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John Simkin

Changes in Society: Terrorism

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I suppose the major change that has taken place in recent years is the tactics used by (terrorists/freedom fighters) to obtain their political objectives. In virtually all cases these conflicts are caused by an underdeveloped country being occupied by the armed forces of a developed country. These tactics are used in an attempt to persuade the armed forces of the powerful country to leave their territory. In some cases it is the result of a recent invasion (Iraq, Palestine, etc.) or sometimes it is a response to a long standing occupation (Chechnya, etc.)

In the past the occupying power had two possible strategies. One was to withdraw. This is what the European powers did in the last days of their empires. It was what the Americans did in Vietnam. The other strategy was to impose harsh sanctions on those resisting occupation. This sometimes worked in the short-term and they were able to suppress the rebellion. This appears to be the current strategy being employed by Sharon, Bush, Blair and Putin.

However, this strategy does not work when you are dealing with modern Muslim terrorists/freedom fighters. The main reason for this concerns religious belief. While communists were willing to take high risks in order to remove foreign oppressors, they were usually unwilling to take part in suicide attacks. They did not believe in the afterlife. They were fighting for the here and now.

The same was true of Christian terrorists/freedom fighters. Although they technically believed in an afterlife, they were far from convinced and were just as reluctant as the atheists to get involved in suicide attacks. Muslim fundamentalists are true believers. They are convinced they will go to Paradise as a result of being killed in action. Therefore it is a self-defeating policy to increase the punishment of the terrorists/freedom fighters.

If world leaders refuse to accept this point, we will continue to experience acts of terrorism. We can also expect further attacks like the one at Beslan. The final taboo has been broken. They know that such a tactic works. For example, who now does not know about the way the Russians have been treating the Chechens over the last 200 years. Despite what he says in public, Putin will now give serious thought to whether it is a good idea to try and hold onto Chechnya. No doubt Bush will start putting him under pressure to do a deal. After all, some very important oil pipelines run very close to Chechnya. It will cause the United States considerable problems if these are attacked on a regular basis.

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