Problem

Ineffective prevention of terrorism

Other Names:
Ineffective anti-terrorist organization
Persistence of terrorist activities
Nature:
Reasons for the ineffectiveness of anti-terrorist organization are various: political and economic cost may be to high; political, social and economic conditions may aid recruitment of active members and supporters of terrorist organizations; publicity given to terrorist acts may encourage activists and increase support by their constituents; actions by the government or anti-terrorist organizations may be perceived as signs of weakness by the general public; alarm on the part of the general public and a sense of inability to do anything about terrorism encourages activists; police forces in a given area may be fragmented, thus creating problems in both international and internal coordination; police forces are often untrained in anti-terrorist tactics and are virtually helpless when terrorism strikes; police powers may be limited due to privacy laws (such as the ability to tap telephones without delay and without prior consent, the right to search areas without warrants, the right to hold suspects for a reasonable period for questioning); the media may jeopardize anti-terrorist organization by exposing operations; and intelligence service may be weak, often leaving an imprudent freedom of access to intelligence files.

As governments become more efficient in gathering intelligence and combating terrorism, terrorists adjust. Their organizations become smaller, making them tougher to monitor or penetrate, and their targets become specific ones aimed at specific nationalities.

Incidence:
While terrorism, in one form or another, has always been a political activity, since 1968 the number of deaths due to international terrorism has increased from about 100 to over 3000 a year in 1987. In August 1980, a bomb in a train station in Bologna, Italy killed 84 people. In April 1983, a bomb blew up the USA Embassy in Beirut and claimed 46 lives. That October 240 soldiers in Beirut were killed in a bomb blast at a marine barracks. In December 1983 a bomb at Harrod's in London killed 6 and injured 91. In October 1983 bomb in Burma killed four members of South Korea's cabinet and two presidential advisers. One year later UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher escaped death but several other government members did not. Within a two week period in May and June of 1985, a bomb in the Frankfurt airport killed a woman and two children, a candy shop blew up in Lebanon with 33 dead, 329 were killed on an Air India flight to London, two baggage handlers were killed in Tokyo's airport, four American Marines were machine-gunned to death in El Salvador, a Pan Am plane in Athens was hijacked to Beirut and an American serviceman was killed; in November 1985 Egyptian commandoes stormed a hijacked plane and 60 deaths ensued. Five people were killed and 16 injured in April 1988 by a bomb outside a US servicemen's club in Naples.
Claim:
The increase in terrorist activities is abetted by Western governments who do nothing to counter it. The rhetoric is there, the threats, the insinuations, the all-night discussions, but action is absent and such absence encourages terrorism. Terrorism has ushered in a new type of insecurity in the Western world, and has damaged the credibility of democracy. Some Westerners have taken to considering terrorism as an inevitable occurrence in modern life, some urge the need to understand its roots, some seem to hope that if it won't go away, it can at least be contained at "acceptable" levels. Terrorism will not miraculously disappear as a passing fad, and as long as there is injury, destruction, and death, no level is acceptable. Until Western states take active measures to halt it (openly exposing those countries which train and harbour terrorists, taking joint action on imposing penalties) they have no right to cry victim. It will go away only when the victims strike back.

The flexibility of pluralist and representative societies explains the proliferation of subversive and terrorist groups. At a certain stage of the fight against terrorism, owing to the inertia of daily life and the discouragement of the masses in the face of continuous terrorist action, when no energetic reply is given to acts of violence and public opinion is divided on the matter, when murders are accepted by the population as ordinary, usual events, it can happen that the inhabitants of a country refuse to accept the seriousness of the situation or to feel themselves concerned and thus adopt the fallacious argument that the problem is exclusively a matter for the politicians. But it is precisely this collective psychological attitude that constitutes a great success for the terrorists. There is, therefore, a great need to find some means of strengthening the sense of civic duty and persuading the population to abandon its inertia and cooperate.

Counter Claim:
Within the constraints of a democratic society, terrorism may not be eradicated, and the government's inability to eliminate terrorism should not be seen as a sign of weakness. Like crime, a certain level of political violence is likely to persist as a feature of modern society. Terrorism is one price that democracy pays for an open society. At the same time, the world has taken measures against terrorism. International cooperation is increasing among anti-terrorist organizations. Much of the media is attempting to put terrorist acts in proper perspective. Individual governments are becoming more effective in combating it; the percent of the world total of terrorist incidents in western Europe has decline steadily from 1982 to 1988.

President Reagan's decision to intercept the plane which carried the hijackers of the Achille Lauro to Italy was such a measure, and President Mubarek's decision to storm the hijacked plane in Malta was also welcomed act.

Broader Problems:
Terrorism
Persistence
Related Problems:
Information warfare
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 13: Climate Action
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET