Updated: Nov 14, 2020
With the changing dynamics of a globalized world, the way power is conceptualized, sought and threatened within social, economic and political contexts is also bound to change. The nature of the threats to international and national security is changing, as nontraditional sources of threats to security, state power, and the lives of civilians emerge.
When it comes to threats to security in the contemporary world, terrorism is a threat that is fast emerging as a globally widespread malaise.
While major catastrophes like the 9/11 haven’t come to pass in recent years, incidents of
terror on a smaller scale continue to be frequent and prevalent.
Terrorism can be defined as indiscriminate violence that employs unlawful means to achieve
political or ideological goals, and targets civilians deliberately and discriminately.
Terrorist activity is either orchestrated by organized terrorist groups, notorious examples of
which are the Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or it can take the form of violent acts undertaken by a
singular actor, or “lone wolf”.
The threat of terror has many faces, and acts of terror are not limited to the classic cases of
plane hijackings and bombings of trains, marketplaces, and governmental headquarters,
even though this is the picture of terrorism portrayed and advertised heavily by pop culture
media and films of the action genre.
Terrorism can take the form of state sponsored terrorism, dissent terrorism, terrorism based
on political ideology (usually right wing terrorism), religious terrorism or criminal terrorism.
The motivations and reasoning behind acts of terror are complex and convoluted, and there
is no one set of objective reasons that can be used to explain terrorism as a whole.
Research has indicated that broadly, the causes of terrorism can be attributed to
psychological, political, religious, economic and cultural factors.
A popular theory is that poverty is a direct cause of terrorism, as the practice prevails in
poorer and more underdeveloped nations with unfavorable rates of literacy, social
inequality, unemployment and inflation, and high levels of population.
Countries that have undemocratic governments, low regard for human rights and high levels
of repression are more inclined towards terrorism.
Religious and ideological factors play a part, when terror is used as a means to achieve an
“ideal” world order by eliminating groups or individuals that are deem as deviant according to specific ideologies. Radical religious terror groups are usually motivated by such ideas.
The social-psychology of terrorist acts like suicide terrorism are subject to individual
psychopathology and also depend on sociological or cultural factors that influence
Keeping in mind the causes and trends in terrorist activity across the globe, it is important to
establish measures to counter terrorism, provided that such measures remain ethical and
don’t endanger human rights or defy the rule of law. Counter terrorism practices encompass
military tactics, governmental and inter-governmental strategies, law enforcement
techniques, and combative and preventive measures.
Some preventive measures to combat terrorism at the root level include eliminating poverty,
promoting literacy, introducing democratic governments and lending economic and political
support to underdeveloped countries, such as countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Radical terrorism can also be dealt with by resolving issues of relative deprivation, social
injustice and rampant inequality, and by encouraging human development.
Addressing the Causes of Terrorism The Club de Madrid Series on Democracy and
Terrorism (Volume 1). Club de Madrid, 2005. http://www.clubmadrid.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Volume-I.pdf
Global terrorism Index. Institute for Economics and peace, 2016