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July 16, 2017

Essay : Terrorism and its Effect on International Relations

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Synopsis : All of us have been affected by terrorism at some point or the other in our lives. Terrorism has destroyed nations, homes and individuals the world over. There is no state, all over the world, that has not been effected by terrorism. This kind of widespread misery and devastation calls forsome action against terrorism. Till now we have been fighting our individual wars against terrorism, but the time has come when we need to join our hands and fight terrorism collectively. This essay explores the effects ofterrorism on international relations and how it has changed the global equation. 

Terrorism is defined as an act of violence aimed at civilians with the intention of instilling fear, generating attention, creating political upheaval and at times, also trying to destabilize a government. Generally, terrorism is understood in the context of small groups that fight against powerful states. But, apart from this, even government can practice terrorism. Government supported terrorism can be directed either at civilians or at other countries. Directed either ways, terrorism can have an adverse effect on the country and can also raise doubts in the minds of the citizens about their security. 
All through history, terrorism has taken various forms and directions. Just in the last two centuries, terrorism has been used by Russian nihilists, nationalists in Israel, Nazi forces, environmentalists worldwide, left-wing guerrillas in Europe, disgruntled radicals in the United States, Latin American death squads and Islamic fundamentalists. Unfortunately, terrorism is not tied to any particular philosophy or set of people.

Take the example of the killings of Indians in Australia. Though called racial discrimination, is it not an act of terrorism? No Indian would feel safe in Australia. In fact, even Indians who want to visit Australia would have second thought about doing so. This act of pseudo terrorism has resulted in strained relationships between both the countries.

Similarly, take the act of terrorism carried out by the Islamic terrorist group, Al Qaeda against the United States. As a part of the act, popularly referred to as 9/11, terrorists belonging to the Al Qaeda rammed two American Boeings into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, bringing them and a major business hub down. Following this, the USA vowed to take out Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda and started waging a war in Afghanistan. Hundreds of suspected people were captured and tortured; Afghanistan was bombed; but Bin. Laden is still free. Through this act, Al Qaeda appealed to all the Muslims to take part in the war against the west. Who do you think committed a greater act of terrorism? Al Qaeda or the USA? A question that is unanswered and not raised by many. After 9/11, Muslims are generally not issued visas to visit America and the American citizens had to face minor acts of vandalism and terrorism all around the world.

As if this was not enough, terrorism is upgrading itself rapidly in the face of globalization. Terrorists are using globalization to improve their modus operandi. Realizing the usefulness of indigenous or local products for spreading terror, they now actively refrain from using factory made products.

With easier and more affordable access to Internet being available, making weapons of terrorism has become very easy and simple, as all information is freely and easily available on the internet. In fact, with easy access to information like this, the risk of small organizations coming up and carrying out acts of terrorism has increased by manifold. Experts on terrorism feel that the future attacks of terrorism can be similar to those that were carried out in Bali and Mombasa.

More and more terrorist outfits are preparing suicide attackers and using them to spread their act of terrorism, especially in the United States and Europe. Another factor that is quite scary is the fact that products used to create weapons of mass destruction are now easily available. According to some modest estimates, 22 million antiaircraft missiles are in existence. Many of these are available at very low prices in the black market. This realization has made travelling on commercial airplanes a major risk. This was demonstrated by the failed attempt to take down the Israeli aircraft in Mombasa.

Another example that showcases the global reach of terrorist and their acts of vandalism is the fact that terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda are so well organized that have a world-wide presence. 3000 members of Al Qaeda have been arrested in 98 different countries all over the world after the 9/11 incidence. Another example is that of Jemaah Islamiah, with its base at Indonesia. Jemaah Islamiah has created nearly fifty businesses in Asia, which are now providing the moolah for their operations.

The wide spread tentacles of terrorism have necessitated a combined action. The need of the hour is to combine our forces and fight against terrorism. In fact, the strategy that we use to fight terrorism will shape the future of international relations. Though the United Nations (UN) has been formulated to define a combined action against terrorism, its effectiveness has been questioned again and again. Take the example of Iraq. The UN had passed many resolutions initially asking and then demanding Iraq to disarm its weapons. In spite of the repeated warnings from the UN, Iraq managed to ignore the UN for 12 years. One of the reasons given for the UN's inability to coerce Iraq in doing what they wanted was the lack of fear of consequences. When Iraq did not need to face consequences, there boldness increased leading to the ignoring of the UN directives. This raised questions pertaining to the efficiency and significance of the UN Security Council. Another example that showcased the inefficiency of the UN was in the 1990's when the UN failed to find a solution for the redressal of the atrocities committed in Rwanda and Bosnia.

As a consequence of the debate on the war on Iraq, the US, Europe, Russia and China have seen a significant shift in bilateral relations. When France and Germany objected to the protection provided to Turkey by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), they broke the main principle of NATO, which stated that an attack against one NATO nation is an attack against all NATO nations. This act questioned the very essence of NATO. The disbandment of NATO would prove to be a serious hindrance in the path of the West to wage a war against terrorism. The disbandment or the gradual disappearance of NATO would result in the emergence of enhanced roles of the European countries in international relations.

The fight against terrorism requires some combined efforts of all the countries. Ian Lesser, a well known scholar, offers a thorough approach that can be used to fight terrorism. Following issues like social and economic problems and conditions; unresolved racial, cultural and national conflicts; stymied political ambitions; as well as personal experiences of people who may become future terrorists.

To discourage terrorists and their sponsors, Lesser recommends taking considerable and personal actions against terrorist leadership.

Lesser calls for annihilation of weapons of mass destruction that can be used by terrorists to inflict devastation and misery.

Finally, he says that there is a need to get prepared to strike back in cases where discouragement does not work. The retaliation should be quick and effective so that it leaves an impact on the terrorist outfits as well as on terrorism.

In a very short time, the war on terrorism has shaken the foundation of the post-cold-war geopolitical arena. The most momentous change in this arena is the indisputable volatility of future events and the degree of their impact on global politics and economics. Today, we have become a part of a structural change that will prove to be as important as that what occurred in 1945 and 1989. Seeing the impact that the changes in 1945 and again in 1989 had on our lives, it is for sure that the changes in the contemporary equation will lead to changes unforeseen.

shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani
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