What motivates and sustains terrorist movements
Word count: 1086
Gus Martin defines terrorism as ‘the unlawful use of, or threatened use, of force or violence against individual or property to coerce and intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives’ (2008, P.8). However, there is a great obstacle in allocating a universal definition of terrorism as the motivations differ so broadly from each movement. Similarly, this assertion is further backed up by Alex Alvarez and Ronet Bachman (2013, p.211) as they agree that terrorism ‘defies simple, easy or absolute definition’ as the motivations of terrorist groups range from ‘political, religious, ethnic, racial or ideological’ (2013, p. 211). In this essay, one shall be evaluating the factors that motivate and sustains terrorist movements as well as critically comparing and contrasting the aim and objectives of differing terrorist groups.
According to Frank Foley (2013, p.20), the motivation behind the violence committed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was the ‘constitutional status of Northern Ireland within the UK’. Nevertheless, this motivation conflicts with that of the protestant unionists in Northern Ireland, who supports remaining part of the United Kingdom. However, Matt Treacy (2011 p.661) reports that the IRA suffered an ideological split in 1969 as modernisers were ‘obsessed with parliamentary politics’. As such, The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) took over from the old IRA, which became known as the Official Irish Republic Army (OIRA). This is further supported by Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley (2000, p.836) as they state that OIRA were ‘prioritizing the political over the military struggle and seeking to build a mass working-class socialist party’. Whereas, Joseph Grieco, G. John Ikenberry and Michael Mastanduno (2014, p. 373) note that the PIRA favoured violence as they ‘resorted to terrorist violence to seek independence’. Thus, demonstrating that the PIRA were determined to use violence to fight against the British rule and get them out of the whole of Ireland.
Comparably, links can be drawn between the motivations of the IRA and Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA). As reported by Samuel M. Katz (2004), ETA was established in 1959 by student activist whose motivation, according to Kathleen Sweet (2008), was Basque separatism. In this sense, H. James Birx (2010, p.1012) argues that the motivations of ETA and the IRA are inherently linked as ‘the IRA was committed to end British rule in Northern Ireland […] ETA sought independence for the Basque region’. Thereby, their motivation of separatism from centralised power links the dissident terrorist groups together.
A further way in which both groups are linked is by the introduction of revolutionary tax. As defined by John Perdikaris (2014, p. 119), ‘revolutionary taxes are typically extorted from small to medium sized businesses’. As such, William Chapman (1988, p. 154) argues that revolutionary tax was a ‘major source of funds’ for both the IRA and ETA. Similarly, Ian K. McKenzie (1998, p. 41) agrees with the assertion that both used a form of revolutionary tax as he states that the IRA used ‘revolutionary tax […] following the Basque model’ to obtain a sizeable form of finance to fund their activities. Therefore, revolutionary tax highlights that both movements could sustain their fight through forceful measures to ensure their movements were financed well to achieve their motive of independence.
Additionally, both were sustained through the support of sympathisers. For instance, Cynthia L. Irvin (2000) argues these movements will adopt strategies that receive maximum support from their sympathisers. In this sense, one argues that without support, terrorist movements would not be successful as sympathisers would not finance them or join the movement. Similarly, Caroline Kennedy-Pipe (2015) highlights the significance of support as she implies counter terror operations will be unsuccessful unless support networks are scrapped. In addition, following the 2004 Madrid train bombings, Wayne C. Thompson (2012, p.394) argues ETA ‘eliminated most residual support’. Consequently, ETA gradually declined as a terrorist movement. Thereby, highlighting that it is crucial that terrorist movements continually receive support for their cause to sustain their movement.
However, one contrast behind the two groups is that ETA was not sustained through foreign aid. According to William J. Crotty and David A. Schmitt (2014, p. 199), Muammar Gaddafi publicly stated that he had provided ‘military aid to the IRA’. This links with James Adams (1988) claim that small states such as Libya finance terrorism based on self-interest. As reported by William J. Crotty and David A. Schmitt (2014, p.199) ‘150 tons of arms and ammunition, including 20 soviet-made surface-to-air missiles’ were intercepted by the French Navy that was sourced from Libya. Similarly, the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID) also helped sustain the IRA movement. As noted by Ian Ross and Jose Chacko (2015 p. 122), NORAID was an Irish American fundraising group well known for ‘raising funds for the Provisional Irish Republican Army’. This is further backed up Andrew Sanders (2011, p.99) as he states that NORAID ‘had no control over the funds when transferred to Ireland and at least some of them were almost certainly spent on arms’. Thereby, highlighting that the PIRA could sustain their movement as they received funds and were well equipped with arms from foreign aiders.
By contrast, the motivations of Al-Qaeda differ as Janina M. Safran (2004) highlights that Al-Qaeda seek to establish a caliphate ruling over the Muslim world. As such, Adam Robinson (2001, p.89) argues that motivated by their desire to create a caliphate, their objective was to ‘overthrow nearly all Muslim governments’. Thus, contrasting with the motivations of ETA and the IRA as Al-Qaeda motives are rooted in their extreme religious beliefs, whilst ETA and the IRA are motivated by their quest for independence.
Nino P. Tollitz (2005) implies that Al-Qaeda, Like the IRA, Al-Qaeda have been sustained partly due to fundraisers. Whilst, according to governmental reports (2011), alternative funds come from corrupt employees of charitable organisations taking funds from zakat donations to aid the movements towards a radical Islam. Thus, the blend of fundraising procedures has enabled Al-Qaeda to construct a sizeable financial network throughout the Muslim world. Thereby, allowing the movement to obtain the money required to operate effectively.
To conclude, this essay highlights that factors which motivates terrorist groups to commit such atrocities are wide ranging from factors such as political and religious beliefs. Therefore, one can compare and contrast the various aims and objectives of differing terrorist movements by investigating the factors that motivate such movements. As well as this, this essay has highlighted the ways in which terrorist movements are sustained whilst finding similarities and difference between each movement. For example, both the IRA and ETA introducing revolutionary tax to provide the movements which a vital source of funds in their fight for independence. Overall, the most significance method to sustain a terrorist movement is finance. Without the necessary funding, terrorist movements would not be able to achieve their motivations.
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