How and to what extent does the History of Terrorism provide a good guide for contemporary security policy?

The central idea of this essay is that, to address better policy-responses, policy-makers must look at terrorism’ history to learn how to confront Terrorism so that Counterterrorism policy will result adequately responsive to the terrorism’ threat.
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  Candidate number 173151 1 Essay Terror Security and the State in Global Politics Word count: 4865  How and to what extent does the History of Terrorism provide a good guide for contemporary security policy? Introduction The central idea of this essay is that, to address better policy-responses, policy-makers must look at terrorism’ history to learn how to confront Terrorism so that Counterterrorism  policy will result adequately responsive to the terrorism’ th reat. Since the beginning of the 21 st  century, the threat of Terrorism has escalated. It has  become an international phenomenon; driven by networked, modernised and ruthless terrorist groups it has produced a permanent ‘state of tension’ to peace and security. Thus, state-actors and their bureaucracies are focusing on how to fight, prevent, pre-empt and retaliate Terrorism. Better said, s tates’ security policies are now centred on how to confront terr  orism in the attempt to reduce - and eliminate - its menace: what we preferably know as ‘Counterterrorism Policy’.  In this essay, I argue how and to what extent an historical analysis of terrorism can help  policy-makers to increase the success of their counter-terrorism policies. When seeking an adequate argument to this question , we assume that terrorism’s history does provide a good guide for contemporary security policy. In other words, the scope of this analysis is not to verify if the history of terrorism does provide a good guide for contemporary security policy  but rat her ‘how’ and ‘to what extent’.  This work is structured as follows. In section 1, I will present some of the existing answers to the question “what is terrorism”?  There is not a single generally accepted definition of ‘terrorism’. Thus, I will suggest a set of variables encompassing different but overlapping definitions of terrorism and which would serve as basic guidelines for the subsequent discussion. In the following section, I briefly address the issue of the relationship between  Candidate number 173151 2 historians of terrorism and policy-makers. In the subsequent section, I will analyse in detail Rapoport’s theory of the ‘Four Waves’ of Modern Terrorism  which provides a systematic taxonomy of terrorism experiences. I will then consider the case study of the  Brigate Rosse  (Red Brigades), an Italia n ‘New - leftist’ terrorist group. This case will serve to elucidate how the history of terrorism can shape contemporary security policy. By considering the mistakes, the inefficiencies and the loopholes of a specific states’ response  to terrorism I aim to provide some insight into the possibilities open to policy-makers to avoid repeating the faults of the  past. Furthermore, the case study of Italian terrorism in the 1970s-1980s may shed some light on the relevance of intelligence in preventing terrorism. I suggest there is a link between the inadequate Italian response to terrorism and the failures at prevention level. I suggest that history as an analytical tool could be helpful in preventing terrorist attacks. Thus, an adequate intelligence apparatus is the key. Finally, I will discuss with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and I will analyse the United States capacity to face terrorism and its use of intelligence. Part 1. ‘How do es the history of Terrorism provide a good guide to contemporary security policy?’   1.1   Struggling for a definition of Terrorism  Before examining how and to what extent the history of terrorism provides a good guide for contemporary security policy, it is necessary to put forward a benchmark definition of terrorism that would serve as a guideline for the rest of this paper. The large extant number of definitions of terrorism clearly suggests that there is not a universally accepted one (Martini A., Njoku E.T. cited in Romaniuk S., Grice F., Irrera D., Webb S. 2017). However, two different actors have debated the term ‘terrorism’ : academics on one side and governmental institutions on the other. In this work, we seek to consider some broader aspects, which are  Candidate number 173151 3 included in the definitions of terrorism of these two groups. For instance, Hofmann (2006,  p.40) defines terrorism as: ‘ The deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of  political change ’.  (Hoffman, 2006, p.40) Hoffman underlines the relevance of the violent act by which terrorists perform: for Hoffman, terrorism is so only if it involves the use of violence or the menace of its scope to achieve a political change. However, this definition does not address who are the victims of terrorist violence. To this, the US Department of Defence (2016, p.241) defines terrorism as: ‘ The calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear, intended to coerce or intimidate governments or societies as to the pursuit of goals that are generally poli tical, religious or ideological’.  (US DoD, 2016, p. 241). This definition underlines, firstly, that coercion is the mean for terrorist acts; secondly, that governments or societies are its victims and finally, that the acts for which terrorists  perform their actions are political, ideological or religious. The aspects considered by the US DoD to define terrorism will be essential throughout this essay. Remarkably, while discussing how vexed is to define terrorism, Weinberg, Pedahzur and Hirsch-Hoefler (2004, p.786) have extracted a ‘consensual’  definition of terrorism from a survey measuring the frequency of the definitional elements ‘ violence; political; fear; threat; victim; tactic; civilians and movement’  in an array of 55 articles of three different academic  journals. As a result, ‘ Terrorism is a politically motivated tactic involving the threat or use of force or violence in which the pursuit of publ icity plays a significant role’.  (Weinberg, Pedahzur and Hirsch-Hoefler, 2004, p.786). This definition includes the ‘tactical’ and the ‘public’  dimension of terrorism which will be relevant to my argument. Therefore, neither a perfect - nor extensively accepted - definition of terrorism exists but the ones we have considered have provided the aspects, which I consider essential to carry on  Candidate number 173151 4 with the analysis.   Overall, in this essay we understand terrorism as “ a tactic with a political, religious or ideological scope and which involves the use of violence - or its threat - directed to a state or to the entire society designed to have an impact on the public ” .   Having provided a definition through which we understand Terrorism, the next section will address what is the relationship between its history and contemporary security policy. 1.2 Historians and policy-makers: which relationship? When answering the question o n ‘how’  the history of terrorism provides a good guide for contemporary security policy there is a supposition to make: in my understanding, if we ask ourselves ‘how’ , we assume it does: better said, we consider the history of terrorism as an analytical tool for contemporary security policy. Accordingly, we will now address the role of terrorism ’s  historians, and history, in guiding policy-makers and, by extension, contemporary security policy. In response to this matter, Crenshaw (1991, p. 70) has stressed that the acknowledgement of terrorism’s history  is a key tool for policy-makers to formulate effective policy responses. However, Crenshaw (1991, p. 70) has noted that this principle is often declined by mid-level policy-makers who, considering historians as too abstract, seek for direct policy-recommendations. Furthermore, in defence of the policy-makers, Gaddis (1983, cited in Crenshaw, 1991, p.70) has reported how historians engage in ‘ arcane methodological debates ’  which may make policy-makers rejecting historians’ recommendations.  At the same time: ‘ Policy-makers require an integrated perspective, combining sequential historical thinking with systemic views. They need to understand the historical evolution of the problems they confront as well as intellectual  procedur  es for generalizing about them’  (Gaddis, 1983, cited in Crenshaw 1991, p.70). Gaddis argues that the acknowledgement of terrorism’s history is essential to policy -makers. In fact, officials need to be prepared for ‘likely and unlikely contingencies’  (Gaddis,  Candidate number 173151 5 1983, cited in Crenshaw, 1991, p.71). So, when a terrorist threat emerges, a comparative analysis of terrorism’ history  becomes an essential tool to provide a sound and prompt policy response (Crenshaw, 1991, p.71). Considering then the relationship between terrorism’s history and contemporary security  policy, there is evidence to prove not only that a pattern of interaction between historians and  policy-makers exists but also, paraphrasing Crenshaw (1991, p. 71), that such interaction is necessary: this is how terrorism’s history is an essential mean for policy-makers to formulate  better policy responses. Although, this response is still incomplete because we need to specify whi ch is the conceptualisation of terrorism’s history that policy -makers should adopt. With a focus on terrorism’s history, we have  highlighted the interaction between policy- makers and terrorism’s scholars. In the next paragraph, we look for a conceptualisation of terrorism’s history that policy -makers can adopt. 1.4 Looking for a systematic classification of terrorism’s history: Rapoport’s ‘ Four Waves Theory’   Generally, terrorism ’  historians do not to agree with specifying a starting date for terrorism. For example, Law (2016, p.14) observes that some evidence of terrorist actions date  back to the Assyrian Empire in the ‘ninth to the seventh centuries BCE’  whereas O’Kane ( 2014,  p.6) posits the presence of ‘early terrorist groups’ in Ancient Palestine   ‘nearly two millennia ago’. Both schol ars analyse terrorism’s history , without distinguishing between ancient, modern and contemporary terrorism. Nonetheless, in the previous paragraph, we found out that only a systemic overview of terrorism’s history could help policy-makers to understand contemporary terrorism. Rapoport (2012) has contributed in this sense: firstly, by verting his approach on ‘modern’ terrorism’ s history and, secondly, by classifying it into four ‘Waves’: the ‘Anarchist’, the ‘Anti - colonial’, the ‘New Left’ and the ‘Religious’ wave (Rapoport, 2012 ).
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