The definition of the term ‘terrorism’ has fuelled a major debate for scholars who deem the work to have alternative meanings as the definition of the work differs considerably depending on the context and the producer of the text it is used in. Nevertheless, for the purpose of this essay, Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. The issue of terrorism has been plaguing the world, especially the western world since the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror; Historians who refer to ‘the Terror’ are referring to a period in French history from 1793 to 1794 when the Jacobins – The Society of the Friends of the Constitution – dominated the government by establishing parliamentary rule and abolition of absolute monarchy. The severity of the issue has not deteriorated through the 19th, 20th and 21st century but rather has become one of the most principal political and social issues in modern times, specifically in western liberal democracies such as the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of American (USA). However, terrorism is not only confined to countries that are fundamentally democratic but is also rife in places that are labelled fundamentally undemocratic such as the Middle East and continents such as Africa. Nonetheless, terrorism is extensive
With the issue of terrorism increasing and becoming a larger problem for successive governments of both the US and UK, many different approaches have been taken in the hopes of combatting this activity that leaves people dead and or injured, however, there is much debate about how the problem of terrorism should be addressed, and whether issues such as Human rights are infringed upon when national security takes precedence in such futile times. Some arguments focus on building and consolidating relationships with the country’s where Terror activity most commonly originates from and is abundant, for example Iraq and Iran, Nigeria and Syria to name a few. By using diplomacy and having a tolerance for the reasons behind extremism can aid counties that endure terrorism to be able to lower the rate and ensure security, law and order is upheld. However, some supporters of repressive anti-terror legislation argue that using diplomacy with organisations or countries are home to these dangerous terrorists is a weak and over-liberal approach to take that disregards the need for national security.
I have chosen the topic of Anti-terrorism due to its relevance and prominence in international current affairs, the scope and intensity of the issue is very appealing to me, especially due to my interest in politics and law which combined have fuelled my desire to research the debate around whether terrorism is being addresses successfully and effectively. Terrorism being such an old phenomenon and still having profound effects on western liberal democracies such as the UK and the USA clearly emphasises not only the significance of the issue in modern times, but also how history repeats itself if lessons are not learnt from happenings in the past. With having such an interest in world history, spouting from my years of studying the subject and the prominence of history on such issues is one of the reasons, combined with my interest in politics, that my chosen topic is the way in which governments respond to events that shape our history in the form of legislation and new counter-terror methods and the overarching impact terror activity has on current global affairs. Moreover, the complex nature of even defining the word ‘terrorism’ highlights the intricacy of the subject of counter-terrorism which has in turn, increased the appeal of a subject which has been and will continue to be debated. Throughout this essay I will analyse key features of the counter-terror policies of the UK and USA and the repercussions of the introduction of different methods including the issues of Human Rights and constitutional implications, commenting on alternative perspectives and ultimately making a conclusion on which method or set of policies are the most successful for countering and combating the global problem of terrorism.
With political dogma centralising around the importance of law and order being so prominent in Britain, and the recent terror activity that has sent waves of resentment but also dejection nationwide, anti- terrorism legislation has been something that the current government and previous governments have had at the forefront of the political agenda. Theresa May assumed office 13 July 2016 and since then she has had to deal with an array of Terror attacks; these attacks have ranged from the Westminster attack on 22nd March 2017 when Khalid Masood drove into pedestrians on the bridge then fatally wounded a police officer outside the Houses of Parliament, to the murder of Jo Cox 16th June 2016 with links to Nazism in the 21st century. Terrorism is not simply confined to Islamic extremism which is popular belief but ranges from far-right extremism, to terror based on different religion, left-wing terrorism and also isolated terrorist attacks based on the beliefs of a single person. The word Terrorism encompasses such a vast variety of terror acts, therefore, governments from alternative sides of the political spectrum take different approaches to reduce and ultimately prevent terror activity from occurring in the state or country that they govern. Theresa May’s method of counter-terrorism described as the use of a ‘gig economy’ in response to the terror attack in Westminster in 2017, entailed an end online “safe spaces” which “breed” extremists. This approach emphasises how terrorism may be an old phenomenon, but the variety of methods terrorists use in the 21st century to recruit vulnerable people, promote their aims and values and actively take responsibility for various acts of terrorism is due to the increase in use of and reliance upon social media and the extensive possibilities on said platforms. This may be disputed, but what cannot be debated is the fact that May’s method of combatting the terrorism in Britain is derived from a stereotypical authoritarian and right-wing stance for law and order. However, the regulation of the internet and social media outlets is not a view that is only expressed by those on the right of the political spectrum, but with death and injury increasing by the means of terror, many politicians and scholars believe that the use of the government to regulate online spaces such as social media is justified in such futile times as these. This view belongs to many, especially Jason Burke, a British journalist, author and Africa correspondent for the Guardian. Burke covers stories throughout the Middle East, Europe and South Asia and has also written extensively on Islamic extremism and, among numerous other conflicts, covered the wars of 2001 in Afghanistan and 2003 in Iraq, therefore is an expert on the subject of terrorism, specifically Islamic terrorism which is thriving in the UK currently and has been for many years. Burke claims that new technologies and the accessibility of social media platforms in today’s global society has allowed terrorist organisations to promote their cause through various types of propaganda. Additionally, prominent terrorist groups such as, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking advantage of the possibilities that social media grants is what helps people to see the noticeable changes that terrorist groups are making to modernise themselves and their actions to ultimately ensure their message can be become widely acknowledged and that their criminal activity in the name of Allah is recognised and successful; therefore the use of social media shows the evolution and adaption of methods used by terrorist groups in the past, a prime example being the comparison of al-Qaida and ISIL.
In light of the impact that social media can have, many may assume the argument that government intervention and regulation is a welcoming and positive political method of stopping the terrorism that is plaguing the world, with the UK as one of the countries at the forefront of the targeted. Some view this as safe-guarding the people in the UK, but some opposed to interventionist policies argue the government such use the power of legislation rather than imposing unpopular policies that are not effective; Gilbert Ramsay, a lecturer in International Relations at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St Andrews does so. Ramsay stated that ‘‘safe spaces’ don’t actually exist. Serious extremists are well aware that they are being constantly monitored, tracked and infiltrated’, which suggests that monitoring and restricting the use of the internet is not an effective method for stopping terrorism, especially due to the complexity and intricacy of the internet, that terrorist groups can use to their advantage. As previously mentioned the ability to adapt gives terrorist groups an edge, an example of this adaptation is shown by the use of a ‘leaderless resistance’ promoted by right-wing ‘terrorists’ which was then copied by Abu Musab al-Suri, a suspected al-Qaeda member and writer who created ‘leaderless jihad’. Leaderless resistance is a social resistance strategy in which small, independent groups as well as individuals challenge an established institution such as a law, economic system, social order, government, and can use methods such as non-violent protests, civil disobedience, vandalism and terrorism. The use of leaderless resistance allows terrorism to thrive as it proves difficult for intelligence organisations to eliminate a group’s complete hierarchy as there is no clear pyramid of positions. The fact that monitoring the internet doesn’t truly hinder a terrorist organisations ability to coordinate their network of supporters that spread the message about their group through terror, supports Ramsay’s argument that the ‘safe spaces’ Theresa May wanted to eliminate were simply not there. It may be inferred that Ramsay is suggesting governments are not responding effectively to the threat of terrorism because they underestimate the terrorist organisations ability to carry out terror attacks and organise recruitment without using the internet that is monitored by western liberal democratic governments that belief that monetarisation is an effective counter-terrorism method. Ultimately Ramsay’s arguments shows the basic flaw of the UK’s counter-terrorism policy under Theresa May due to the fact Ramsay explains how extremism and terrorism online is merely a series of patterns which logistics put into narrative for intelligence networks to analyse; ultimately, governments cannot eliminate the threat of terrorism through an increase of regulation and monitoring because once a government agency has ‘effectively eliminated’ the threat, the internet is readily available for terrorists to adjust baselines and find loopholes to avoid detection.
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