and goods that pass through ports has increased exponentially over the past two decades. Between states, measures have been taken to ease the flow of goods, services, and ideas in a less restrictive fashion to improve efficiency and lower costs. Market demands for efficiencies of supply, manufacture, delivery, and cost have complicated efforts of states to prevent members of terrorist groups from exploiting gaps in security measures designed to deter or prevent illicit activities. For example, Mohammed Atta, the suspected leader of the 11 September attacks used air travel to fly between Egypt, Germany, and the United States while studying and working.

In lethality matter, there is a big difference between nowadays and during the transnational era. During the transnational era, terrorists could obtain advanced weapons to conduct attacks, including guided missiles, rudimentary radiological weapons, biological or chemical weapons, but they largely did not. Only a few groups tried to acquire them and fewer still, including the Weather Underground, threatened their use. The precise reasons why terrorists did not acquire and use radiological, biological, or chemical weapons during this era are unclear. Some experts speculated that terrorist leaders understood that the more lethal their attacks were, the greater the likelihood that a state or the international community would focus their entire efforts on hunting them down and eradicating them.

Nowadays, senior leaders and operatives of terrorist groups have not only expressed a desire to acquire such weapons, but also demonstrated the will to use them as well. For example, the discovery of Al Qaeda manual entitled ‘Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants’, during a raid on a suspected cell at Manchester, England in May 2000, outlines the basic steps for manufacturing and using biological and chemical toxins. The other documents recovered in Afghanistan survey showed plans by Al Qaeda to produce specific types of biological and chemical weapons in quantity. We can sure that globalization has facilitated access to those kinds of weapons or the other resources required to conduct lethal attacks.

From the explanation above, globalization gave a big advantage for terrorist, especially for their technical capabilities which help them broadening their reach into global reach. But, globalization itself didn’t change the nature of terrorism. Technology invention or other globalization products gave terrorist some benefits, it’s true. Terrorism became more savage, distributed, and difficult to trace, it’s also true. But it didn’t change the fundamental fact that terrorism is still the weakest form of irregular warfare, representing the extreme views of a limited minority of the global population. In other words, globalization has changed the scope of terrorism but not its nature. Besides, we also must remember that the same technology invention also gave states or government effective weapon to combat the terrorism itself.

But is there really any possible way to combat terrorism itself?

My answer is it may be possible. The growth of terrorism, plus globalization effect, has made world communities more integrated, although in a new frightening way. Not only the activities of our neighbors, but those of the inhabitants of the most places in the farthest countries of our planet, have become our business. International government such as United Nations need to extend the reach of the criminal law there and to have the means to bring terrorists to justice without declaring war on an entire country in order to do it. What we actually need is a sound global system of criminal justice. With a sound global system, justice does not become the victim of national differences of opinion anymore. In addition, all people in the world also need a sense that we really are one community, that we are people who recognize not only the force of prohibitions against killing each other but also the pull of obligations to assist one another. This may not stop religious fanatics from carrying out suicide missions, bombing attacks, etc, but it will help to isolate them and reduce their support.

Jaggar, Alison M. 2005. “What Is Terrorism, Why Is It Wrong, and Could It Ever Be Morally Permissible?”. JOURNAL of SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY, Vol. 36 No. 2, Summer 2005, 202–217. Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
Kiras, James D. 2005. Terrorism and Globalization dalam buku The Globalization of World Politics. ed., John Baylis and. Steve Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Singer, Peter. 2002. One World: The Ethics of Globalization. United States: Yale University Press.

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