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ANATOMY OF EXTREMISM AND TERRORISM
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ANATOMY OF EXTREMISM AND TERRORISM; THE OUTBREAK OF NEW WARS AND BEYOND
Colonel Roumian Roussev, expert with the MoD of the Republic of Bulgaria, is the author of the following monographs: Ideological Aspects of Terrorism,1987; Terrorism Against the Struggle for National Liberation, 1988; A View on Turkey,1990; Islamic Extremism,1991; Terrorism in Turkey, 1955; Anatomy of Extremism, 2000
Nations are expected to demonstrate responsibility towards our interrelated world and common future.
Science is expected to provide us with answers.
Politicians are supposed to make adequate decisions.
Practitioners are expected to act.
If such a four-element unity is achieved, there will be social adequacy, political and economic success, cultural progress and a prospering civilization.
Our impression is that the answers to some of the issues of the present day are inadequate, decisions are reactive and actions – inefficient.
I. Scientific issues
In terms of science, when we speak of international terrorism and its present-day dimensions, we must start with what we lack, in order to build a unified, legitimate scientific theory of the phenomenon.
We lack the more or less commonly accepted precise methodological reference points and a unified framework of criteria to define terrorism globally.
There are no defined separation lines between terrorism and other social phenomena and their characteristic categories such as democracy, justice, armed struggle, war, political objectives, etc.
There exists certain misbalance between the theoretical and practical efforts to curb terrorism globally.
However, in the area of science, insufficiencies become reason for actions, which can produce results.
The mere existence of an unfamiliar phenomenon, which constitutes a threat of immense proportions, and is defined as terrorism, has forced humanity to focus the resources of civilization, in order to limit it. Despite this, the results are not impressive. Nowadays, there are no guarantees that the events such as those of 11 September 2001 in New York, in Kyzliar, Moscow, Bosnia, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Bali, Beslan, Iraq, Chechnya, Afghanistan, in Africa and Asia, Australia and the Pacific region, will not be repeated.
We are left with the impression that the main efforts are concentrated on the results and not on the conditions, which predetermine these acts; that counteraction is disproportionate to the challenge.
Based on the achievements of human civilization and science, we have reasons to define, distinguish and unite two interrelated social phenomena – extremism and terrorism.
The first phenomenon is limited to the area of ideological concepts, and the latter, comes as a result, it is the practical realization of these ideas.
We have scientific arguments to consider extremism the sum of ideas and views, which represent total intolerance and denial of everything different or opposing; a system of norms, rules and ideas totally contradicting the established and accepted values of humanity. Extremism is the sum total of ideas and views, borrowed from existing and widespread ideologies and religions, but transformed into an absurdity; despite the common phraseology, cannot be associated with these ideologies and religions. Extremism is a particular social pathology, deviant psychological attitude, an abnormal reaction, aimed against social practices and life itself.
There are reasons to view the concept of terrorism as politically and criminally motivated practical acts of violence, of total war against civilians, infrastructure and legitimate institutions. The aim of such actions is to inspire fear and cause paralysis of society, in order to achieve particular political or other objectives. They are a direct or an indirect blow against structures, which provide security and protection of the vital interests of the citizens, the integrity of the state and public consciousness. Terrorism represents a motivated violence aimed at influencing public opinion. Essentially, terrorism is a special kind of warfare and requires an adequate response.
Despite the use of adjectives such as right, left, Islamist, Armenian, Kurdish, Latin American, etc. in conjunction with the words extremism and terrorism, we must not associate these phenomena with the ideologies and religions, from which they have borrowed their phraseology.
Regardless of the suggested definition of extremism, we must admit that it belongs to a group of the difficult, politically dangerous, and seemingly amorphous social phenomena, which for a long period, exist in society just as an intuitive concept.
In a sense, this condition is encouraged by political expediency, by the interests of the moment, by the need to legitimize certain actions, and also by indifference. Undoubtedly, all these influences exist, but they are hardly the determining factors. To define such a negative phenomenon, there should at least be a worldwide consensus, on several key issues. At present, humanity can already point out some of them. Broadly speaking, these issues can be summed up in several groups:
- preserving life on Earth;
- aspiration to preserve and develop the understanding of human freedom, achieved and realized throughout the process of history;
- preserving the fragile environmental balance on the planet;
- preserving a perspective for the future generations;
- preserving the balance of global economy;
- preserving spiritual values;
- alleviation of suffering;
- perfecting international law and widening of its scope;
- balancing the fluctuations of the global financial system;
- preserving the integrity of the state borders and achieving self-determination within them.
At the same time humanity is far from a consensus on issues such as:
- distribution and use of resources, including natural resources;
- parameters of inequality;
- acceptable means of achieving interests;
- unacceptability of war as such a means;
- common spiritual basis;
- a model for perfecting democracy;
- parameters of the new world order;
- acceptance of the obvious trend towards globalization;
In a situation, when consensus is present, but not prevalent, a legitimate explanation of the important phenomenon of extremism is possible, only if its boundaries conform to the issues on which consensus has been reached. Otherwise, we are doomed to go back to the divisions of capitalism ad communism, of the rich developed and the poor developing world, of the “Whites” and “Reds”, etc. This is a familiar state of affairs, in which only the others are considered extremists. In this case the explanation of the phenomenon of extremism will only make sense for a group of people or a nation. It will be an epithet and not a complete characteristic. This is one more reason to try to find commonly acceptable and valid norms of coexistence on the planet – this must be one of the elements of the new world order.
In terms of theory, extremism is viewed as an idea, a behavior and a state; it can be distinguished from other social phenomena, by means of comparison. It is logical to look for its place outside the area of other phenomena, including the most radical, but orthodox “right” or “left” models of the world, as well as religious ones. It is legitimate scientifically to distinguish extremism from categories such as fundamentalism, radicalism, etc. and to define it as a mutation of extreme ideas, as an illogical behavior, and a social pathology.
We must differentiate between extremist, (in the sense of radical and fundamentalist) ideas, and extremism. In this respect, radicalism and fundamentalism are “vindicated”, as being extreme, but different from extremism, ideological concepts.
At present civilization is not engaged in a religious war, but is in the initial stages of a war against an extreme social pathology, called extremism and terrorism.
Every real conflict has at least two opposing and clearly defined sides. The modern conflict between civilization and terrorism is one between democratic idea and extremist philosophy.
In terms of ethics, democracy is associated with intellectual freedom, economic justice, prosperity, tolerance, morality, human dignity and decency in general. This is a positive, but obviously fragmentary ethical definition, based on subjective opinion. Beyond these realities or virtues, it is also a theory and practice of exercising political power. The gnoseological basis of democracy as a political system is the idea that the legitimacy of every political government comes solely from the consent of the governed, i.e. from the people or peoples. The concept of “consent” means the willing acceptance of the established social norms of conduct, i.e. the social contract between the individuals in society, which in turn determines the broad principles of equality. As regards the concept of “people”, as well as that of an “individual”, their meanings are to a certain extent an abstraction, in the sense that they are subject to historically changing political necessities and moral imperatives, and to a lesser degree, to various linguistic changes.
From a purely ethical point of view, extremism can be associated with total dependency – intellectual, economic and legal; with compete break off from categories such as tolerance, piety, decency and good will.
Outside the ethical framework however, extremism is an ideology aimed at changing the established rules of government in a negative way, and by methods which ignore human life and the fundamental concept of justice. It denies fundamental and accepted human values. It imposes a political model based on violence, and rejects the modern concept of civil society.
In its attempt to ignore democracy, extremism in effect ignores human nature. Even if we viewed extremism as some type of human culture, it would still be a mutation, a historically and socially backward subculture. The result is the same – extremism leads to the destruction of human nature.
Our intuitive idea is that it destroys the dialectic unity between human nature and human culture. We can project this thesis on the basis of Jean Beschler’s assertion that “human nature assigns the tasks; the solutions found by people are human cultures”. Here the term “solutions” expresses the relation between “nature” and “culture”, but the question is that such dialectic relation cannot exist under the dominating presence of extremism. In fact extremism destroys human nature, as regards its purpose.
We think it is beyond doubt that extremist solutions are not part the historical and cultural achievements of humanity; in themselves antagonistic to human nature. In order to avoid confusion, we may need explanation by examples. Suffices it to mention slavery as a culture in the past and in the modern world, and we will reject it as a variant. A solution, which is an element of human culture, must correspond to the modern understanding and content of the concept of human nature.
The antagonism between human nature and extremism, in its being an anti-culture, can be supported by an analysis of the relations between categories such as virtuality, actuality, nature and culture, common and particular, etc. i.e., by many pairs of characteristics, which naturally describe a general process.
Democracy is real culture. It is an interpretation of humane essence and culture. It represents the modern attempt of mankind to look for balanced solutions. Extremism is an existing and real mutation of human culture, which transforms it into anti-culture. Extremism aims against human nature, at least because it aims to destroy human life.
It is an interpretation of attempts to force solutions to the problems outside the historical achievements of modernity.
At present, we witness a previously unseen effort to create a more homogenous world and to move it closer to the categories of a unified political system, as an initial phase of globalization. In fact this is one of the main objectives of global democracy.
In today’s realities, and from the standpoint of tolerant political systems, peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but a drive towards rejection of violence, or in the worst case, the choosing of the lesser violence instead of the greater, dominating or total one.
From the standpoint of extremist ideas, peace would mean to achieve a state when conflict would be eliminated by means of total violence. Extremism, as the ultimate carrier of permanent violence, is in principle opposed to the concept of peace.
For the modern world, peace is the ultimate end of politics, and not simply peace but a just one. Similarly, for extremism, peace, in the sense of obliterating any diversity or difference of opinion is a primary objective.
In the ancient, but also in the modern world, the objective of extremism is not simply peace; it is the expedient peace. Expediency, which is subject to mutated ideas, not to the principles of justice. These two irreconcilable positions can potentially generate violence in its most extreme form.
It is obvious, that we need a more detailed analysis of the relationship extremism – conflict and defining a new one “conflict – super-conflict-extremism”.
One of the real challenges when analyzing this facet of the big issue of extremism is the necessity to view it as an ideological system, as a state and as a dynamic super-system.
With such a complex and multi-faceted initial task, for the research to be legitimate, each step is important, including the choice of a starting point of the analysis. Let‘s make this effort from the starting point, where the self-organization of the super-system, called “super-conflict – extremism” begins.
Defending the proposition for the rise of a self-organizing system presupposes the existence of objective conditions for the rise of extremism as a social phenomenon. Here we must stress that the objective character of a phenomenon does not render illegitimate the efforts to restrain the phenomenon in society, let alone in scientific research.
Conflict is a natural presence and in this sense it is a condition of society. It not only means a clash of views, but also the existence of different, even completely opposite concepts. In a sense it also means balance.
As a condition, extremism means not just conflict, but also a new qualitative state, which is expressed by the new term “super-conflict – extremism”. By this term we mean a situation, in which extremism has become dominant in one of the sides, or is characteristic of both sides.
The changing of a conflict situation into an extremist one is often the result of the conviction of the presence, or the actual presence of a threat to the fundamental interests of one of the sides, coming from the opposing side. The threat to the existence of one or all groups, engaged in the conflict, does not necessarily mean that the situation will become extremist, but usually generates extremist reactions.
In case of a high-intensity conflict, or a very deep and antagonistic one, the existence of extremist ideas or views among some of the members of the opposing sides, can determine the general mutation of the behavior of one or both sides, only these members dominate. This means that each of the sides in a conflict represents a social system, which can be defined as extremist not when it possesses some extremist element, but when it departs from the limits of what is considered acceptable during the particular historical period.
Undoubtedly, this refers not only to political conflicts. There are conflicts in human societies, which are in their early stages of development, but which can be defined as extremist, because they threaten life on the planet.
When large groups of people, even countries or groups of countries, can be defined as extremist, according to the criteria of international law, it is natural to ask whether extremism can be transformed into a conflict situation that remains within the acceptable limits.
All over the world there are enough examples of conflict development, in both directions – escalation and subsiding. This demonstrates that there are ways to influence extremism. But they require practical, not a philosophical approach.
In terms of philosophy and anthropology, measured violence is legitimate means of conflict management nowadays. This statement should not be considered an apology of violence; nor is it an effort to turn it into a fetish. It is an expression of the conviction that there must be determined response to extremism, based on the supremacy of the law and for the benefit of society.
Finding solutions to such issues requires the working out of a more efficient way to configure to decision-making system and for managing the joint efforts. This may sound like a utopia, but it can be done within the UN.
I terms of science, this is a systemic task. There can be different approaches, but several problems must be solved.
The first problem is to answer the question is it necessary to look for a new ideology, to serve as a methodological fundament of the analysis of extremism and terrorism. Experience should have already convinced us, that attempts to use an ideological concept as a methodological guideline, regardless of its name, will diluted in the problems of ideological and religious limitations and as a result the answers will be one-sided and unacceptable for everybody. The clash with a really global issue, which has similar manifestations throughout the world, is an argument to reject one-sided approaches and to choose a common basis. Such a basis will be an achievement of human civilization. We must rely on values such as freedom, democracy, prosperity, security, morality, respect for human life, etc.
If we adopt such an approach we will have the opportunity to define more clearly the areas of responsibility of the different levels of society, including the institutions. Thus, the responsibility to restrain extremist ideas will be addressed with more success in the areas of politics, economy, social security, education and even medicine, leaving the fight against the practical action – terrorism, to the law enforcement agencies. This means that law enforcement agencies will not play the key role in the fight against terrorism; the different sections of society, which can influence the conditions for the rise and spread of extremist ideas will be the main players.
With responsibilities defined like this, the armed forces will have clearer tasks.
We are deeply convinced that there must be adequate response to terrorism. The logic of the armed forces in such situations is simple, and boils down to determined professional actions. We have fought and will fight terrorism, but this will not solve the problem. There must be a solution to the spread of extremism.
Issues of military science
The first issue that military science faces, in order to prepare the armed forces for direct action against terrorism, is the issue of the nature of this destructive force. What is the meaning of the widely used expression „the new face of terrorism”?
After more than 20 years of efforts, we think we have enough reasons to consider present-day terrorism a special form of warfare.
Terrorism is the practical realization and manifestation of extremist ideas; it is a side in a real, but still not legitimized war of the modern world.
The arguments to view terrorism as a special type of warfare are the following, although the list is not comprehensive:
- In a number of regions terrorism has acquired the dimensions of a local armed conflict;
- There are two clearly defined sides in this conflict. One side in them is a national or coalition military force, the other side comprises of various groups, under different commands, but united as regards their plans and objectives.
- During antiterrorist operations, the armed forces use assets on all levels – space, air, sea and land.
- When striking back, terrorist groups use air and land assets under their control and try to penetrate the global communication and command networks, some of which have space-based components;
- The mutation of terrorism into s special type of warfare requires a special type of warfare to be conducted by the armed forces;
- In the last decade terrorist groups successfully used chemical weapons for mass destruction (the underground of Tokyo, the attacks of the Saddam Hussein’s regime against the Kurds in Northern Iraq, the terrorist act in a disco club in Bosnia).
- A new technique used by terrorist organizations is to strike at systems, which can cause environmental disaster in specific regions (blowing up oil pipelines and terminals).
- The commands of terrorist organizations try to build installations capable of producing bacteriological weapons.
- There is an increased threat of biological attacks, (the attack with spores of anthrax against government institutions in the USA).
- The tendency in the last several years is for the terrorist organizations to master new unconventional methods of warfare very quickly.
- Terrorist groups widely use explosives and mines;
- Kamikaze attacks, first employed during WWII by the Japanese within the context of a total war, are now widely used by terrorist organizations; they also use civilians as a “living shield”
- Terrorist groups have become multi-level organizations and have good logistics.
- Terrorist organizations use modern communications for command and control of the striking forces;
- Terrorists extensively use special types of warfare such as intelligence, reconnaissance, camouflage, regrouping of forces, disinformation and concealment, organized retreat, etc.
- Terrorists are capable of conducting co-coordinated diversions against military, economic and infrastructure targets on a wide battlefield;
Combat training of terrorists is mostly professional;
- Many terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and other associated organizations have reorganized structurally and developed special structures, responsible for intelligence, training, subversion activities, suicide attacks, assassinations, cyber terrorism, logistics, financing, medical care, illegal channels for smuggling people and weapons, etc. There is an enormous increase in the number of hostage takings and a tendency for the use of barbaric methods of torture and execution.
In Iraq the new administration, Iraqi and foreign civilians and coalition forces have been targeted over 20 000 times after the war was declared over.
Some of the attacks targeted the base and the installations of the Bulgarian battalion, stationed in the city of Kerbala.
Military science defines the main laws of warfare. Some of them were defined during the industrial age, others as late as the information age. This knowledge helps us to define terrorism as a special, but real form of warfare. The laws we were able to define are:
1. Unity of the two macro-components – 1 – destructive processes within the system and 2- attempt to destroy those who are different completely.
2. Subordination of terrorist actions in order to achieve paralysis and destruction of the system;
3. Use of all available means and techniques of total war.
4. Stability of the formations (terrorist groups and organizations).
5. Cooperation (including spontaneous) between terrorist groups and organizations.
6. Correspondence between the hyper-objectives of terrorism and the unlimited use of all means, including weapons of mass destruction.
7. “Supply” of terrorism and terrorist groups by extremism and extremist groups.
8. Concentration of the efforts of terrorism against the key political, economic, infrastructure, IT, etc. systems of society.
9. Clandestine infiltration.
10. Surprise attack.
11. High priority of urban environment.
12. Disproportionate distribution of forces.
13. Achieving supremacy.
Within this system of laws, the first is fundamental and the last is common. The seventh is unique.
The actual presence of terrorism, a modern mutation into a specific form of warfare, governed by its own laws, can be limited to incidental actions, if the law of supply of terrorism by extremism is disrupted.
Despite the achieved results, it is obvious that the hardest part of the fight against terrorism is still ahead.
Enormous efforts are needed to overcome the conditions, which give birth to extremist ideas and views, and to curb terrorism.
The outbreak of the war and after that
We are living in a new century. We are filled with new hopes and anxieties. We are facing new challenges and responsibilities. We are engaged in a battle, which could have better prospects of success, and we expect the outbreak of wars, which can be avoided. The world has changed, but the techniques we use to solve our problems seem to be characterized by inertia and delayed action. We see that real and open coalitions are being organized and face other coalitions, which are covert and do not consist of nations, territories or regions. We are witness to processes, which symptoms are more than alarming; instead of restricting the conditions, which generate them, we capsulate the social systems. Civilization is trying to berry its head into the sand, hoping that the storm will disperse. We have created martyrs and heroes, out of criminals. They will become the icons of a downtrodden and humiliated mass of people, trying to rediscover themselves in destruction. They are the present and future soldiers of an army without a face, which must be stopped, but more importantly, must not be allowed to grow in numbers. The events of today will reverberate far into the future, and the future generations will be our judge.
These ideas and thoughts are an attempt for a modern scientific analysis of the social phenomena of extremism and terrorism, and are provisionally united in the theory of “civilizational actuality”. Only time can tell, if this new approach to the analysis of the phenomena has been a productive one.
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